The Toronto Maple Leafs are sending Kasperi Kapanen back to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the organization that drafted him, according to several reports, including Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. As Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reported a few weeks ago, the teams eliminated from postseason contention can already complete trades without waiting on the playoffs to finish. Rob Rossi of The Athletic gives the full details of the deal. The Maple Leafs will send Kapanen, Jesper Lindgren and Pontus Aberg to Pittsburgh, while receiving the Penguins’ 2020 first-round pick (15th overall), Evan Rodrigues, Filip Hallander and David Warsofsky.
It wasn’t so long ago that Kapanen was a budding young first-round pick in the Penguins organization. Selected 22nd overall in 2014, he was actually Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford’s first draft pick with the organization after coming over from the Carolina Hurricanes. Rutherford knew the name well, given Kapanen’s father Sami played for both Hartford and Carolina under the executive. The younger Finn was traded just a year later when the Penguins acquired Phil Kessel from the Maple Leafs, where he has blossomed into a strong middle-six winger.
Kapanen’s best attribute is his speed, which he uses routinely on the penalty kill to create shorthanded chances for himself and his teammates. Over the last two seasons, he’s totaled 33 goals and 80 points in 157 games but hasn’t quite been able to develop into the top-line player that some imagined when he was dominating the minor leagues.
For the Maple Leafs, this deal is all about balancing their roster. The team has so much salary tied up in their forward group, they needed to move some of it out in order to address the defense.
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