Rangers rookie Kaapo Kakko could be forced to miss playoffs per RTP guidelines

New York Rangers rookie Kaapo Kakko has returned to New York and is in the process of self-quarantine as have all players who return from overseas.

Due to his underlying health conditions, he is a Type 1 diabetic and has celiac disease, he could be deemed “unfit to play” per the “NHL Phased Return to Sports Protocol” announced on Monday.

The NHL and NHLPA announced an agreement on Monday to set the guidelines for Phase 3 and Phase 4 to proceed beginning July 13. The 20-page document detailed every aspect of how the NHL will work with the teams, players, staff, hotel workers, chefs, and visiting family members during training camp as well as when clubs travel to their hub cities at the end of July.

The health of everyone involved was of the utmost importance but also may have a factor in the availability of players before Phase 3 begins.

Section F – Pre-Participation Medical Examination (PPME) has a clause at the end of the section that appears to take the final decision of whether a player is fit to play or not out of his hands. The wording of the final paragraph says,

Players who, after consultation with the Club doctor who conducted the PPME, and the Club’s infectious disease expert, are determined to be at substantial risk of developing a serious illness as a result of exposure to the novel coronavirus shall be deemed to be unfit to play and shall not be permitted to participate either in Phase 3 or Phase 4. A Player may initiate a Second Opinion concerning his fitness to play status pursuant to Paragraph 5 of his Standard Player’s Contract.

Looks like the two sides are possibly trying to avoid a situation where a player with known health (underlying) factors could be told to sit out the playoffs in order to prevent a serious medical situation if they or players around them contract COVID-19.

NHL.com writer Dan Rosen spoke about Kakko’s health when he Tweeted a quote for Rangers president John Davidson on May 28.

“JD said on a Zoom call today that they’ll listen to the medical staff to determine if it’s safe for Kaapo Kakko to play. He has Type 1 diabetes. I’m told that doesn’t put him at risk for infection, it puts him at a higher risk for complications if he is infected.”

The statement verified that players are not at a higher risk of getting the virus with health risks, but if a player should contract the virus, it will be tougher for him to fight it off.

Section F may be a way of teams protecting themselves and their players from serious health conditions. It’s hard to think the NHL and Rangers teams doctors would shut Kakko down now.  Training camp is six days away from beginning at the team’s training facility in Tarrytown, NY.

That leaves six more days of waiting to see if the Rangers will have the second overall draft pick in last year’s NHL Draft playing in the Qualifying Round against the Carolina Hurricanes on Aug. 1.