In what would prove to be their final game of the season last night, a 2-1 loss at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals, the New York Rangers made the surprising choice to list forward Kaapo Kakko as a healthy scratch in favor of Dryden Hunt. It would be fair to say Kakko, the second overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, has not played up to projections so far in his young career, however given the team’s choice to scratch forward Ryan Reaves and the apparent severity of Ryan Strome’s injury, along with the developing chemistry between Kakko and linemates Alexis Lafreniere and Filip Chytil, seeing Kakko sit was a surprise to say the least.
The New York Post’s Larry Brooks, who covers the Rangers, wrote this morning examining an interesting parallel between Kakko and another Finnish forward, Jesperi Kotkaniemi (link). Brooks looks at the similarities between the two players from being drafted, the hype around them, and their young careers, Kakko’s with the Rangers, Kotkaniemi’s with the Montreal Canadiens. Brooks also addresses Kotkaniemi’s healthy scratch in Games Four and Five of last year’s Stanley Cup Final in comparison to Kakko’s healthy scratch last night.
At the conclusion of Montreal’s season, Kotkaniemi would hit the RFA market, where he would sign a one-year, $6.1MM offer-sheet with the Carolina Hurricanes which Montreal declined to match, ultimately costing the Hurricanes a first and third round draft pick. After the two healthy scratches in the Cup Final, it didn’t appear that the relationship between Kotkaniemi and the Canadiens was irreparable, however Kotkaniemi was quick to sign the offer sheet, one that Montreal was very unlikely to match. As Brooks points out in his article, Kakko could feel a similar sentiment towards the Rangers.
None of this is a given of course, but if Kakko was interested in a change of organization, choosing to shop his talents when free agency opens on July 13th, the Rangers would be put in an awkward position if Kakko were to be offered a deal like Kotkaniemi. The Rangers have just under $13.5MM in available cap space this offseason, needing to re-sign the likes of Strome, Andrew Copp, and Frank Vatrano, amongst others. Brooks suggests a two-year bridge deal worth $2MM to $2.5MM per season is appropriate for Kakko this offseason, but if he were to get an offer in the range of $4.2MM to $6.3MM per season on the open-market, that would net the Rangers only the same first and third round draft picks Montreal received for Kotkaniemi.
Circling back, the Rangers could afford to match that number, but they have K’Andre Miller and Lafreniere as expiring RFAs next offseason, both of whom would be due significant raises over their ELC contracts. If the Rangers were put in this position, the one Montreal faced last offseason, they may be forced to take the draft picks.
All of this to say, with the Rangers offseason less than a day old at publishing, things are unknown and the ultimate reason for Kakko’s scratch remains a mystery, and any hurt feelings could be a moot point. Interestingly, when ESPN’s Emily Kaplan asked Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant to elaborate on why he scratched Kakko, Gallant refused to give an answer. Kakko’s future is his own, and to an extent the Rangers’ too, but the parallel to Kotkaniemi’s situation, in recency, in on-ice performance, in being healthy scratched for the team’s biggest game of the season, and now contractually, is incredibly interesting and something to keep an eye on.
It’s a little weird that you’re protecting this information. Where it could possibly be medical
He’s gone. Don’t think Drury believes in him.
Get debrincat and Dach from Chicago
We have the trade chips to do it
Dach and Kakko can be dealt for each other. They are 2nd and 3rd pick busts. You better bring it if you want the Cat. Dach, Another Bowman draft fiasco.
I think Kakko could thrive in Chicago. At least his being a natural winger would mean that he would have to be played there. Dach is absolutely not a centre and, while he plays better on the wing, he doesn’t have speed to burn and, despite his size, he also doesn’t play a particularly physical game either.
It’s ironic considering that Colliton and even King tried to play Strome on wing, even though he was terrible there, but they were insistent on playing Dach at centre when he’s just not good there. I wanted the kid to turn into the kind of building block that he was supposed to become, but he was rushed and as stated, put at the wrong position. While I doubt it will happen, if they swung a one-for-one swap like Dach for Kakko, I wouldn’t complain.
As for trading Cat, unless they get a boatload of picks and prospects back, it will be a monumental mistake and, I STILL wouldn’t like it one bit, because he’s the kind of player you build around. If he asks to be traded, okay then, but otherwise, keep him.
I would never trade Kaapo for Dach! Kaapo has room to develop, I don’t believe Dach will develop into anything g more than what he’s shown. If you want Kaapo than Cat will somehow be in that deal!
Like I said, I wouldn’t complain, but I’m sure many a Rangers fan would be understandably pissed. With that being said, you would think that a deal for Cat would start with Kakko. Then, the trade should also be built around a combo of Kravtsov, Othmann, and a 2023 1st.
DeBrincat is a game-changing player that isn’t even close to his prime yet and would make an absurd tandem with Panarin. Kravtsov and Kakko would have plenty of minutes to work with in Chicago and may live up to their high billing. I would be mortified if the Hawks traded Cat, but if the return is of that caliber, it would be hard to pass up. I’ll probably get nailed to a wall for coming up with a hypothetical trade scenario, but that’s fine.
BillyBalls ROTFLMAO!!! You’re funny dude. Kaapo actually went before Dach so Technically he’s nthe bigger bust. Room to grow? Stop I can’t stand it. I was actually mad the Rangers took him before the Hawks until I saw him play.
Yeah. Even the *mention* of DeBrincat being available has me thinking “what in the freaking world???” You NEVER trade players like that, unless your raison d’etre is permanent tanking. There is no rebuild that could possibly be long enough to waste DeBrincat’s prime, nor a team attractive to free agents worth having where you’re unloading elite stars.
He’s obviously been drinking since the Rangers lost to the Lightning. If he took a Breathalyzer when he wrote that it’d say Whew, Man you’re drunk dude.
Many years ago, when the whole debacle with Kane assaulting a cab driver happened, there were a lot of people calling for him to be traded and more once the false rape allegations came up. I obviously didn’t want him to be traded and my old man said, “His value is beyond anything any team can offer.”.
I feel similarly about Cat. It would be devastating if he got traded. Why trade a guarantee for potential? I know I made a hypothetical trade, but it just wouldn’t make sense. Then again, it’s the Hawks…
I’d let Kakko and Chytil walk.
Kirby Dach Is a third line center at best and always Injured.
Nemeth and Kakko traded together for a 2nd. Ya open up over $3.5M in cap and get some defensive help.
Except they don’t need defensive help. It’s the deepest part of their team. And why would they deal Kakko and a small contract for a second when they can get a first and third doing nothing?
Kakko’s “developing chemistry?” Dude, he had five points in 19 playoff games. SHESTERKIN had as many assists in the playoffs as Kakko did, and that’s dead embarrassing. He wasn’t a waste in the regular season, but he also didn’t play up to billing either. If someone wants to sign him to an offer sheet for the same $$ given to players who actually produce at a top-six level, I propose that the Rangers say “WHOOPIE!” and take the picks.
With the players they have to sign, their cap situation is ugly. So they’re forced to take useful draft picks for a guy whose production so far has been mediocre. Woo, and hoo.
Yes, he’s developing chemistry. No, he’s currently top nine, but could be paid top six provided he gets top six time on the ice. None of the current unrestricted free agents will be retained, not will it be a terrible loss, including Strome. Two more prospects coming up – the Rangers will be fine.
Games i saw looked like kakko was just the guy lucky enough to be playing on same line as the other two. Did not look like he would be missed.
The rangers can’t develop young talent, two first round picks have requested trades before their 24th birthday. Miller being the only exception. Pump the brakes on the 21 and 20 yrs olds potential, it takes time. Imagine giving up on McKinnon at 21 !? Ridiculous. Jack Hughes just broke through this year and he gets first line minutes !! The problem is that when NYR signed panarin the “rebuild” had to be expedited now they have their top line and trouba playing at or close to their 30’s and at the highest cost. NY doesn’t have time to be patient now. The window is open and it is devaluing their high end prospects.