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Why the Chicago Blackhawks Should Target Rangers Forward

With restricted free agent and 2019 second-overall pick Kaapo Kakko‘s future and contract status with the New York Rangers up in the air, the Chicago Blackhawks should look to acquire him either through trade or other means. Kakko has been labeled a disappointment since he was drafted by the New York Rangers. The 23-year-old has had only one 15+ goal season in his five NHL seasons. While Kakko has been disappointing so far in his career, the Blackhawks have the opportunity and should still target him this offseason. 

Low Risk, High Reward for Potentially Signing Kaapo Kakko to a Contract

Kaapo Kakko would be a good reclamation project for the Chicago Blackhawks to trade for and then sign to a contract. Kakko is only 23 and still has great potential as a breakout candidate. The best season of his career in 2022-2023 saw him produce 18 goals and 22 assists in 82 games. While those aren’t incredible numbers for the expectations accompanying a second-overall pick, they are solid enough to make Kaapo a middle-six forward. 

Kyle Davidson is a conservative general manager, but wouldn’t be too worried about bringing in a project. After all, the Hawks are working with salary cap and roster space as well. Even though Kaapo Kakko needs a new contract, he is coming off an injury-riddled year so his AAV shouldn’t be too pricey or demanding of term. Therefore, if Kakko were to struggle, the Hawks could cut their losses and move on. Having flexibility in your roster decisions is something not a lot of GM’s have. However, Davidson and the Hawks roster do have the luxury of that flexibility.

What Would Kakko Bring to the Club

Kakko is also a player who was easily overlooked on a very talented Ranger’s team. Kakko is an offensive player, and needs that opportunity to prove himself. The Rangers rarely gave Kakko time on their power play, and he often found himself buried in their bottom six. Giving Kaapo Kakko the chance to prove he’s a solid contributor on a value contract would be an easy play for the Blackhawks.

The Hawks Need Talent

It is no secret that the Hawks don’t have much talent on the roster outside of guys like Connor Bedard. Kakko is the exact kind of talent that the Blackhawks need on the roster. The Hawks are in a spot where they can take a chance on a guy like Kakko and hope that he flourishes. Even if Kakko puts up numbers similar to his 2022-2023 season, that would still be a positive for a Hawks team desperate for solid forwards. 

Kaapo Kakko is at a point in his career where if he is to break out, he could be a long-term fit for the Blackhawks. Chicago did something similar to this with Patrick Sharp in 2005-2006. The Hawks organization was able to turn him into a building block of the team’s core. The circumstances were a bit different but similar in a lot of ways. 

Kakko Fits the System

Kakko would be a good fit in Luke Richardson’s system. He is a physical player who plays a strong defensive game. Kakko is also a player who can use his size to his advantage. The two-way game that scouts loved when he was drafted would be a nice addition to the Hawks’ forward core. Kakko is a player who could fit into Richardson’s gritty system that requires strong defence nightly. 

Kakko is widely considered agood, not great playerby many. He still has time to turn around the narrative of his career, making himself into a stable top six player. Kyle Davidson should be looking to make some moves this offseason. Bringing in Kaapo Kakko on a contract that works for the team, should be one of them.

Main photo credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports




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