Kaapo Kakko speaks during Rangers break-up day media availability on Tuesday...

Kaapo Kakko speaks during Rangers break-up day media availability on Tuesday in Tarrytown, N.Y. Credit: Corey Sipkin

GREENBURGH – Two years ago, after the Rangers’ season had come to an end in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final, there were questions about the future of Kaapo Kakko, who had been a healthy scratch in the last game, and who was heading into the summer as a restricted free agent.

At Breakup Day Tuesday, after the Rangers’ season had come to an end Saturday in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final, the questions surrounding Kakko – who once again was a healthy scratch during the conference final, and once again heads into the summer as a restricted free agent – were the same.

Chief among them: Will he be back next season? Does he want to come back?

“We'll see,’’ Kakko said. “But all the things over here, I like it. The team is great. Everyone wants to win. I feel here, there is a chance to win, like (there was) this season. It's going to be about the same thing, I think, next season. So I like it here.’’

Whether the team still wants him here is a question only GM Chris Drury has the answer to right now. Kakko acknowledged he got the chance he’d longed for for years at the start of the season when he was installed as the right wing on the first line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. But neither he nor the line produced enough, and eventually, Kakko was dropped to the third line. He had a couple other stints with Zibanejad and Kreider over the course of the season, but the three just never clicked.

“When I came for this season, I felt pretty good,’’ Kakko said. “I felt this is a new coach (in Peter Laviolette, who replaced Gerard Gallant), a new chance. I talked with him during the summer, he said I was getting a chance to play with Mika and Kreids, and I felt pretty good about that. (But) all those games we played together, I think never worked out that well. If you're playing those minutes, you have to score some goals also, and I feel that line, we never scored that much. So I can't say I didn't get the chance with those guys.’’

Laviolette said he still believes Kakko can be a top-six forward and he took part of the blame for the 23-year-old Finn not panning out as well as most had hoped. Kakko had 13 goals and 19 points in 61 games in the regular season, and one goal and two points in 15 playoff games).

Rangers players on Tuesday cleaned out their lockers and looked back on their season following their playoff exit in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Florida Panthers. Newsday's Colin Stephenson reports. Credit: Colin Stephenson

“In my conversation with Kaapo, I took my responsibility as a coach,’’ Laviolette said. “I didn't find it with him. I think he's a good player that we were all hoping would take another step. My responsibility as a coach is to unleash these players as well. You hope that that happens with all of them. With some, it doesn't, and I've got to figure out a better way to get him involved.’’

More Rangers

YOU'VE BEEN SELECTED

FOR OUR BEST OFFER ONLY 25¢ for 5 months

Unlimited Digital Access.

cancel anytime.