Trading Kaapo Kakko has to make sense for Rangers
The New York Rangers came into this season with Stanley Cup aspirations, and despite playing average hockey since December, that hasn’t changed. So the fact that the struggling Kaapo Kakko is now officially considered trade bait should come as no surprise.
“Multiple sources have said that [Rangers general manager Chris] Drury is taking calls on Kakko,” Darren Dreger reported on TSN’s Insider Trading. “Losing Chytil is a big blow for the Rangers, but New York has cap space and potentially the assets, like Kakko, to acquire a significant piece.”
While the Rangers believe their window to win a championship is now, they still have to be very meticulous if they indeed trade the second overall pick from the 2019 draft.
Kaapo Kakko’s trade value is low
It doesn’t take a detective to understand that Kakko’s trade value is at an all-time low. In 28 games this season, he’s recorded only five goals and one assist. You could point to the lower-body injury that cost the 22-year-old winger 21 games as a reason for his struggles, but that wouldn’t be true.
Prior to the injury, Kakko opened the year on a line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. He was eventually demoted in favor of veteran Blake Wheeler. When Kakko returned from injury, coach Peter Laviolette put him back on the top line, but has since been dropped down to the third line again.
Since entering the NHL to start the 2019-20 season, Kakko’s points per game average is a paltry .38 and he’s projected to score just 13 points this year. There’s no way that Chris Drury is going to get any value for him at this rate.
Trading Kakko in a multiplayer deal
Now that the Rangers have $4.4 million in cap space after Filip Chytil was ruled out the season, they can go big-game fishing.
Multiple reports insist that Calgary Flames center Elias Lindholm is the top target on the Rangers list, but there will definitely be a bidding war for his services come the Mar. 8th trade deadline. New York could sweeten the pot by adding Kakko in the trade package in order to save themselves from having to include a first-round pick. However, a knowledgeable source noted that re-signing the 29-year-old in the offseason would be nearly impossible. That would make using Kakko instead of a first-round pick illogical.
If the Rangers are going to trade Kakko, low value and all, they need to do it as a hockey deal. Yes, it can include a rental piece like Lindholm, but the Drury needs to get something else back for it to make sense.
Potential multiplayer deals that Kakko could be included for would be like the one I suggested with the Ottawa Senators. In that trade, the Rangers could aim for right wing Vladimir Tarasenko and defenseman Jakob Chychrun which would address more than one issue. Or possibly trying to pry winger Frank Vatrano along with center Adam Henrique from the Anaheim Ducks.
Bottom line, trading Kaapo Kakko has to have a purpose for the Rangers beyond this playoff run. And while he may never live up to the offensive production of a number two overall pick in the draft, he could be a steady third line winger for the next decade.