Kaapo Kakko quietly solid

The Rangers put on a defensive clinic last night, even with a rough third period, in a 4-1 win over Columbus. Believe it or not, the strong win wasn’t even the main story of the game, as Ducks GM Pat Verbeek was present at the game last night. Naturally, this fueled more 2024 Rangers trade deadline rumors, as the Blueshirts have been connected to Adam Henrique and Frank Vatrano for quite some time.

Naturally, any discussion about the game was littered with talks of showcasing Kaapo Kakko and whether this was Verbeek looking to scout or solidify a deal. Nothing of note has come out of his appearance last night, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have thoughts on Verbeek and perhaps other 2024 Rangers trade deadline rumors.

1. All things considered, this didn’t appear to be a scouting trip by Verbeek. General Managers rarely do scouting trips, especially when their team is across the country. This felt different. It could be something as innocuous as meeting with one of his player’s agents. Or it could be something more, like perhaps working with Chris Drury on a framework for a trade.

Kakko is a known entity, mind you.

2. Last night didn’t appear to be a showcasing for Kakko for multiple reasons. First, it was clear Jimmy Vesey wasn’t the answer on the top line. Second, Kakko is still a top-2 pick with a high offensive ceiling, despite recent offensive performances. Third, Kakko has very clearly been feeling it, and he looked good alongside Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. They didn’t score, but Kakko was creating chances.

Kakko’s move to the top line was most likely a stopgap measure until the Rangers find a 1RW. Even if Kakko looks good on the top line, they need someone with a bit more established offensive punch.

3. As mentioned with all of the 2024 Rangers trade deadline rumors, subtracting from the roster is not Drury’s goal. They need to add, not move sideways. Including Kakko, even in a 2-for-1 trade, only nets 1 roster hole filled. They’d be creating a new hole by moving anyone off the roster, save for Barclay Goodrow.

So no, this likely wasn’t a scouting trip.

4. Perhaps, and this will only fuel more 2024 Rangers trade deadline rumors, this was a visit to Drury to work on a framework for a trade. That could be a deal for Henrique, Vatrano, both, or interestingly enough, neither. Jakob Silfverberg and Ilya Lyubushkin are pending UFAs as well, and that would most certainly be an epic curveball. This likely isn’t the case, but it would be funny.

5. Or, and this is where things get interesting, they are looking at a Kakko for Trevor Zegras swap. Kakko for Zegras, in theory, appears to be fair value. But remember Zegras is hurt –which is a problem for the Rangers right now– and he has another 2 years at $5.75 million. Both represent hurdles for the Rangers, who are looking to add, not subtract and wait for an injury to heal.

Letting this one play out, if the Rangers did a swap like this, their deadline needs should change to a 3C and 3RW, instead of a 3C and 1RW. They’d lose Kakko, naturally, but the cost for third liners will be far less than top liners.

6. However, as much as we love more 2024 Rangers trade deadline rumors to talk about, the most likely answer is that Verbeek just happened to be in New York for another reason, and just took in the game. Not fun, but the most likely reason.


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