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Molinari: Has Retaining Rakell Gotten Even Tougher?

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Pittsburgh Penguins Rickard Rakell

Finding a way to bring back Rickard Rakell is one of many large challenges facing Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall this summer.

And it might have become even more difficult recently.

Rakell’s importance to the Penguins is obvious: He’s the productive second-line right winger for a team that doesn’t have a qualified replacement on its organizational depth chart.

But putting a value on his services — and doing it within constraints imposed by the Penguins’ salary-cap issues — won’t be easy, and Rakell’s decision to switch agents might complicate the situation.

Rakell, an unrestricted free agent whose expiring contract had a cap hit of $3,789,444, is being represented by Claude Lemieux, one of the NHL’s most reviled figures during his playing days. His previous agent was Peter Wallen.

Whether Lemieux is as ferocious at the negotiating table as he was on the ice is hard to say — to date, there have been no reports of him going after a GM the way he did, say, Kris Draper at the height of the Colorado-Detroit rivalry — but Wallen showed a willingness to adapt his client’s contract requirements to a team’s particular cap situation a few years ago.

In 2019, with the Penguins doing the professional equivalent of searching their couch cushions for any cap space that had happened to fall out, Wallen agreed to have his client, Marcus Pettersson, accept a one-year deal for $874,125, which was well below market value.

Pettersson and Wallen didn’t accept that proposal without getting a major concession in return — then-GM Jim Rutherford promised to make up the shortfall in Pettersson’s next deal — but their willingness to make a short-term sacrifice to help the team is not the norm in today’s NHL.

Whether Rutherford was unduly generous with Pettersson’s next contract — five years, with a cap hit of $4,025,175 — is reasonable fodder for debate, but never would have become an issue if Pettersson hadn’t taken a team-friendly deal a year earlier.

Of course, every situation is different — Rickard Rakell is in his prime earning years, while Pettersson was younger and coming off his entry-level contract — and it’s neither reasonable nor realistic to expect a player to readily accept a contract that doesn’t reflect his true value to the team that’s proposing it.

Especially when that player’s ties to the club are only a few months old, as is the case with Rakell.

Precisely what Lemieux, who also represents former Penguins Oskar Sundqvist and Juuso Riikola, will seek in Rakell’s next contract isn’t known — Hextall has made agents aware that sharing information about ongoing negotiations is not something he appreciates — but his playing history suggests no one should be surprised if he takes a win-at-all-costs approach, which is hardly unusual among agents.

And that would do nothing to enhance the chances of Rakell still being on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ roster this fall.

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Alan Smith
2 months ago

Why is Rickard such a great find? Can’t beleive there are not younger rookies with as much upside out there! Buy a defense man and get their money’s worth! Everyone is overrated! The start over needs to be defined now!

Bob
Bob
2 months ago

I think the signing of Rust hurt the chances of resigning him and if Malkin and Letang sign it’s over. Sad they gave up a lot for him. Maybe the GM is thinking about this hopefully.

Ujn Hunter
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob

A lot?

Bachinga
Bachinga
2 months ago
Reply to  Ujn Hunter

Guess you missed how badly the Blueger line sucked after ZAR was traded…look at the series…Pens needed ZAR more the Rakell…

Jay95
Jay95
2 months ago
Reply to  Bachinga

ZAR is a UFA, correct? If Rakell want taken out in that first game, the trickle down effect of him in the lineup is much better than ZAR. And, I believe that we can just resign both ZAR and Simon as UFA’s if we desire. We didn’t give up much in the long term.

Bob
Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  Bachinga

I agree! Blueger didn’t have a point in the playoffs. Wouldn’t be surprised to see the Cap Strapped Pens bring ZAR back. At least he was physical and helped create plays.

Bob
Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  Ujn Hunter

Yeah when they don’t sign Rakell it will seem like a lot of bodies to give up for him.

Mike Donnelly
Mike Donnelly
2 months ago

My father was a huge Flyers fan (good guy otherwise) and I remember hearing about the Claude Lemieux pregame brawl even on the radio pregame show even before the tv broadcast started. We taped it and must’ve watched it 10 times that night. He was the king of guy that you hate if he was on the other team, and you probably hate if he’s on your team too

Rob
Rob
2 months ago

Having a second line rw becomes less important if you let your point per game second line center walk. First moves for Hextall should be salary shedding trades. Then he needs to re sign his ufas. Until those trades happen, assume that he won’t be signing anyone.

Jay95
Jay95
2 months ago
Reply to  Rob

I agree. I don’t think anything happens until we move one of our LHD. Either Dumo or Petterson too make space, out Joseph with another player to drop their contract.

Paul
Paul
2 months ago

Current management has been in office for 16 months and zippo has changed. The team remains at least three players short of contender status, and far worse, it doesn’t have the leadership, creativeness and know-how to get them.

Last edited 2 months ago by Paul
BocaMarine
BocaMarine
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Well, you’ve certainly given him every chance, lol.
What would you have done, given the restraints, Mr. GM?

Irish Hammer
Irish Hammer
2 months ago
Reply to  BocaMarine

BocaMarine, great response! Really knowledgeable! Couldn’t make any moves until they got rid of Morehouse. Or Malkin, Letang would have been resigned until they was both 40. These yinzers don’t want cups, they

Jeff Young
Jeff Young
2 months ago
Reply to  Irish Hammer

Agreed. I’m surprised at some of the responses by folks on the site. If the team only makes the playoffs, that’s OK as long as 58 and 71 are still around…? I always thought the goal was to win the Cup. As often as possible. Apparently making the playoffs and losing in the first round is OK.

Phil
Phil
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Young

No one ever sad it was okay to make the playoffs and not win the cup. Looks like you dont actually read the comments. Or you just dont understand competitive sports. How does losing kris letang and malkin help this team get closer to winning a cup?? And in professional sports or any sport. You have to be competitive to make the playoffs and compete for the Stanley cup. How do you think it works you just win cups?? Without being competitive and making the playoffs?? Please explain your theory to me? Because what do you think the difference between… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Phil
Phil
Phil
2 months ago
Reply to  Phil

This team was capable of winning the cup. We could easily be in the NYR position. But we had injuries at the wrong positions at the wrong time. They got some luck. And we didn’t. That happens. But this team was well constructed and if not for injuries to jarry, desmith,domoulin,rakell,crosby. We easily win that series. And move on than beat the hurricanes. So there is no difference between the two. I dont understand what you guys are talking about. Like really! But losing fits your narrative that it was 71 58 fault. And that’s all you guys care about.… Read more »

Bachinga
Bachinga
2 months ago
Reply to  Phil

Fact is had Shesterkin not pulled a Jarry in the first two games Pens could have been swept…

Phil
Phil
2 months ago
Reply to  Bachinga

Shesterkin play great in game 1. So that statement makes no sense. We were better than them. If not for all of our injuries including desmith and jarry. We take them 4-1 maybe 4-2. Not sure what series you were watching but we out played them in almost every game.

Bachinga
Bachinga
2 months ago
Reply to  Phil

Guess you missed the part where he gave up three relatively soft goals in the second period…baseball game was on?

Jeff Young
Jeff Young
2 months ago
Reply to  Phil

Yes, it has so I guess you need to read more comments on the site. I think the Pens best days, with this group, are behind them. Others don’t. Shrug. And of course you have to be competitive. I’ve said Letang needs to stay with 3×9 but it sounds like he won’t get offered that. So I wouldn’t blame him if/when he leaves. And I don’t think an aging Malkin improves our chances year over year. Maybe you do; others here certainly do. Without changes I don’t see how this team competes in the next few years. If changes aren’t… Read more »

Kris
Kris
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Young

But again, WHO will give us a better shot?

Phil
Phil
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Young

Yes, but your comments are extremely condescending. This team had a 100 pt season. I think if we keep it the same. We can and will make the playoffs. And are capable of making a deep run. This team is not flawed. Now we have to take it year by year as the team is a veteran one. But what you said just making the playoffs. And not trying to win. You still have not given a reasonable explanation. Again I’ll explain. We were out playing the rangers. If not for some unfortunate injuries and bad luck. We easily win… Read more »

Paul
Paul
2 months ago
Reply to  BocaMarine

This mess started with Rutherford in the summer of ’17. I would have signed/traded for somebody better than has-been Niemi to back up/mentor Murray, who was set up to fail. That decision helped cost the team a division title and possible three-peat. I also would have traded Malkin while his value was relatively high. I would not have traded a first-round pick for Brassard. And on and on and on . . .

Last edited 2 months ago by Paul
Kris
Kris
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Man you would be GM of the year then given your ability to trade someone with a NO TRADE CLAUSE in his contract. Agreed on the Brassard trade. But here again you are great at telling us what shouldn’t have been done. How about telling us how you will improve the team? Curious to hear what is out there that will be better than what we have and how exactly we can obtain these folks with no cash and no minor league trade value. I’m waiting.

Phil
Phil
2 months ago
Reply to  Kris

Thank you kris!! Paul is the biggest hater and skeptic. But hes got all the right answers. Including trading malkin after he had a 90 pt season in 2018 lol. With a full no trade clause after crosby to Rutherford geno is not going anywhere!

Jay95
Jay95
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Paul, the thing is at this point there is NO center that is as good as Malkin who’s hitting the market. We NEED a second line center who can, if need be, step up into the #1 spot for a small stretch here and there. The only other centers that fit that mold, and will be available, are Trocheck and Kadri. Kadri will be overpaid and obviously plays a game that gets him suspended…so no. Trocheck will probably sign for around what Geno will, and for more years. I’m not against him as plan B. But, there’s no guarantee the… Read more »

Keith T.
Keith T.
2 months ago

One would think that GM Hextall is in process of negotiating with all Penguin UFA’s but there will be a point in time when decisions need to be made well before June 30. I would think it would be June 20th +/- so that they know what strategies to take for the pending UFA’s on July 13th. As time goes on, chances of signing rostered players diminishes. A Penguin “make-over” is long overdue and re-thinking old paradigms is necessary. A new ones is greatly needed. Further, players have to think about a lot of factors – not just money but… Read more »

Jeff Young
Jeff Young
2 months ago
Reply to  Keith T.

Maybe they’ve already won 3 Cups and it’s time to cash in. Or just get a change of scenery.

Vince Gori
Vince Gori
2 months ago

Based on this info Dave I’d say he’s good as gone

Bachinga
Bachinga
2 months ago

There is absolutely no doubt that Pettersson is overpaid…a cub reporter for the Rail Yard Dogs of Roanoke would know this…

Jay95
Jay95
2 months ago

I don’t think it’s as unlikely as many believe. There won’t be many RW’s of his caliber hitting the Free Agent market (why I think we offer Kapanen and retain Erod), but he’s had 3 fairly poor years leading up to this one. The first two down years were due more to injury and shortened season. But, the 20/21 season was abysmal. He played well with the pens as he fit the mold of what we can use. But, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get in the 4-4.5 million range. Not the 5-5.5 many are thinking.

Bob
Bob
2 months ago

Too bad A. Lehkonen wasn’t picked up by the Pens. All they had to do was give up a defensemen and a second round pick like Avalanche did for him.

Bob
Bob
2 months ago

So let’s see if this knew ownership steps in and changes things or just hoping to make a few bucks year after year.

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