After getting a final clearance in the form of a fourth negative COVID test on Sunday, Kasperi Kapanen skated on his own just before the rest of his new team played a game against the Capitals.
It looks like that will be the last time that Kapanen won’t be available to the Penguins due to his ended work visa and quarantine saga.
Kapanen wasn’t able to make it into Pittsburgh from his native Finland until last week, due to securing the proper paperwork.
“Around October, [the team] told me that I got to apply for my new visa,” Kapanen said on Monday. “We sent it to the embassy and didn’t see it until January. So that kind of sucked, but I got to thank everybody in the organization and everybody that tried to help me get it faster and do everything they can to get me here. It’s unfortunate that I missed camp, but just happy to be here now.”
After spending a week alone and getting the clearance needed to pass COVID protocols, Kapanen finally joined his new team for this first time on the ice on Monday.
“We have a fast team, which obviously suits me well. I’m going to try to bring my speed and physicality and get on those loose pucks and try to win those races against their D...I think it always takes a bit of time whenever you come to a new team or even play with new players,” Kapanen said. “But obviously it’s a couple of very talented players [in Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel]. They know what they’re doing. They’ve played together for a while now. I’m just going to try and fit in the best I can. I think once we get a couple games and practices in along with some video, I think we can be a really good line.”
Kapanen impressed his new coach with what he brought to the table.
Coach Sullivan on Kapanen: "I thought he had a good practice. It's never easy trying to jump right in to a team practice like that, when we've had as many days as we've had together. He's trying to jump on a moving train... I thought he did a pretty good job." pic.twitter.com/w9TISOAl4w— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 18, 2021
Officially, Sullivan would only say that Kapanen is, “cleared and available...He’ll be a game-time decision” for Tuesday’s rematch against the Capitals. Of course, the day before a game in Sullivan’s eyes, every player in the organization is officially a “game time decision”, there are other signs that Kapanen will actually be playing.
Forward Sam Lafferty was assigned to the practice squad today. This means his daily salary cap hit is currently no longer applied to Pittsburgh’s cap, a small but minor bit of room that the team will be able to save more for a potential move later in the season. It also means that Lafferty can not play an NHL game until he is removed from the practice squad and re-joins the Pens’ roster (and salary cap).
Without Lafferty and Kapanen, the Pens only have 11 healthy forwards. The typical NHL lineup has 12 forwards in it. Add Kapanen to the equation, and the magic number of 12 is back.
Lafferty was practically benched after he made a bad decision to skate the puck out in front of his own net, and misplaying it and seeing it end up in his net in the first period. Lafferty played a mere 3:02 for the whole game, well under the amounts he played in the first two games of the season against Philadelphia (10:55 and 6:36).
The good news for this year’s team is the practice squad is right there near the team, and in the event of an injury the team can easily make the paper transaction to bring him back, with no real point of Lafferty drawing cap space when he won’t be in the lineup.
At this point though, the more exciting part will be watching the speed infusion of Kapanen on the Pens’ top six and seeing how quickly he may be able to help the team. He’s only had a single practice with the team, but such is life to be thrown into the deep end and given a great challenge to make the most of it.