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The Lightning Should Call On Former Rangers First-Round Pick

Despite having career-highs in goals and points for the 2023 Rangers, A Kaapo Kakko trade could happen. A second-overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, the Turku native entered the season with expectations to fill a top-six role under new Head Coach Peter Laviolette. However, less than 20 games into the season, Kakko lost the first-line right wing to veteran Blake Wheeler. While the fifth-year pro showed promise in 2023, he was disappointing in his opportunity to shine. Appearing in 61 games last season, Kakko notched 13 goals and six assists for 19 points.

Kakko’s sub-par performance ties back to another injury he suffered last season. A lower-body injury caused the Finnish forward to miss 21 games. With Jack Roslovic brought in at the trade deadline to bolster the forward depth, Kakko got demoted to a third-line role for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With Alexis Lafreniere‘s breakout season and another disappointing playoff exit, the Rangers may move on from their former draft cornerstone.

Tampa Bay Lightning Should Target Kaapo Kakko

While the Lightning are not the first team that comes to mind in a Kaapo Kakko trade, the fit makes plenty of sense in Tampa. Two issues of the Tampa roster last season were secondary scoring and defensive play. Outside the top trio, the Lightning received minimal production from their depth forwards. Furthermore, the Bolts allowed 3.24 goals per hour in all situations, which ranked 23rd league-wide last year. Kakko is a young, affordable project for the Lightning. The team will transition into a rebuild over the next few seasons, and a 23-year-old Kakko is a potential long-term piece.

Kaapo Kakko Scouting Report

At 6’2″ and 205 pounds, Kakko shields the puck exceptionally well down low in the offensive zone. His puck control and hands offer an enticing skill set for the Lightning’s secondary scoring. Furthermore, Kakko is responsible on the defensive side of the puck. The two-way forward exited the zone with possession and helped the Rangers get up the ice in transition. Kakko ranked in the 97th percentile of zone exits with possession per hour via AllThreeZones. With Kakko filling holes in last year’s roster, what would the price tag be for the young talent this summer?

What It Would (Likely) Take To Acquire Kakko

Disclaimer: The players featured in this article aren’t linked to the Lightning but have been made available in some capacity this off-season. These pieces are observing why Tampa should target them and what the cost would be if they did.

The Lightning and Rangers have a history of trades over the past decade. The clubs have collided to make two massive deals, swapping players like Martin St. Louis, Ryan Callahan, Ryan McDonagh, and J.T. Miller. The Rangers made a trade in recent years when they shipped former seventh-overall selection Lias Andersson to Los Angeles for a second-round pick. New York selected Will Cuylle with the pick from that deal, so the Rangers may be willing to negotiate with this reasonable price tag. Below are two scenarios for a Kaapo Kakko trade between Tampa and New York.

Scenario One

Tampa acquires: Kaapo Kakko (F)

New York acquires: 2026 second-round pick

Scenario Two

Tampa acquires: Kaapo Kakko (F)

New York acquires: Nick Perbix (D), 2025 fourth-round pick

Potential Role in Tampa Next Season

A player like Kakko is versatile in the lineup but would benefit best from a top-six role and a change of scenery. Kakko is provided both things in a trade that sends him down South. With trade deadline acquisition Anthony Duclair likely on the way out, Kakko can slot in on the second-line right wing next to Brandon Hagel and Anthony Cirelli. Not only does Kakko add more skill to this line, but he also caps off an insane defensive trio. Head Coach Jon Cooper can rely on this young forward line to shut down opposing top lines all season. Here’s a potential Lightning top-six after re-signing Captain Steven Stamkos and acquiring Kakko via trade.

Stamkos – Point – Kucherov

Hagel – Cirelli – Kakko

Main Photo: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports


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