Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Kasperi Kapanen to Pittsburgh Penguins

The Toronto Maple Leafs have traded forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Pontus Aberg and defender Jesper Lindgren to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a 2020 first-round pick, the 15th selection in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, Evan Rodrigues, Filip Hallander and David Warsofsky, the Penguins announced Tuesday.

This trade has caused a lot of confusion among hockey fans and even media. For the Maple Leafs, the deal clears up Kapanen’s $3.2 million cap space, giving them a little more flexibility this offseason as they look to retain their own free agents while also looking to bolster their lineup to improve upon this seasons’ results.

Even more than that, the Maple Leafs also found their way back into the first round of the Draft as their pick was sent to Carolina due to a condition on the trade that saw Patrick Marleau also go to the Hurricanes, though it was a brief stop for the veteran. Funnily enough, Marleau would eventually find his way to Pittsburgh at the Trade Deadline, though his contract is set to expire at the end of this season.

The Maple Leafs also acquire two serviceable players in Rodrigues, Warsofsky and a good defensive prospect in Hallander. There’s speculation that the Maple Leafs won’t tender Rodrigues, but getting the draft pick, the cap space and a prospect in Hallander who looked excellent during his age-19 season with the SHL powerhouse of Lulea this season were more than enough to seal the deal.

Penguins Getting a Second Chance With Kapanen

For the Penguins, this deal gets them a player in Kapanen who they’ve clearly had interest in for a long time. The 24-year-old winger was taken with the 22nd overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the Penguins and was a player they seemed very high on.

With a mentality of getting another star scorer to pair alongside Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, though, the Penguins would trade Kapanen to the Maple Leafs before he ever got to suit up for them in a blockbuster deal that landed them Phil Kessel.

Kasperi Kapanen, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Though Kessel is no longer a member of the Penguins, it would be difficult to argue that they didn’t come out as big winners of that deal given that they’d win two Stanley Cups with Kessel on their roster. He’d also prove their investment worthwhile as he’d score 110 goals and 303 points in 328 games across three seasons with the Penguins.

Since debuting in the NHL, Kapanen has scored 41 goals and 90 points in 202 games, including a career-high 20 goals and 44 points in 78 games during the 2018-19 season. He’d take a step back this past season with 13 goals and 36 points in 69 games, but the potential is certainly there for Kapanen to step up and become a legitimate top-six player in Pittsburgh.

In general, this deal is still a weird one for the Penguins who seemingly gave up way more for Kapanen than his perceived value may have dictated. Still, general manager Jim Rutherford has had a tendency to pull off multiple trades year in and year out since taking over in Pittsburgh and this is just another in his long list of transactions.

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