What if the Rangers trade Kaapo Kakko?

What if the Rangers trade Kaapo Kakko

The Kaapo Kakko talk has been a little exhausting, so why not add to it, right? What if the Rangers trade Kaapo Kakko? After all, Kakko was a healthy scratch, and from breakup day yesterday, coach Gerard Gallant didn’t even talk to him in advance about it. Naturally this set the world on fire, or at least Rangers social media. Add on the Elliotte Friedman comments that teams may line up for an offer sheet, and it was bedlam.

This is pure speculation, and teams rarely offer sheet successfully

A quick preface before going through what could happen, this is all just speculation. Both Kakko and Gallant are saying the right things. Gallant wants Kakko in the top six next season. Kakko wants to stay in New York. The Rangers have a ton of leverage since Kakko is an RFA, averages under 0.5 PPG, and has a bit of an injury history. But Kakko has the potential and the #2 overall pick lore. If he’s available, teams will line up for him.

The Rangers will certainly qualify Kakko, but he won’t sign his qualifying offer. That’s a given, and unless the Rangers get him under contract rather quickly, he is susceptible to an offer sheet. But I don’t buy it.

For starters, teams rarely offer sheet. Jesperi Kotkaniemi is the example people go to, which was retaliation for the Habs offer sheeting Sebastian Aho. Kotkaniemi was the only successful offer sheet since Dustin Penner in 2007.

In the cap era of the NHL, there have only been 10 offer sheets. Two –Kotkaniemi, Penner– were not matched. They just don’t happen.

What if the Rangers trade Kaapo Kakko?

So this brings us to the Rangers jumping the gun, and getting ahead of anything that might happen. A trade won’t be a panic move by any means. If Kakko is traded, it will be in a hockey trade. To rephrase that, if the Rangers trade Kaapo Kakko, it won’t be for Cal Clutterbuck or any grit. It will be for a player that helps them immediately and is cost controlled.

That’s a lot of words to say that Kakko is not untouchable by any stretch. But he isn’t a guy the Rangers are going to look to dump, like they will look to dump Patrik Nemeth this offseason. Think Quinton Byfield or a player of that ilk. That doesn’t mean Byfield is a target or that the Kings are floating his name, it’s just a hypothetical if the Rangers trade Kaapo Kakko.

That’s a hockey trade. The Rangers need a center, and the Kings have a center to give. Mark Schiefele in Winnipeg is another name, albeit not nearly as fun as Byfield. But that’s what the Rangers would be targeting should they look to move on from Kakko.

But of course, this is a big if. And to be honest, it’s a very unlikely if.

Kakko will be fine

The concern with Kakko is that he will not “pan out like a #2 overall pick should.” As if that has any true definition beyond subjectivity, and if he doesn’t become an elite scorer, he’s useless, apparently. Kakko is already the best defensive forward on the Rangers, which may not sound like much, but he’s solid in his own end and with puck protection. We saw what he did with the kid line as well, driving play, maintaining possession, and was a beast behind the net.

At worst, Kakko becomes a shutdown forward that puts up 30-40 points a season. At best, Kakko is a true two-way winger with 50-60 point potential that plays at all strengths. The Rangers know this. All 32 NHL teams know this.

One healthy scratch does not determine a player’s future. These guys are adults, and I’m sure they worked it out behind closed doors. But if there is a decision where the Rangers trade Kaapo Kakko, rest assured it won’t be for a scrub.