Blackhawks fans certainly remember when Kaapo Kakko was the second overall pick. Taken right before Chicago selected Kirby Dach in the 2019 Draft, Kakko was projected to be a Jonathan Huberdeau type, which now in hindsight, is even more interesting. At the time, Huberdeau was piling up points for the Florida Panthers. Then he was traded to the Calgary Flames in the blockbuster deal that sent Matthew Tkachuk the other way. Huberdeau has watched his production stall.
Kakko has yet to get started and the comparison has proven more apt than initially expected.
— Vinnie Parise (@VinnieParise) January 31, 2024
So when a report from TSN has New York Rangers GM Chris Drury seeking offers for Kakko, it certainly grabs the attention of the league. But the question would hinge on what it would cost and what the 22-year-old forward’s value is even seen as.
Could the Blackhawks Be Interested in Kaapo Kakko?
Yes–and no. They have their own player in Lukas Reichel who has not quite hit expectations this year and Kakko is a player picked much sooner in term of draft positioning. Figuring out Reichel has proven to be a battle in and of itself. Would the Blackhawks want to bring in a guy who hasn’t come to close to meeting expectations for a second overall pick?
It’s not as if it was considered a weak draft–Bob McKenzie at the time had it as a tight call to say that Jack Hughes was better than Kakko…by a nose.
Flash forward nearly five seasons later and Hughes has developed into the star as expected–though it took some time. Kakko has never really developed anything close to it. Last season, he nearly had 20 goals (18-22-40 in 82 games) but in the Rangers playoff ouster he hardly made a dent.
This season, he has five goals in 28 games and six points to his name. So offering him up now would be at a discount from what a former second overall pick would normally cost.
Especially since TSN has him ranked 35th on its annual Trade Bait watch.
Should the Blackhawks Be Interested?
A phone call wouldn’t be a bad idea, but it’s not like they have to give anything up to net him. The only side of the deal that is appealing to any potential buyer is that there may be some potential to still scratch. The problem is that Kakko has had ample time–on teams built to win–to get there.
So at most, Davidson could offer one of Chicago’s second-round picks which would likely be Vancouver’s that they acquired in the Jason Dickinson trade. The Hawks could take him on as an acclimation project, giving him the opportunity to figure things out on a more patient time table than the more aggressive one the Rangers had.
Any team dealing with Drury has the leverage, as it’s a hard sell for the Rangers’ GM to make a compelling argument on a high return. After all, he’s shipping a soon to be 23-year-old forward who was once considered to be in the same sentence as Hughes.
Creativity could win the deal. Davidson has shown he can find value–it’s at least worth a conversation.