New York Rangers expect Kaapo Kakko back for the playoffs

kaapo kakko injury
Jan 21, 2022; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; New York Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) skates with the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers announced prior to practice today that Kaapo Kakko is “week to week” with a lower-body injury.

Kakko, 21, suffered the injury in the first period on Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings. He was skating along the left wall while tied up with Tyler Bertuzzi when he fell. His right leg went underneath him as he crashed into the boards.

In his place on the third line at practice on Monday was Alexis Lafreniere. He lined up on the left side with Filip Chytil in the middle and Barclay Goodrow on the right. The 20 year-old is coming off his first two goal game which earned him high praise coming off the heels of a healthy scratch.

“He had lots of jump and he looked really good” Gerard Gallant said. “It’s special for a young player to score a goal like that. That second goal was really pretty and just gives him more confidence.”

New York Rangers expect Kakko back for playoffs

After practice the head coach was asked if Kakko being out week-to-week meant that he could be out for awhile.

“Definitely not,” Gallant noted. “I fully, fully expect him to be ready for the playoffs. Again things can change but I’d be shocked.

“Hopefully he will play 2 or 3 of the last games but we expect him for playoffs.”

This has really been a difficult season for the kid as he’s already had two stints on the injured list causing him to miss 35 games.

The first time was October 18 through 25, where he missed four games with an upper-body injury. His second time around was much longer, lasting 31 games from January 22 to April 7.

Both previous injuries were deemed upper-body but this latest one is certainly a let issue. The other concern is the second stint turned out to be much longer than expected with most believing he’d return prior to the March 21 Trade Deadline.

“I was hoping to come back as fast as I can but it didn’t happen and I just listened to the doctors,” Kakko explained via the team’s YouTube channel.

The Rangers first pick (second overall) of the 2019 draft has really had a hard time getting things going this season due to these injuries.

Kakko has only been able to play in 40 games amassing just 7 goals and 16 points for a .40 points per game average, which is only slightly better than last season’s .34 average.

For his career, Kakko has 26 goals and 56 points in 154 games.

Of course, it would be some story if Kakko could return before the playoffs and help carry the third line.

Kakko’s next contract will be interesting

kaapo kakko
Jan 2, 2020; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; New York Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

One thing now seems certain, Kakko’s injuries are likely to impact his next contract. The pending RFA and the Rangers will need to come to terms, with a slim chance that an outside time may try to take advantage of their cap situation.

Next season, the Rangers will have only around $12.5 million to fill out their roster. That’s because Mika Zibanejad’s $8.5 million and Adam Fox’s $9.5 million contracts kick in.

Could the Rangers and Kakko maybe go with a two year deal in the realm of $2 to $2.5 million? Or would Kakko be more inclined to accept a three-year deal in the neighborhood of $3 to $3.5 million? That’s likely the highest number the Rangers are most comfortable at, but they would need to get that done soon.

There’s a real possibility that Kakko’s camp is waiting on a Jesperi Kotkaniemi scenario? The Carolina Hurricanes came in with a one-year offer sheet at $6.1 million that the Montreal Canadiens could not afford to match with their cap issues.

The Hurricanes subsequently extended Kotkaniemi at the NHL trade deadline for 8 years and a lower AAV at $4.82M. To simplify, they paid a little more to get him and then signed him for less later.

That could absolutely happen with Kakko if the Rangers let it get that far. Before you dismiss that possibility thinking Kotkaniemi is a better player, his points per game average last season was just .35.

In the end, offer sheets are rare but the Hurricanes may have opened up a new way for GM’s to play the game.

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