Rangers: 3 options to replace Kaapo Kakko amidst injury

Brennan Othmann takes part in the Rangers Prospect Development Camp at the Rangers Training facility in Tarrytown July 12, 2022.
Brennan Othmann takes part in the Rangers Prospect Development Camp at the Rangers Training facility in Tarrytown July 12, 2022. Rangers Development Camp

During the second period of the New York Rangers’ 5–1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night, former second-overall pick Kaapo Kakko took a nasty fall along the end boards and suffered a severe injury. Getting a loose puck, Kakko fell on his left leg pinning it to the ice.

“It’s just the nature of the beast inside of hockey and the injuries that pop up,” Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette said of Kakko. “We’ll get [Kakko] back at some point, which is good news. But for the short term, he’s out.”

Via Andrew Crane of the New York Post

As head coach Peter Laviolette said, Kakko will come back at some point but will still miss significant time. They called up Brodzinski but in the long run, he’s most likely not the answer. However, three options stand out as top candidates to replace Kakko in the Blueshirts’ lineup this season.

Brennan Othmann, welcome to New York City

Ranger fans have been waiting for Brennan Othmann to get his chance, and this might be the perfect time to call him up. The 2021 first-round pick has been successful in his first 18 games with the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack, putting up five goals, and eight assists for 13 points — good for fifth on the team.

“I see someone who’s determined. I see someone that wants to learn. I see someone that has all the attributes to be a good player.”

Hartford’s interim head coach Steve Smith via Vince Z. Mercogliano of Lohud.com

Of the three, Othmann is the most feasible option as he is already in the system. At the same time, it is probably better to let him continue to find his game and keep him in the AHL for the entire season.

Long time no see, Mr. Tarasenko

Last year at the deadline, the New York Rangers sent Sammy Blais, Hunter Skinner, a conditional 2023 first-round pick, and a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick, in exchange for Vladimir Tarasenko and Niko Mikkola.

Tarasenko had an easy time adjusting to New York as the 31-year-old put up eight goals and 13 assists for 21 points in 31 games played. During the off-season, there were reports that Tarasenko and the Rangers had mutual feelings of returning but cap space was an issue.

With the Senators sitting at 8-9-0 and dead last in the Atlantic Division, they could end up being sellers at the deadline. While that is many months away, Tarasenko would, once again, be a great acquisition for this Ranger team.

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Could Frank Vatrano return to the Rangers?

Another Rangers trade deadline acquisition, but this time during the 2021-22 season. Chris Drury sent a 2022 fourth-round pick to the Florida Panthers in exchange for the then 27-year-old forward.

In his 22-game stint in New York, Vatrano provided the Rangers’ first line with good defense and a shot-first mentality that was much needed. His game-tying goal in game six of the Eastern Conference Final portrayed this perfectly.

Now, Vatrano does have a year remaining on his contract with a price tag of $3.65M which is steep for the Rangers. For this to happen, they would have to find a way to offload Barclay Goodrow’s contract.

Two of the three players mentioned most likely wouldn’t get dealt until closer to the trade deadline. But with Kaapo Kakko set to miss significant time, Drury would be wise to look ahead.