The Pittsburgh Penguins needed some additional scoring depth, and they worked to address that before Monday’s NHL Trade Deadline by acquiring forward Rickard Rakell from the Anaheim Ducks.
In exchange for Rakell the Penguins are sending Zach-Aston Reese, Dominik Simon, goalie prospect Calle Clang, and a 2022 second-round draft pick to the Ducks.
Rakell has had a nice bounce back season for the Ducks, scoring 16 goals in 51 games and figures to fit on the Penguins’ second line next to Evgeni Malkin. Wingers for Malkin have been a struggle so far this season with Kasperi Kapanen struggling to score goals and the Penguins trying a revolving door of wingers in those spots. Recently the Penguins had broken up their highly successful top line of Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, and Bryan Rust to try Rust on the second line.
It remains to be seen how things will align with Rakell in the mix.
Along with Rakell the Penguins also figure to get Jason Zucker back at some point when he fully recovers from core muscle surgery. He has missed the past two months and while his offensive numbers have dropped this season he is still a good two-way forward that helps on the forecheck and fits their system well.
There has been some concern about the Penguins’ secondary scoring in recent weeks as a lot of their bottom-six players have slumped at the same time, but overall their bottom-six performance has been very strong this season. When neither Crosby or Malkin is on the ice during 5-on-5 play this season they have a plus-12 goal differential for the season. Even since March 1 (when the Penguins started a grueling part of their schedule against some of the league’s best teams) that mark is still plus-6. Anytime you can outscore teams by any margin when your two best players are sitting on the bench you are doing well.
Trading Aston-Reese and Simon will require them to re-work their fourth line a little bit, but they have a lot of options that can play defensive roles including Brock McGinn, Brian Boyle, and Teddy Blueger.
Adding Rakell and getting Zucker back will only help balance things out in the top-nine even more.