Pittsburgh Penguins Outlook Post-Rakell Trade

At exactly 3PM on trade deadline day, the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired forward Rickard Rakell in exchange for a 2022 2nd round draft pick, prospect Calle Clang, Dominik Simon and Zach Aston-Reese. Rakell, 28, is on the final year of his $3.78 million contract. With that being said, Rakell is most likely a rental for the Penguins as the team has some important players they wish to extend this summer like Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Bryan Rust. As for the pieces the Penguins gave up, Zach-Aston Reese and Dominik Simon may very well opt to sign back with the Penguins this summer as both of their contracts expire at the end of this season.

Thankfully, Ron Hextall was able to keep his first round pick, as well as prospects Samuel Poulin and Pierre-Olivier Joseph. In order to keep these pieces, the Penguins opted to give up a 2022 2nd round pick and prospect Calle Clang. Although Calle Clang is having a solid season in the SweHL and projects to be a backup goalie in the NHL, he was pretty far down the Penguins goalies depth chart, with Tristan Jarry, Filip Lindberg, and Joel Blomqvist in front of him.

In my opinion, when everyone is healthy, the following forward lines combinations are the best options available to Mike Sullivan:





Healthy scratches: Kasperi Kapanen, Radim Zohorna, Brian Boyle

First of all, the losses of Simon and ZAR leave a big hole on the 4th line. ZAR is one of the best defensive forwards in the league year in and year out and Simon is a puck possession monster who in my opinion, often gets too much hate from the fanbase. I think the most likely scenario is Brian Boyle slots in on the 4th line. However, I’m not a fan of that idea. Boyle is a fine 13th forward but he simply does not fit the penguins’ playstyle and identity: speed and skill. He is at a point in his career where he does not bring much to the table.

Here is Brian Boyle’s RAPM chart from Evolving Hockey:

By looking at the GF/60 bar, we understand that Boyle does not have a good impact on the team’s rate of scoring, most likely meaning that his finishing ability is not the best. Moving on to the xGF/60 bar, we see that boyle is at about -0.5 in that stat, which is his impact on the team’s expected rate of scoring. This stat tells us that the big man does not provide much offense for himself and his teammates. Finally, when we look at the 4th bar (the most important defensive stat presented on the RAPM chart), which is xGA/60, we understand that Boyle’s impact on the team’s expected rates of goals against is positive. However, in my opinion, having a positive defensive impact under Coach Sullivan is not very impressive. I believe a lot of players that are currently playing on other teams who do not have a positive defensive impact, would improve a lot in Mike Sullivan’s system, as pretty much every player succeeds in Pittsburgh.

There are two options I would like Mike Sullivan to experiment with: Anthony Angello and Kasper Bjorkqvist. Let’s start with Angello. Angello is a big man, just like Boyle. The difference between the two of them is that Angello is much more skilled, has more speed and has a better impact defensively.I really liked his game last season when he played with the Penguins. As for Kasper Bjorkqvist, we saw a little bit of Bjorkqvist earlier on this season, and I loved what he could bring to the 4th line. From speed, strenght in puck battles and a bit offensive upside, he was promising. I think his playstyle can be really efficient on a 4th line. Now for the healthy scratches, Kasperi Kapanen and Radim Zohorna, the reason why I would play Angello and Bjorkqvist over them on the 4th line is because of their playstyles. Obviously, Kapanen and Zohorna are better players overall, but they are not made for a 4th line role and would not thrive there. They would thrive more in a top 9 role.

Finally, I truly believe Rickard Rakell was a necessary add for the Pens. The team has lacked depth scoring and Rakell allows Sullivan to spread the offensive talent more. This team is primed for one last run with a great forward group, excellent goaltending and solid team defense.

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