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Suitors Emerge for Rangers Forward



Suitors Emerge for Rangers Forward

The New York Rangers are shaking up their roster this offseason. They acquired veteran winger Reilly Smith from the Pittsburgh Penguins, giving them a reliable middle-six option for less than $4 million. The team is also reportedly shopping their captain, defenseman Jacob Trouba, and former number two overall pick Kaapo Kakko.

It’s been a strange start to Kakko’s career. He was selected second overall in the 2019 NHL Draft after he recorded 22 goals in the top professional league in Finland. His rookie season was a difficult transition and he only scored 10 goals in 66 games. He struggled again for the next two seasons, appearing in less than 50 games per season and failing to crack the 10-goal mark.

He seemed to turn a corner during the 2022-2023 season, setting a career-high mark of 18 goals and 40 points in 82 games. Going into the 2023 season, the Rangers expected Kakko to become the top-six winger they envisioned he would be. Instead, he regressed offensively. He scored just 13 goals in 61 games and was nonexistent during the postseason.

At age 23, Kakko needs a change of scenery and the Rangers are reportedly doing all they can to make it happen. USA Today and New York Rangers reporter Vince Mercogliano stated the team has been shopping Kakko since the NHL Draft and remains aggressive in that pursuit.

“I’m pretty sure they’re still dangling Kaapo Kakko and will pursue deals to possibly move him this summer,” he said on his podcast New Ice City.“I think they’re not thrilled with the offers they’ve gotten so far, which is why he’s still on the roster.”

Despite the claim from Mercogliano, there is a market for Kakko’s services. Numerous organizations view him as the ideal reclamation project. Here are three teams that could be in on Kakko as the offseason continues.

The Flames are trying to get younger and need forwards. They’d make an excellent fit for Kakko. He’d be playing in a city filled with passion but significantly less pressure to win. He’d be surrounded by some wise veterans who can help develop his game, but also allow him to be the focal point of the offense.

The Flames would love to acquire Kakko. Their roster significantly lacks a difference-maker on offense. Their leading scorer in 2023-2024 was 33-year-old Nazem Kadri with 75 points. Bringing in a player like Kakko could give their roster a younger player to rest their offensive hopes on.

Talk about another team that makes sense for Kakko to re-ignite this career. The Sharks and Kakko might make the perfect fit. Kakko could line up alongside one of the most talented youngsters in the NHL, playing with either Will Smith or Macklin Celebrini.

The Sharks also have plenty of salary cap space, so if things work out they could extend Kakko without issue. With the Rangers losing their leverage with every passing day, the Sharks could lower their asking price to land Kakko and add another exciting piece to their rebuilding roster.

An in-division trade like this would send shockwaves throughout the NHL, but it might make sense. The Penguins are rebuilding, whether they want to admit that or not. Adding a 23-year-old with 20-goal potential would be extremely beneficial for a team starved for young talent.

The Rangers are unlikely to make any sort of move that benefits their rival, but that doesn’t change the fact that Kyle Dubas and the Penguins would love to acquire Kaapo Kakko and hope he flourishes in Pittsburgh.

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