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.
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.