The New York Rangers have signed Kaapo Kakko to an two-year contract extension.
Kakko in for two years at $2.1 million AAV.— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) July 28, 2022
After all the kvetching over Kakko potentially wanting to leave the organization after a Game 6 scratch in the Eastern Conference Final and speculation and offer sheets, the Rangers’ No. 2 pick from the 2019 NHL Draft is now under contract for two more years, and is motivated to elevate his game going forward.
During the entirety of his entry-level contract, Kakko skated in 157 games and tallied 26 goals while assisting on 32 others for 58 points while averaging 14:37 a game. While these numbers aren’t anything all that impressive, a deeper look shows the strides Kakko has made since entering the league.
Year one was a dreadful one for the Rangers’ right wing, as he finished the 2019-20 campaign with a GAR of -9.6, which was one of the worst regular season performances in the analytics era. The following year he posted a 3.1 GAR, which represents a total swing of 12.7 GAR. This past season he was limited to 43 games because of injury, but he still posted a respectable 1.4 GAR.
Here’s a three-year look at his performance via Evolving-Hockey, but understand that his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad rookie season weighs things down.
While there’s certainly room for improvement, Kakko’s shown himself to be a quality defensive forward, something that is very important to the Rangers. The key now is for the offense to take another step, and that’s something that could happen if the Kid Line is given an extended look to start the season. That remains up in the air though, as there’s no telling what moves will be made between now and opening night.
Kakko wants to be better as a player, and certainly will use being scratched in Game 6 as a source of motivation this offseason. He is only 21, and there’s still a lot of time for him to figure things out. We’ve seen other players drafted by the Rangers, later on in the draft, eventually put it together, and this new contract certainly provides Kakko to elevate his game and earn himself an even bigger contract.
Stats via Evolving-Hockey unless otherwise noted.