Kaapo Kakko of the New York Rangers at Madison Square...

Kaapo Kakko of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Credit: Jim McIsaac

GREENBURGH — Kaapo Kakko doesn’t live in a bubble. He has social media. And he was well aware that his name had been bandied about prior to last Friday’s trade deadline. After practice that day, he sat at his locker and kept a stiff upper lip as he answered questions, understanding he still had a couple hours to wait to see if he would be staying with the Rangers, or moving to a new team.

Kakko remained in New York. And on Monday, following the Rangers' morning skate as they prepared to take on the Devils at Madison Square Garden, the 23-year-old grinned when he was asked how he felt to still be a Ranger.

“Feels good,’’ he said. "I like my time over here. It’s been a long time already. I like to play here. I think we have a great team, also. The next thing I want is to win the Stanley Cup over here. And I think we have a great team for [having a chance to do] that.’’

The day after the deadline, when the Rangers hosted the fading St. Louis Blues, Kakko played the most assertive game he’d played in weeks and ended up scoring the Rangers’ final goal on a power play late in a 4-0 win.

He was dropped from the first line to the third line in that game, playing on the right side of rookie Will Cuylle and newcomer Alex Wennberg. Newly acquired Jack Roslovic took his old spot next to Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad.

But Kakko seemed to play as though a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. In their first game together, the Cuylle-Wennberg-Kakko line dominated shifts and outshot opponents, 11-3, in eight minutes, 48 seconds of ice time. Kakko looked particularly determined to hold on to the puck and forcefully drive to the net and make plays.

“I mean, I think that's what I try to do always,’’ he said. “But I don't know, I felt good last game and it was fun to play with those guys. Hopefully, we can still be a little bit better tonight.’’

It’s been something of a trying season for Kakko, who entered Monday night's game with just eight goals and four assists (12 points) in 42 games. After posting career highs in goals (18), assists (22) and points (40) last season, he began this season with the plum assignment of playing with Zibanejad and Kreider. But after producing little in the first 11 games, he was dropped to the third line with Cuylle and Nick Bonino.

After a left knee injury kept him out for 21 games, Kakko got another turn with Kreider and Zibanejad when he returned in mid-January. But that lasted just six games before he was dropped again to play with Cuylle and Jonny Brodzinski. A week-and-a-half ago, he was promoted for one more try on the top line. But he was there for just three games before Roslovic replaced him.

As general manager Chris Drury went hunting for roster upgrades at the deadline, Kakko’s name surfaced as a chip that other teams might want in return for targets like Jake Guentzel or Frank Vatrano. In his conference call with reporters after the deadline, Drury said he would have been willing to trade his first-round pick, and/or a young player “if there was a deal that made sense.’’

But in the end, Drury held on to Kakko. Instead, trading a draft pick to Columbus for Roslovic.

“I think he's a terrific young player,’’ Drury said of Kakko. “He continues to grow and learn. He's had some really good moments, playing in top positions, and we're going to keep supporting him and working with him. And I think he's going to find his game and even do more and more as he continues to grow in this league.’’

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