To say that Victor Rask’s time in Minnesota has been underwhelming would be a bit of an understatement.
After the Minnesota Wild acquired him from the Carolina Hurricanes in a one-for-one deal for Nino Niederreiter, Rask has 26 points in 89 games (0.292 points per game). For comparison, he had previously tallied 163 points in 339 games (0.480 points per game) with the Hurricanes. A part of this decrease has been the fact that it seems like Rask has been injured a lot over the last few years. Since 2018, hehas missed 69 games due to injury.
Fortunately, he may have put his injury troubles behind him, as Rask has only missed two games this season. There have also been moments this season where he has looked good. In six games across February, he put up six points (two goals, four assists) on a line with Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello. However, Rask has been having a tough following month, only registering one point in seven games as of March 13.
Rask is signed with the Wild until the end of the 2021-22 season with an average annual value of $4 million. It’s a reasonable price if he was consistently putting up 40 to 50 points per season, but he hasn’t reached that total in four seasons. If anything, Minnesota’s management may want to use that money elsewhere if he can’t turn things around.
So, the question remains: which version is the real version of Rask? Is it the 40-point player from Carolina? Or is he going to stay as the player we’ve seen with the Wild over the last two-and-a-half seasons?
Victor Rask: The Good
Not everything about the Victor Rask experiment in Minnesota has been bad. At the start of the season, The Hockey Writers‘ Mariah Holland published the article “Minnesota Wild Need More Out of Victor Rask in 2020-21.” In it, Holland says that one of the issues at the time was that he had yet to play a full season in Minnesota, so he wasn’t able to create chemistry with linemates. While he hasn’t played a full season yet, as mentioned before, he was able to find chemistry with Kaprizov and Zuccarello. At points, they’ve looked like one of the top lines in the NHL.
Another bright spot is that Rask is having his best season in Minnesota yet. With 10 points in 23 games, he would be on pace for 36 points. That’s far from a career high, but at least it shows some form of improvement. Rask is producing well for the minutes that he’s given. As of March 13, his average time on ice is 12:48, which significantly than the 15-plus minutes he averaged every season with the Hurricanes. However, Rask has been using this time efficiently. He’s averaging 2.0 points per 60 minutes in the 2020-21 season. The only time he averaged more points per 60 minutes was in his sophomore season (2.1). With that being said, it’s clear that he is producing when you look at his advanced stats, but his lack of ice time is holding him back a bit.
One final bright spot is that Rask’s shooting percentage has never been higher in his career. His career average shooting percentage is 9.9. This season, he is shooting at 29.4 percent. While it’s probably not likely that he could sustain that over an 82-game season, but it’s encouraging to see that Rask has been able to find the net to a degree.
Victor Rask: The Bad
While Rask may be shooting more accurately than he ever has, he’s not doing it on that many shots. In fact, he only has 17 shots on goal in 23 games this season. If he kept that up throughout an 82-game season, you could expect around 60 shots from Rask. To put that into perspective, his lowest shot total in Carolina was 126 in 71 games.
One of Rask’s biggest issues may be inconsistency. At times this season, he looks like an effective middle-six forward where he can put up the occasional three-point game. At the same time, he’s capable of disappearing off of the score sheet. Back in January, Rask went pointless in eight straight games. He’s also gone goalless in his last 10 games, registering three points in that timespan. The fact of the matter is that he needs to shoot the puck more to generate scoring chances for himself, which will also open up opportunities for his linemates. If opposing teams know that Rask isn’t going to shoot the puck often, they’re not going to apply as much pressure to him.
The Wild also have more success when Rask registers a point. Some may view it as a coincidence, but Minnesota is 7-0-0 when he is on the score sheet this season. When he doesn’t, they’re 9-8-1.
Aside from his offensive inconsistencies, Rask has been lacking at times on defense. In Carolina, he was averaging a takeaway almost every other game (0.55). In the 2020-21 NHL Season, he has 0.09 takeaways per game. Perhaps Rask’s injury history has finally caught up to him and he just can’t compete offensively or defensively like he used to.
There have been ups and downs during Rask’s time with the Wild. At times, he’s looked like a solid middle-six forward who can contribute and both ends of the ice. At other times, he seems to go invisible by not living up to his potential. With one year left on his contract after this season, general manager Bill Guerin is going to have to decide what to do with him. Back in September 2020, some experts floated around the idea of Rask being bought out, but Guerin squashed that notion, according to Michael Russo.
Even if the organization won’t buy out Rask, trading him is always an option. At the same time, it’s worth wondering if Rask is worth trading. For starters, what could the Wild get for the 28-year-old? Yes, he may not have missed many games this season, but other teams still might be worried about his injury history. He’s also at the point in his career where he just may not get any better and his best years could be behind him. The $4 million cap hit is far from the biggest in the NHL, but it might be too expensive for another team to take a chance on in a world where salary cap movement has been limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
An in-season Rask trade could also affect the success that’s been developing because of him, Kaprizov and Zuccarello. If the Wild want to succeed in the 2021 Playoffs, they’re going to need all the chemistry they can get. If playing with Rask keeps Kaprizov and Zuccarello on the score sheet, they may have to stick with him. Of course, there’s always the off chance that Guerin could receive an offer for Rask that he can’t refuse. However, the likelihood of that may be slim to none.
At the end of the day, it may be easier for Minnesota to hold onto Rask for the rest of the season and see what happens. The Wild could always leave him exposed for the Seattle Kraken in the upcoming expansion draft. If the Kraken take him, it’s not a huge loss. If they don’t, he stays in Minnesota and Guerin can reassess what to do with him down the road.
In other words, depending on how he plays for the rest of the season, the fate of Rask’s future rests in his own hands.