One Year Later: The Rickard Rakell trade

Photo: USA Today

By Thomas Harrington

One year ago today, the Anaheim Ducks traded forward Rickard Rakell to the Pittsburgh Penguins for forward Zach Aston-Reese, forward Dominik Simon, goaltending prospect Calle Clang, and a second round draft pick in 2022, which they used to select Tristan Luneau 53rd overall. The Ducks retained 35% of Rakell’s salary. This was Pat Verbeek’s final trade for the Ducks before the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. He did try to make one other trade, as he almost acquired Evgenni Dadonov and a second round pick from Vegas, but the Ducks were on Dadonov’s no trade list and the deal was voided by the NHL.

The Ducks had drafted Rakell in the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, 30th overall. He played in the OHL for the next few years and became a full-time pro in the 2013-2014 season, splitting time between the NHL and AHL. The next season, he played in two AHL games and in 71 games for the Ducks. He recorded his first 20 goal campaign in the 2015-2016 season, and followed that up with a pair of 30 goal seasons. However, his offense has been down since then, bottoming out at nine goals and 28 points in 52 games in the 2020-2021 season. Before the trade out of Anaheim, he had scored 16 goals and 28 points in 51 games during the 2021-22 season.

Aston-Reese joined Pittsburgh in the 2017-2018 season as an undrafted free agent. Never a big offensive contributor, he recorded a career high 17 points in 43 games in the 2018-2019 season. Instead, he was primarily used in a bottom six and penalty killing role. Before the trade, he had scored two goals and 11 points in 52 games.

The Penguins had selected Simon in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, 137th overall. He made his NHL debut in the 2015-2016 season and was a fulltime NHL player by the 2018-2019 season. He left Pittsburgh for Calgary as a free agent for the 2020-2021 season, but he spent most of the year in the AHL and returned to Pittsburgh as a free agent the following season. Before the trade, he had scored three goals and nine points in 55 games.

Pittsburgh had selected Clang in the third round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, 77th overall. Since being drafted, he has played overseas in both the SHL and HockeyAllsvenskan leagues, and also played for Team Sweden at the World Junior Championships.

After trading away Josh Manson, Nicolas Deslauriers, Hampus Lindholm, and Rakell, the Ducks were in need of some NHL bodies, which is why Aston-Reese and Simon were included in this deal. The two big gets in this deal for the Ducks were Clang and the second round pick. For Pittsburgh, they have an aging core led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and were looking for more offense as they chased another Stanley Cup.

With the Penguins, Rakell scored four goals and 13 points in 19 games. In the playoffs, he was scoreless in two games, and he was injured for most of Pittsburgh’s playoff run. Impressed with what they saw, Pittsburgh signed Rakell to a six-year deal worth $5 million a season. This year, Rakell has already crossed the 20 goal mark and has 49 points.

Neither Aston-Reese nor Simon really fit in well with the Ducks and both departed as free agents over the summer. Aston-Reese signed in Toronto while Simon went overseas and is currently playing in the Czechia.

Clang has also spent this season playing in the SHL and put up decent numbers, splitting time with Christoffer Rifalk. Clang had a 12-10 record with a .901 save percentage, 2.69 goals against average, and one shutout. I’m hoping to see him in San Diego next season.

Luneau was Anaheim’s second second round draft pick in 2022, and he’s put up some excellent numbers for Gatineau Olympiques, recording 79 points in 62 games. He currently leads his team in assists and points, and leads all QMJHL defensemen in points, and has become one of Anaheim’s top defensive prospects this season.

Final Thoughts

When this deal was first announced, I was somewhat underwhelmed by the return. I was really hoping for a first round pick, but given how many years it had been since Rakell had a 30 goal season, it was ultimately unsurprising to see him fetch a second round pick and a prospect. Like the other deals that Verbeek made leading up to the trade deadline, I don’t consider this a huge win, but it could become one someday. If Clang becomes Anaheim’s future starter or Lunea becomes a top four defenseman, then the Ducks will look back on this deal very fondly.

For Pittsburgh, getting Rakell made them a better team, but it still wasn’t enough to get them past the New York Rangers in the first round. For now, I think the Ducks are happy with the return and could become thrilled with it. Since they were able to re-sign Rakell, I think the Penguins are also very happy with this trade, and if he helps lead them to a Cup, they’ll be even happier.

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March 21st, 2023


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