How the Rangers can solve their problems on the right wing

New York Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) skates across the blue line against the Boston Bruins  during the third at Madison Square Garden
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have close to perfect to start the 2023-24 season. The Blueshirts’ 11-2-1 record is good for first in the Metropolitan Division, as well as fourth in the NHL.

When it comes to bolstering the lineup at some point this season, there isn’t much work that needs to be done. Every player seems to be pulling their weight, and success is flooding the streets of New York as the Rangers are on a ten-game point streak.

However, the one aspect of the lineup that could use some tweaking is the right-wing position, and there are opportunities for the Blueshirts to modify that spot.

Kaapo Kakko has been underwhelming to start the season

Former second-overall pick Kaapo Kakko was handed the spotlight to begin the season as the first-line right wing. While playing alongside Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, he was expected to finally begin a breakout campaign in the Rangers’ top six. But so far, that hasn’t been the outcome.

Now 14 games deep into the season, Kakko has only recorded two points and has been demoted back down to the third line in favor of veteran Blake Wheeler. And while Wheeler has been a solid replacement the last few games, he might not be a long-term solution moving deeper into the year. The chances of Kakko being removed from the lineup are slim, but the Rangers will still need to look for another depth piece moving forward.

Rangers reportedly not interested in Patrick Kane reunion

Last season, Rangers’ GM Chris Drury rolled the dice by acquiring future Hall of Fame winger Patrick Kane at the trade deadline. Kane also proved to be a disappointing addition to the roster, but it was later revealed that he had been playing through an injury for the majority of the season.

This year, there was heavy speculation that Drury would attempt to bring Kane back for a second try, as he is still a free agent two weeks into November. But per Larry Brooks, a Rangers and Kane reunion is off the table this season.

The Rangers will have to look for another cheap deal at the deadline

With the right wing being underwhelming and the number one free agent unlikely to sign, the Rangers will need to look for a trade at this year’s deadline again. The Blueshirts are significantly low on funds, so a main NHL regular will likely have to be moved in favor of a cheap replacement.

Whatever the Rangers decide to do, it should be something similar to the Blueshirts’ previous deadline deal to acquire Frank Vatrano. They need a cheap winger who has elite potential to be a key depth piece on their roster. Wheeler and Kakko are decent as is, but there is always room for improvement on this Rangers’ roster.

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