4 Conference Finals players who could be New Jersey Devils next season

Each of the four remaining playoff teams will have to make difficult roster decisions to return to where they are next season. Who could find their way into the New Jersey Devils lineup after a shorter offseason?
Edmonton Oilers v Dallas Stars - Game Two
Edmonton Oilers v Dallas Stars - Game Two / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages
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Kaapo Kakko - New York Rangers (RFA)

Kaapo Kakko has become something of a lightning rod for criticism among Rangers fans. He was a surprising healthy scratch for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, with Matt Rempe drawing into the lineup in his place. While some fans will say the Rangers will be able to find a trade partner for the still-just-23-years-old former 2nd overall pick, his contract situation makes that feel increasingly unlikely. While Kakko is a restricted free agent this summer, his qualifying offer is 100% of his previous base salary, which this past season was $2.4 million AAV.

While Kakko has some upside, it feels increasingly unlikely the Rangers or any other team would take the risk of that salary cap hit for a player coming off a 19-point regular season (13 G, 6 A) and just two points in 12 playoff games. What seems more likely is that Kakko is non-tendered by the Rangers, similar to how Anthony Duclair was surprisingly non-tendered by the Ottawa Senators after the 2020 season.

He will likely have some suitors in free agency, but I could see the Devils being interested in adding Kakko to their bottom six. Their forward depth would finally allow him not to be inundated with pressure to play up the lineup based on his draft pedigree, and he could be a perfectly serviceable third-line center at a $2 million AAV.