Rangers adding Kaapo Kakko in Jack Eichel trade would be a mistake; Sabres lack of leverage exposed

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Apr 27, 2021; New York, NY, USA; Kaapo Kakko #24 of the New York Rangers celebrates a second period goal by Brendan Smith #42 (not shown) against Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen #1 of the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden on April 27, 2021 in New York City. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Of all the young players on the New York Rangers roster that could be moved for Jack Eichel, the 2019 second overall pick was always a possibility.

I reported back in March after speaking with a team source just exactly who the Rangers would offer, and who was off limits. Understandably, not being one of the big publications, this went under the radar.

After speaking with knowledgeable people I believe a fair offer from the Rangers would look something like Vitali Kravtsov, a roster player, a young prospect defenseman (Nils Lundkvist or Braden Schneider excluded), and a first round pick… The Blueshirts also have no intention to trade Adam Fox, Alexis Lafreniere, K’Andre Miller, and to a lesser extent Kaapo Kakko.

New York Rangers will not overpay for Jack Eichel this summer, Forever Blueshirts

Now, Larry Brooks is indicating that Chris Drury may include the young Finn in a deal.

Rangers may add Kaapo Kakko in an Eichel trade

Kaapo Kakko was selected second overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The 6-3 winger is now 20 years of age and at a crucial point in his development. He finished the 2020-21 campaign with 17 points on the strength of 8 goals in 48 games.

In his Sunday Slap Shots column, Brooks speculates if the Sabres were willing to eat some of Eichel’s salary, Kaapo Kakko could be added to the packagel. The reason being, it would allow the Rangers to easily extend Mika Zibanejad.

And if general manager Chris Drury is confident he will be able to reach such an agreement with Zibanejad, that’s when he and the Rangers would have license to include Kaapo Kakko as the blue-chip centerpiece of an offer for Eichel, which might include either Filip Chytil or Vitaly Kravtsov, as well as Zac Jones or Matt Robertson or a first-rounder.

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Brooks’ then noted that he learned the Vegas Golden Knights are still seriously considering an Eichel trade although cap strapped. As of this moment, the Golden Knights have no cap space and only 20 roster spots filled out of 22 or 23.

Regarding this news on Vegas, unless the Sabres changed their tune on only wanting futures, I can’t see a deal here. There would need to be in excess of Eichel’s $10 million cap hit sent the other way. Are the Knights going to trade Reilly Smith ($5M), Shea Theodore ($5.2M), and more to accommodate this move? Those are two big pieces that would hurt Vegas in the long-run.

This sounds like more Buffalo manufactured interest to extract more in a trade. That’s why if it is just the Rangers in on Eichel, there’s no reason for Drury to up his offer.

Sabres losing leverage by the day

Buffalo’s GM Kevyn Adams finally pushed Eichel’s camp over the edge with his “we’re in control of the process” comments. This provoked a stern response from Jack’s agents, Peter Fish and Peter Donatelli.

“The process is not working,” they wrote. “As previously stated, we fully anticipated a trade by the start of the NHL free agency period.”

“The recommendation by Jack’s independent neurosurgeon, other spine specialists consulted, and the surgery Jack feels most comfortable having in order to correct a herniated disc in his neck is to proceed with Artificial Disc Replacement surgery,” Eichel’s agents revealed on the medical situation. “A further point of concern is that our camp was initially under the impression that the Sabres specialist was in agreement with the Artificial Disc Replacement surgery until it was no longer the case.”

In a final salvo, they unleashed the heavy artillery.

“What is being left out of the discussion is that Jack would be able to play in the NHL for the start of the season pending medical clearance if he were allowed to have the surgery he desires even as of this date. Repeated requests have been made to the Sabres since early June to no avail. This process is stopping Jack from playing in the NHL and it is not working.”

There’s absolutely no denying this relationship is broken. Kevyn Adams could use this as an opportunity to accept the best deal on the table and tell the fanbase the truth. There was little chance he was ever going to get his ridiculous asking price.

That’s why the young Kaapo Kakko should not be part of any trade for Eichel.

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Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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