Kasperi Kapanen is a Pittsburgh Penguin again.
The Toronto Maple Leafs traded the forward to Pittsburgh as part of a six-player deal Tuesday, with defenceman Jesper Lindgren and forward Pontus Aberg also heading to the Penguins. In exchange, the Maple Leafs received Pittsburgh’s first round pick for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, forwards Evan Rodrigues and Filip Hallander, and defenceman David Warsofsky.
The Pittsburgh pick is a 15th overall.
Kapanen was drafted by the Penguins in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, but he was traded to Toronto as part of the Phil Kessel deal in 2015.
The 24-year-old has 90 points in 202 games for Toronto, with his career-high season in 2018-2019 when he posted 20 goals for a total of 44 points in 78 games.
“Just means that I’ve gotta hit the gym soon and start working hard for next year. I want to be great, and I want to come into camp ready to go and show everybody that I’m not messing around,” Kapanen said. “A lot of friends on that team, too, so it makes it a whole lot easier than going to a new team and a new city that I’m not familiar with.”
With the pandemic impacting how teams approach roster-building, Toronto general manager Kyle Dubas has a flat-cap to contend with and a ceiling of $81.5 million. Dumping the Kapanen deal frees up $3.2 million, even if Pittsburgh gets the added bonus of not having to pony up for any front-loaded bonuses.
The draft pick is a critical part of this exchange for Dubas. The Maple Leafs traded away their original first-round selection to Carolina as part of the Patrick Marleau deal, so this one puts them back in the game.
This trade is about flexibility. Signing guys like impending RFA Rodrigues isn’t likely, as he’s got arbitration rights and will have to have a $2 million qualifying offer to start the bidding. That means more money in the tank for the “summer,” whenever that is.