On Tuesday, the Penguins made their first big move of the offseason by making a huge trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Coming over to Pittsburgh was former Penguins draft pick (and Phil Kessel trade piece) Kasperi Kapanen along with two others. Going to Toronto was the Penguins 2020 first round draft pick and three players.
When news first broke about Kapanen being on the move to Pittsburgh, rumors immediately started to swirl about who was going the other way. Was it one of the goalies? Nick Bjugstad? Jared McCann? There was even a tweeted rumor that Jack Johnson was involved but it was quickly deleted.
In the end, the two biggest pieces were Kapanen to the Penguins and the first round pick heading north to Toronto. As with most NHL trades, social media reaction was swift to react with everyone putting in their two cents on the deal. Parsing through all the takes can take some time, especially with big trades, but it was clear once the details started coming out that most did not view this trade favorably for the Penguins.
In the end I think my initial take on this is I think Kapanen can help them but I wonder if the could have used those assets in a different way. I don’t think it’s the disaster it is being considered but I also don’t really get it. This is my take.— Adam Gretz (@AGretz) August 25, 2020
So here is a thing.— Adam Gretz (@AGretz) August 25, 2020
Over the past two years Kapanen and Zucker have very similar underlying numbers (CF, xGF, etc.) and very comparable box score numbers (goals/game, pts/game, etc.). They also had a similar asset cost in trade (1st, prospect, and some throw ins)...
These tweets from our very own Adam Gretz are apart of a larger thread he put together discussing the trade. Check out the whole thing if you get a chance, but his takes on the deal was much more positive than what some people were saying. It seems like Kapanen fits with what the Penguins are trying to do, just targeting him at this time may not make total sense.
Okay, back to being flabbergasted. Hallander is 20 years old, a true power-forward, and the 2nd or 3rd best prospect in the system. Lindgren isn't a needle mover. The 15th overall pick, to me, has more value than a player that has been sub-replacement level for 3 of 4 years.— Jesse Marshall (@jmarshfof) August 25, 2020
I don't know what I'm more confused about: the 15th overall pick, or Filip Hallander. The fact that both are involved is almost incomprehensible to me. I'm really not trying to be hyperbolic here but I do not understand any aspect of this trade.— Jesse Marshall (@jmarshfof) August 25, 2020
To Leafs fans, I would sum up Hallander by saying he's a faster version of Patric Hornqvist. Used a lot in the low-to-high slot as a deflection/screen opportunity. Kills pucks in boards. Appeared on the PK/PP throughout his development. Unremarkable shot, more locational scorer.— Jesse Marshall (@jmarshfof) August 25, 2020
Aside from the Penguins first round pick going to the Maple Leafs, another notable part of the return package was prospect Filip Hallander. Considered by many to be a top prospect in the Penguins organization, his inclusion along with the first round pick baffled many, including The Athletic writer Jesse Marshall.
Kapanen is only 23, but he's probably not a guy you trade a first round pick for. Especially not after his last season. pic.twitter.com/VVPD1K94ww— dom luszczyszyn (@domluszczyszyn) August 25, 2020
Dom Luszczyszyn, also from The Athletic, tweeted his thoughts on the deal and it’s not something Pens fans will be thrilled with. Kapanen was barely a replacement level player in 2019-20 and no where near worth the price Rutherford paid for him.
The Penguins just traded a 1st round pick for a player who has been sub-replacement in 3 out of his 4 NHL seasons.— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) August 25, 2020
Again with the ugly replacement level numbers. It’s not that Kapanen can’t help the Penguins lineup, it’s more that they seemed to have way overpaid for a guy who does not come with a cheap price tag.
The trade effectively boils down to Kapanen for a first-round pick and Hallander. I wonder if the Leafs even qualify Rodrigues at his salary.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) August 25, 2020
Once you get past the main pieces of the deal, it appears the other pieces were used more to make the numbers work. As James Mirtle points out, unless the Leafs bring back Rodrigues, this trade essentially boils down to Kapanen in exchange for two futures in the first round pick and Hallander.
Kapanen was always the most likely Leafs piece to be dealt this off-season. His salary and his inability to mesh well in the top six, along with teams coveting him in a deal, all part of that.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) August 25, 2020
As for why a speed team like the Maple Leafs were willing to part with a speed player like Kapanen, Mirtle explains just that.
Guentzel-Crosby-Kapanen— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) August 25, 2020
That’s a really good, really fast top six. I feel like the rest of the lineup will look drastically different within a few months.
Although there were issues with Kapanen cracking the top-six in Toronto, Penguins beat writer Josh Yohe figures he will plug right into the Penguins top line alongside Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel.
Yohe makes another important point here as well about the rest of the roster. While the Penguins top two lines are taking shape, nothing is set in stone in regards to the rest of the lineup. We know some players will certainly be returning, but Rutherford is nowhere near done retooling his roster.
Kasperi Kapanen (traded to Pittsburgh) is a good third-liner. pic.twitter.com/wNV4PkMD9r— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) August 25, 2020
While Yohe projects Kapanen to be in the Penguins top-six forward group, there is no guarantee until we see how he plays with those guys on the ice. Kapanen has never been a top-six guy for a consistent period of time at any point in his career and his underlying numbers show him to be a better depth guy.
Rodrigues is obviously older than Kapanen, but looking over things they’re much closer in overall value than I originally thought. Rodrigues had a pretty down year in ‘19-20, but Kapanen for Rodrigues on its own is maybe closer than most people think. https://t.co/j4NUnd57s9— EvolvingWild (@EvolvingWild) August 25, 2020
In above tweet from James Mirtle, he mentioned that he does not think the Leafs will qualify Evan Rodrigues who is set to become a restricted free agent in a few weeks. Just because they don’t qualify him doesn’t mean they can’t still resign him, and if they do, will be replacing Kapanen with a player of near equal performance.
Dubas on the first-round pick they acquired: "We're open to moving it if the right deal came along for someone that could help us."— James Mirtle (@mirtle) August 25, 2020
That pick the Penguins gave up to acquire Kapanen? According to Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas, they aren’t dead set on keeping the pick and may use it as leverage to make other moves as the offseason progresses.
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford: "Kasperi is a good, young player that brings speed to our lineup and plays the way we want to play. Having previously drafted him, we know him as a player and feel he can improve our top-6."— James Mirtle (@mirtle) August 25, 2020
As for Rutherford, it’s no secret he wants to make the team younger and faster, and he sees this trade as doing exactly that by bringing in the 24-year old Kapanen. Rutherford also notes that he views Kapanen as a top-six forward.
What does @kasperikapanen1 think about his trade?— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) August 25, 2020
"l'm very excited, my family is excited, my girlfriend and everybody here is excited for me. Just ready to get back to work." pic.twitter.com/Rb51BDf1BI
Last but not least, some words from Kapanen himself on his trade back to Pittsburgh five years after being originally dealt. Seems like nothing but excitement from the player and he says all the right things you would want a new guy to say as he gets ready to bring his style of play to a team who is built to use his skill set.
If you were on social media when this trade was announced, it was quite a whirlwind as pieces began to fall and the entirety of the trade came into view. On the surface, this is definitely a confounding move on the Penguins part, but it also signals they are still in ‘win now’ mode as they try to maximize the Crosby/Malkin era window as much as possible.
Rutherford traded away A LOT of future in this deal, but even the two most noteworthy pieces of this deal (pick + Hallander) are likely not in the NHL picture until after the window is closed. Even knowing that, some may feel Rutherford is needlessly sacrificing the future by moving pieces for less than optimal returns that don’t necessarily make the team all that better in the present.
The truth is, we won’t know the full scale of this trade for many years when those picks and prospects either make it or break it at the NHL level. If Kapanen comes in and helps the Penguins win another Stanley Cup, then much of this will be a distant memory when the new banner hangs from PPG Paints Arena.