January 6, 2021

Kaapo Kakko on the second line is why the Rangers had to move on from Jesper Fast

Strome hugs Kakko after his 1st NHL goal – Getty Images

Jesper Fast was a great member of the New York Rangers. He was a modern day Jan Erixon for all intents and purposes. The 29 year-old was always hard on the puck, reliable defensively, and could score the occasional goal. He was a coach’s dream, a player’s player, and a fan favorite.

That’s why so many fans are finding it hard to accept he’s gone. However, when you step back and detach the emotional aspect, the Rangers made the right move.

This was not about money, but opportunity for younger Rangers players

The sight of Kaapo Kakko fixed on a line with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome is all the evidence you need to understand why it was the right move. In addition, the Rangers have a giant man with speed at RW on the third line in Julien Gauthier. And in fairness, he may simply be a temporary place holder for when Vitali Kravtsov comes in March or April.

Fast’s three year Canes deal was just $150,000 more than his last deal with the Blueshirts. In truth, this was not so much about money but opportunity. Simply put, the Rangers weren’t interested in a multi-year deal and wanted to give Kaapo Kakko a spot in the top six next season.

At the end of the day, this wasn’t about not wanting Fast. This was about financial constraints and making room for highly touted prospects. It was more about tomorrow, then today. It was the correct play and now today is here.

Kaapo Kakko should shine this season on the second line

kaapo kakko
Panarin and Kakko(Getty Images)

I’ve been adamant about this for awhile now. Ever since Kakko returned from Finland after the pause, he was a different player. The biggest change was his willingness to shoot more. His two biggest problems last season were holding on to the puck too long and not shooting enough. In 66 games he only took 109 shots for a lowly 1.65 shots per game with a shooting percentage of 9.2%.

To compare and contrast, Pavel Buchnevich took 2.17 shots per game and scored 16 goals with a 10.8 shooting percentage. Kakko needed to shoot more and he did show a willingness to do so late in the season. In his last 8 games before the pause, he took at least 3 shots in 4 games and at least 2 shots in 5 of them.

Then in the playoffs he unloaded in game one against Carolina with 5 shots in his first ever post-season contest. Unfortunately he notched only one more shot in that sweep but did attempt 11 shots in three games. A lot of that had to do with the Canes defense and the Rangers inability to get to the high danger zones.

Ultimately, Kakko showed why he was the 2nd overall pick. If he’s willing to get pucks on net on a line with Panarin and Strome, he could break the 25 goal mark in his sophomore year.

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