By Michael Walters
Team Sweden announced today that Anaheim’s Hampus Lindholm will be playing for them in the World Cup of Hockey. He will replace Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall, who had surgery on his knee back on January 19. According to GM Ken Holland, Kronwall feels better and is preparing for the upcoming NHL season. It appears Kronwall wants to use the extra time to be ready for the season.
Last week Team Sweden also announced that Rickard Rakell would be replacing St. Louis’ Alex Steen. Steen had shoulder surgery this past June and is also sitting out the World Cup to get prepared for the NHL season.
This opportunity for Lindholm and Rakell extends beyond just being able to play in the World Cup. Both players still haven’t been re-signed by the Anaheim Ducks and this is an opportunity to shine during the tournament while negotiations are ongoing. If both players do well in the tournament, then they could make the argument for a higher valued contract. The downside to playing in the tournament is the risk of being injured in a tournament that has zero implications on the NHL regular season standings.
Last season Lindholm registered 28 points(10 goals + 18 assists) in 80 games. His rating was +7 with 40 penalty minutes. During the summer it was thought he would be one of the first defensemen to be re-signed, but instead, it was Sami Vatanen who was given an extension by GM Bob Murray. Vatanen signed a 4-year deal worth $19.5 million, making him the highest paid Anaheim defenseman. It appears that Lindholm’s agent Claude Lemieux is looking for a contract comparable to Vatanen’s.
Rakell had a break-out year last season, scoring 20 goals and recording 23 assists for 43 total points. His rating was -1 with only 19 penalty minutes. In the past, he mainly played at the wing, but last season he had the opportunity to center his own line with various teammates. It will be interesting to see if Randy Carlyle will have the same plan for Rakell this season.
According to CapFriendly.com, Anaheim has approximately 7.5 million in cap space. Even if Anaheim makes a trade freeing up cap space, it might be difficult to re-sign both players to long-term deals. Murray may elect to re-sign Lindholm to a longer deal and then try to make a bridge deal for Rakell. A two-year bridge deal with Rakell would make it easier for Murray to keep both players. Bridge deals are always a risk for both sides because a player’s performance isn’t always guaranteed. The risk of a bridge deal to Murray is if Rakell performs well over the next two seasons, then his contract would likely be higher than a long-term deal signed now, which Anaheim might not be able to afford in two seasons. For Rakell, if he doesn’t live up to expectations, then any high-value long-term contract may be difficult to obtain in the future.
One thing is for certain, Anaheim needs to re-sign both Lindholm and Rakell if they want to make the playoffs and have a chance to make a deep run.
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