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Penguins Should Reunite Rickard Rakell with Crosby and Guentzel

Rickard Rakell is best served on the Pittsburgh Penguins top line.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have re-signed Rickard Rakell, committing to the 29-year-old winger for the next six seasons. Pittsburgh acquired Rakell from the Anaheim Ducks at last season's trade deadline, and he figures to be a core piece to the Penguin's forward lineup next season.

The right-handed Swede found immediate success with the Penguins, scoring 13 points (4-9) in 19 regular season games with the team after arriving in Pittsburgh. Rakell brought a combination of size and skill to the lineup. He brought a shoot first mentality that was a breath of fresh air for the Penguins.

That mentality was on full display in his two appearances in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, where he registered six shots on goal in just 19 minutes of total ice time. 

Heading into next season, Rakell will likely deploy as a top six right-wing but could play with either Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby. While he didn't look out of place with Malkin, the better pairing for Rakell would be on the top line with Crosby.

Upon arriving in Pittsburgh, Rakell found immediate chemistry with Crosby and his linemate Jake Guentzel. According to Natural Stat Trick, that line accounted for 61 percent of the expected goals share at even strength, and they didn't allow a single high danger goal in over 90 minutes of ice time.

Rakell's blue collar style meshed well with Crosby's as the two often cycled below the goal line, frustrating opposing defenseman as they protected the puck in the offensive zone for extended periods. Rakell's vision and puck handling abilities helped set up both Crosby and Guentzel for multiple one-time goals. 

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan often likes to deploy his lines with set pairs while shifting around the third linemate to try and find a successful combination. While Guentzel and Crosby will likely remain as linemates as long as Sullivan is in Pittsburgh, Rakell joining them should be an automatic decision.

That deployment leaves Bryan Rust to play on the right side of Evgeni Malkin, a duo that has seen much success in recent years. Rust broke out back in the 2019-20 season as a top Penguins goal scorer while playing the majority of the season on a line with Malkin. He recorded a career-high 27 goals that season.

While having Rust paired with Crosby and Guentzel has resulted in plenty of success over the past two seasons, splitting that line apart in favor of Rickard Rakell will even out the lineup and create more matchup discrepancies for opposing teams.

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