Rangers Roundup: Kaapo Kakko wants to stay, Will Cuylle close to OHL Championship, and more

Kaapo Kakko is a pending restricted free agent without salary arbitration rights. There’s been plenty of speculation regarding his future, including top hockey insider Elliotte Friedman stating that teams will be asking about him this summer.

That’s because in the New York Rangers final playoff game, head coach Gerard Gallant opted to scratch him for Dryden Hunt. The move set up a firestorm of offer sheet and trade talk, but is it really warranted?

“Trying to win a hockey game. Just dressing my lineup,” Gerard Gallant said on the team’s YouTube Channel. “When we sit down and talk about our lineup that’s what we do. We love the kid, he’s a good young player but we thought that was the best lineup to win that game.”

Kaapo Kakko wants to stay

kaapo kakko
Oct 14, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) looks to pass behind Dallas Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin (35) during the third period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Kakko, 21, posted 18 points in 43 games but was on injured list three separate times. For his three-year career, he’s managed just 58 points in 157 matches. However, his size, skill, and high potential does make him a very interesting player this summer.

“It’s never fun when you’re not making the lineup,” Kakko said via SNY Rangers. “I wasn’t so happy about that.”

However, when specifically asked if that would impact his contract decision the response was quick.

“I don’t think so, I like to play here,” Kakko said. “I think [the scratch] gives me more motivation. I want to show I’m better than that. You should put me in the lineup because I’m a good player.”

Without salary arbitration rights, the Rangers have all the leverage over Kakko. A 2-year bridge deal around $2M AAV would be a fair outcome for both parties.

Per Mollie Walker of the NY Post, she estimates that number to force the Rangers into not matching an offer sheet for Kakko would be between $4.2 and $6.3 million.

The threat of an offer sheet is real, but a big risk for any team if he doesn’t pan out. As to trade speculation, I don’t believe that Chris Drury will move the #2 overall pick in the 2019 Draft.

Will Cuylle leads team to Game 7

The Windsor Spitfires have staved off elimination in Game 6 of the OHL Championship to force a Game 7.

Spitfires captain and Rangers prospect Will Cuylle led the charge with a huge goal to start the third period and finished the game with two points (1G – 1A).

Cuylle, 20, was selected in the second-round of 2020 draft. The pick was acquired from the L.A. Kings in exchange for Lias Andersson. He had a great regular-season with 43 goals and 80 points in 50 games. In the playoffs, he has 15 goals and 16 assists for 31 points in 24 contests.

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