Training camp is literally on the horizon for the Anaheim Ducks, but the roster is still incomplete.
Two pieces of the roster, who some would even call key pieces, forward Rickard Rakell and defenseman Hampus Lindholm, remain restricted free agents.
Rakell, who was selected by the Ducks with the 30th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, is getting ready to enter his third full season of NHL action this October after having played in 165 career games so far.
He made his big league debut on January 19, 2013 in a win against Vancouver where he logged 9:49 of ice time. Rakell only played in four games that season and 18 games the following season but in 2014-15 he became a roster staple for the Ducks, appearing in 71 contests.
Last season was a breakout year for the native of Sweden as he logged a career-high 72 games played and scored 43 points (20-23—43), while averaging a career-high of 16:04 in ice time.
Last season was the final year of Rakell’s entry-level contract that carried a cap hit of $894,167 over its first three seasons and a cap hit of $925,000 last season.
Lindholm, meanwhile, was taken by the Ducks with the sixth overall selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and is getting ready to enter his fourth full season of NHL action this fall as he already has 236 regular season games under his belt.
The 22-year-old, who is also a native of Sweden, made his NHL debut on October 6, 2013 in a victory against Winnipeg where he registered two blocked shots and 18:41 of ice time. He finished that season with some Calder Trophy consideration as he almost immediately became a staple for Anaheim along it’s defense.
Last season, Lindholm played in a career-high 80 games, notching 28 points (10-18—28), a plus-minus rating of plus-seven, 22:00 of average ice time and a defensive zone start percentage of 50.1 percent.
Lindholm’s contract status mirrored Rakell’s as he, too, just concluded a four-year entry-level deal that saw him carry a cap hit of $894,167 for the first three seasons of the contract and a $925,000 cap hit last season.
So, what will happen in this stalemate between General Manager Bob Murray and his Swedish duo?
In the short-term, there’s a possibility that nothing will happen. It was announced a few weeks back that Rakell was going to replace Blues forward Alexander Steen on Sweden’s World Cup of Hockey roster, and while agents typically do the legwork in situations like this, it’s also safe to say Rakell has set his focus on the tournament, which begins next week.
Peter Wallen, Rakell’s agent, depicted contract negotiations as two sides eager to get a deal inked to Eric Stephens of The Orange County Register.
“We are talking and I think we will find common ground for a solid agreement as I feel both parties seem to want that to happen very much,” said Wallen to the publication.
But this was back in late-July.
Lindholm is literally in the same situation as Rakell. He was named to Team Sweden as a replacement on their World Cup of Hockey roster a couple weeks back and it’s safe to say that his main focus has also turned to the tournament.
So, what’s a GM to do in this situation with camp just weeks away and only about $7.52 million in cap space to play with?
While the cap isn’t a major issue at the moment, it wouldn’t be out of the question that both Rakell and Lindholm could eat that space up with their new deals, leaving the Ducks with no breathing room in the event it was needed over the course of the season.
There were talks back in June of defenseman Cam Fowler and his $4 million cap hit getting traded, which would obviously free up cap space for Rakell and especially Lindholm, but those talks went cold as free agency opened.
If the Ducks somehow start the season without the Swedish duo, they’ll be left without a young player who is becoming a solid secondary scorer behind the likes of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, while their other young RFA is growing into a key piece along the Anaheim “D.”
If the Ducks have any intention of starting off Randy Carlyle Era version 2.0 on the right foot, they’ll need to find a way to get both these players into camp.