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NHL Trade Deadline Primer: Rickard Rakell and the Ducks need a change

NHL Trade Deadline

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 13: Rickard Rakell #67 of the Anaheim Ducks skates with the puck with pressure from Dylan Gambrell #7 of the San Jose Sharks during the first period of the game at Honda Center on March 13, 2021 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

The NHL Trade Deadline is Monday, April 12 at 3 p.m. ET. As we get closer to the deadline we will take a look at some individual players who could be moved by then. We continue today with Anahein Ducks forward Rickard Rakell.

The Anaheim Ducks are going in the wrong direction for the third year in a row, trending toward the bottom of the league standings lost in a seemingly directionless rebuild that isn’t even officially a rebuild. It is not pretty.

This is a team clearly in need of some significant changes, and it should start over the next couple of weeks with a trade involving one of the few tradeable assets on the roster that could bring them back a meaningful return -- forward Rickard Rakell.

What makes Rakell such an attractive trade option (for both the Ducks and prospective teams around the league) is that he is still 27 years old, has an affordable term remaining on his contract (one more full season at $3.9 million against the salary cap), and the fact he is a talented, productive player. He helps in the short-term, and you get a full year of him next season as well.

So why would the Ducks want to move that? Simple: They need more help than he can provide on his own, and he is a player they can afford to dangle as trade bait. Obviously you’re not going to move one of the young prospects (Trevor Zegras or Jamies Drysdale), the rest of the roster doesn’t really offer much to other teams, and the only other attractive option is John Gibson. Gibson is the nuclear option for when you decide you need to give up, tear the whole thing down, and start over.

A change would also be great for Rakell individually.

[Related: ProHockeyTalk’s 2021 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker]

While he remains a productive player, his numbers have dropped across the board in recent years as the talent around him has deteriorated. He went from being a 35-goal player (per 82 games) in 2015-16 and 2016-17 to a 20-25 goal player (per 82 games) the past three years.

He is still talented, he is still a player that drives possession, and he still gets his shots on goal. All of the ingredients for goal-scoring are there. It is very similar to the situation Tyler Toffoli found himself in the past few years with the Los Angeles Kings. A skilled player with strong underlying numbers playing on a team and within a system that may have been holding him back offensively. Once he got to a new team, with better talent around him, and a better system to suit his skills the production erupted again.

This is not to suggest that Rakell is going to end up on a new team and contend for the goal-scoring crown next season, but the right fit could help him get back to that 30-goal level.

What the return might look like

The Ducks should get a really solid return here, mostly because this is not a rental situation.

A year ago at the deadline New Jersey got a prospect (2019 first-round pick Nolan Foote) and a first-round pick for Blake Coleman.

San Jose got a first-round pick for Barclay Goodrow.

Even the Ducks got a first-round pick and a prospect for Ondrej Kase and the willingness to take on David Backes’ contract.

Minnesota got a first-round pick, an NHL roster player (Alex Galchenyuk), and a top prospect (Calen Addison) for Jason Zucker.

All of those players had term remaining on their contracts at the time of the trade, and Rakell is more productive and proven offensively than two of them (Goodrow and Kase).

There is no reason to think they can not get a first-round pick and a very solid prospect for Rakell right now. Given where the Ducks are this season and what the immediate future looks like, they should be happy with that.

The most logical landing spots: Edmonton Oilers, Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers

We are going with all of the usual suspects here, and looking at either contenders that have a need for additional offense (Boston, Edmonton, Islanders), or contenders that might be looking for a final piece of the puzzle to go all in (Toronto).

Also Philadelphia just because that seems like a team that is going to look to shake things up, but not in a rebuild way. A “we need better players to win right now” shake up.

[Your 2020-21 NHL on NBC TV schedule]

Wild Card Team: Minnesota Wild

Why not the Wild? It is a better team than most people expected it to be, the salary cap space should be there this year, and it is a team that has extra draft picks to deal from. The Wild have nine picks in the 2021 class, including two first-rounders and two third-rounders (as a result of the Zucker trade).

The Wild also have some money coming off the books this offseason with Marcus Johansson, Nick Bonino, Nick Bjugstad, and Ian Cole all being unrestricted free agents, so Rakell’s term next season should not be a cap issue.

Plus, Rakell just seems like he would be a pretty good fit and upgrade to a playoff team that is going to need as much help as it can get against a Colorado or Vegas in a potential playoff matchup. You have the assets and the resources. Why not take a chance?

Team I want to see just for fun: Florida Panthers

What a story they have been this season.

Not only are the Panthers on their way to the playoffs, but they are also in contention with Tampa Bay and Carolina for the top spot in the Central Division. Admit it, you did not see that happening at the start of the season.

They are also in a unique position where their two best players (Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau) are still signed long-term at WAY below market value contracts. That is a massive advantage that gives them more salary cap space than most other contenders. If you can get the okay from ownership to spend the money, make the move and try to strike while you can.

NHL Trade Deadline Prediction

I think the Panthers offer the perfect combination of need and salary cap space, while also being a team that is always adding players to its roster in somewhat bold moves.

The Florida Panthers are the pick here.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.