The Toronto Maple Leafs dealt winger Kadperi Kapanen to the Penguins on Tuesday. After yet ANOTHER embarrassing and early exit in the playoffs by the Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas felt it was time to make a couple of changes to the roster. The Leafs sent Kapanen, defensemen Jesper Lindgren, and forward Pontus Aberg to Pittsburgh in exchange for the 15th pick in this years draft, forward Evan Rodrigues, forward Filip Hallander, and defensemen David Warsofsky. A six man trade and a first round pick is a doozy of a trade anytime of the year, but during the playoffs? Whoa mama that’s a big one. So how does this look for both teams?
Pittsburgh originally drafted Kapanen with their first round pick in 2014, but they ended up trading him to Toronto in the deal that brought hot dog Phil Kessel to the Penguins. Besides the fact that the Penguins won’t have a first round draft pick in a year where they are picking higher than they normally do, this is a great trade for them. The Penguins have a couple of solid players you might have heard of, Sidney Crosby for instance. You’ve heard of him. Well Crosby and Malkin aren’t getting any younger and Kapanen injects some youth into the lineup. Mike Sullivan, Penguins head coach believes that Kapanen will help fill out and solidify their top 6 forwards. Kapanen did play with some superstars in Toronto and still failed to put up big numbers, but his play could improve in Pittsburgh. It does help that players seem to do better once they’ve left Toronto, just look at Nazem Kadri with the Avalanche.
This trade brings young talent in Kapanen to Pittsburgh, talent the organization is already familiar with. Sure Pittsburgh won’t have a first round pick this year but it’s extremely unlikely that a forward they pick at 15 in the draft will contribute to the lineup as quickly as Kapanen will. Pittsburgh is in a must win now mentality. That’s pretty obvious since they’ve traded away all their first round picks for players until 2022. The 2021 first round pick was sent to Minnesota for Jason Zucker. The other two players the Penguins received from Toronto, Aberg and Lindgren, are likely to be depth players. Lindgren played all of last year in the AHL, so there’s a chance he stays there.
Not having first round draft picks isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially for a team in win now mentality. The Penguins have drafted once in the first round since 2014 and they are perennial contenders for the cup. As long as Crosby is on that team the Penguins have some semblance of a shot at the Stanley Cup. So while this trade was costly for the Penguins I think it will be a good trade for the team.
The Maple Leafs dealt Kapanen away for cap space. Simple as that. The Leafs are in cap space hell with only a couple of options to get out. The easiest solution though is to trade away players that the GM thinks he’s over paying. Considering the Leafs haven’t made it past the first round of the playoffs in 15 years I wouldn’t be shocked if the GM Kyle Dubas thinks he’s overpaying a lot of guys. Top three guys included, though they won’t be traded.
Four guys for the Leafs remain in the trade talks. Multiple NHL clubs have confirmed that starting goalie Frederik Anderson, Andreas Johnson, Pierre Engvall, and Alex Kerfoot are on the trading block for the Leafs. Kerfoot, Johnson, and Anderson are all being paid over $3 million in 2020 while Engvall will get paid just over $1 million. The Leafs already have $30 million tied to the top three forwards on the team and need to find cap space to acquire some better defensemen. Two of the top three defensemen on the Leafs are Unrestricted Free Agents this year. Those UFA’s are Cody Ceci and Tyson Barrie. The Leafs are going to have to trade away players to have the cap space to sign just one of these guys to a long term deal. It’s most likely going to be Tyson Barrie.
The Leafs need as much help on the backend as they can get. Barrie had an extremely rough year for the Leafs, especially considering his production last year with the Avalanche. The offensively minded defensemen was asked to carry the brunt of the defensive load when he was on the ice for the Leafs, something he wasn’t asked to do for the Avalanche. Trading away other players to free up enough cap space to sign Barrie to a long term deal would make sense. The Leafs could also let him walk and attempt to sign a more defensive minded player to help the goaltending out.
Frederik Anderson, Leafs starting netminder, could have played better all year. His defense could have helped him out just a little though. Anderson is a damn good goalie when he’s got a defense that helps him out. Hell a lot of goalies would have better stats and all that if the defense in front of them was better. Who knows, the Leafs could trade all these players away, sign Braden Holtby, and then blame him for the defensive struggle. Would be very Leafs of them. If the Leafs are able to find a trade partner for Anderson they’ll free up another $5 ish million in cap space. Good goaltending is always a hot commodity in the NHL so a team may be willing to bite on a trade for Anderson.
Another asset that’s always a hot commodity is young centers. Good young centers that is. Alex Kerfoot isn’t a top line center but he can play pretty damn good on the third line and could fill the role of second line center if need be. A team would REALLY need a second line center to deal for Kerfoot and place him in that role. Their are teams that need that position though. The Rangers come to mind as a team with a lack of center depth. Dealing away Kerfoot would free up $3.5 million in cap space if a team takes him off the Leafs hands.
I’m not sure if this Kasperi Kapanen trade is a good trade or not for the Leafs. It’s pretty hard to tell if any trade is good or not right away. I’ll say that the Leafs are over spending on a lot of players right now and it’s made their cap situation a nightmare. Trading away some of those over priced players is a smart move, it just all depends on what the Leafs do with that newfound money that will make the trades bad, good, or great. Only time will tell.