ANAHEIM – At this time a year ago, he was still recovering from abdominal surgery, the discomfort lingering from when he had his appendix removed.
Today, though he’s healthy, Rickard Rakell continues to feel pain in his gut, this ache very different but no less real.
That can happen when what’s being removed seems as vital as the average internal organ.
See, after years of living here during the season in an apartment – and for one stretch with Ducks teammate and fellow Swede Hampus Lindholm – Rakell is having a house built in Orange County.
Like anyone who has gone through the process, the 24-year-old forward now understands how the pure joy of home ownership can leave your bank account doubled over and writhing.
“Stockholm is expensive too, but this is over the top,” Rakell said, smiling because, presumably, the less dignified reaction would have been to fall to his knees and begin wailing.
“It feels unrealistic,” he continued. “It’s going to be nice to get a new home. But it hurts, too.”
This remains true even though Rakell is about to begin the second season of a six-year, $22.8 million deal he signed 11 months ago.
Now, I’m not suggesting that any of us feel sorry for this guy. Come on, we all should be so bad off that we could have a new home built anywhere in the Southland.
It’s just worth noting that Rakell’s first big contract has afforded him the kind of security that makes possible spending absurd amounts of money on things like door knobs.
“It will be nice when it’s done,” he said. “It will make it feel a little bit more like home.”
A first-round pick six years ago, Rakell has settled in with the Ducks, serving as one of the younger pieces in a foundation that has been successful but also is aging.
Last season, he was the Ducks’ leading goal scorer with 33, which was at least 10 more than any of his teammates and only one fewer than Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf had combined.
Anyone who has followed this team in recent years knows the Ducks, even with their talent and depth, can struggle to score, hockey a sport that promotes droughts despite being played on all that frozen water.
Rakell missed 11 regular-season games a year ago and still was the team’s most accomplished offensive weapon, his plus-10 rating bettered among Ducks forwards only by Andrew Cogliano.
He scored seven more times in 15 playoff games, helping the Ducks into the Western Conference finals, where they were even with Nashville…