On Monday, the Pittsburgh Penguins decided to reacquire Kasperi Kapanen from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The cost was this year’s first-round draft pick (No. 15 overall).
Also included in the deal were forward Evan Rodrigues, prospect Filip Hallander and emergency defenseman David Warsofsky. Coming to Pittsburgh along with Kapanen are right-shot defenseman Jesper Lindgren and journeyman forward Pontus Aberg.
Some Penguins fans weren’t exactly thrilled with the deal. I typed the letters “GMJR” into a Twitter search at 4 p.m. Tuesday, and this is what I got.
GMJR is single handily making sure we never contend for a cup again.
— John (@JGor492) August 25, 2020
Me hoping this is Mario at GMJR’S door when he hears they are trading a 1st round pick… pic.twitter.com/JnlakGMgdY
— Stone Cold Sid (@StoneColdSid) August 25, 2020
every move gmjr used to make looked like a calculated chess move
but for the last few years, every move he makes has everyone like pic.twitter.com/cM8FD549Qn
— Penguins Jesus (@PenguinsJesus) August 25, 2020
Maybe GMJR is out to undo every trade he’s ever done. We’re getting James Neal back!
— Jey Bag f Dnuts (@joeybagovdonuts) August 25, 2020
I know GMJR is trying to keep the team loaded for the last few elite Sid, Geno, and Tanger years..
But such an unremarkable prospect pool will definitely catch up with us in a few years.
— The Penguin Brain (@PenguinBrain) August 25, 2020
That’s a pretty fair representation of the reaction I saw overall. Not a lot of love or benefit of the doubt on the trade for general manager Jim Rutherford.
I didn’t see much backlash at Kapanen, though. He’s a player many Penguins fans hated to see leave in that trade which brought Phil Kessel to Pittsburgh prior to the 2015-16 season. In 69 regular-season games this year, Kapanen had 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists). That was down from the 44 points and 20 goals he had the previous season.
Perhaps, though, Kapanen can rediscover some of that point production if he plays with Sidney Crosby. He could be a better partner for Crosby and Jake Guentzel than Conor Sheary or Dominik Simon.
If Bryan Rust is traded, maybe Kapanen buffers that departure on Evgeni Malkin’s line given his skating and penalty-killing ability. Or maybe Rust stays. And, given his speed, Kapanen provides a Carl Hagelin element to a third line that needs to be entirely reconstructed anyway.
So, despite a self-described “sophomore slump” in 2020, there’s reason to hope Kapanen can become the player the Penguins thought they had when they drafted him 22nd overall in 2014.
It’s not the acquired player that has Penguins fans upset. And Kapanen’s return to the franchise certainly is not what’s troubling me either. It’s a lot of other things around the deal itself that make you scratch your head.
This will now be the sixth time in the last eight years when the Penguins don’t make a first-round pick. At a time when their prospect ranks are thin. At a time when building for a post Crosby-Malkin era is looming.
In a reportedly deep draft year. In a year where the club decided to keep the No. 15 pick instead of giving it to the Minnesota Wild as payback for the Jason Zucker deal.
So now they won’t have a first-rounder in 2021 either.
Is Kapanen just another version of Dominik Kahun? If so, look what happened to Kahun. In other words, look what happened to Olli Maatta.
Kahun was traded to Pittsburgh from Chicago for Maatta last year. They got 27 points in 50 games from him, never figuring out exactly his best role or fit. Then he was dealt for Sheary and Rodrigues. So the net of that trade has effectively been erased.
Not to mention, Rodrigues was presumed to be a candidate for at least fourth-line minutes this year. And Hallander was one of the few power forward prospects in the system that could’ve been groomed as a replacement for Patric Hornqvist.
As for the rest of the package with Kapanen? Lindgren may have the potential to be a second- or third-pair NHL defenseman. And Aberg once did this to Maatta in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final while he was with the Nashville Predators.
SWEET GOAL ALERT
— SI NHL (@SI_NHL) June 1, 2017
Unfortunately, Aberg has had a grand total of only 16 goals since then, spread among four different teams.
Sorry, Olli. I had to.
So consider me lukewarm at best on this one. I’ll just hope Kapanen is so good, none of the other stuff matters.
Bethel Park’s Joe Bartnick joins me on the podcast Wednesday. He’s much more bullish on the trade than me.
After we discuss the trade, Bartnick and I get into the pain of watching the Pens get eliminated so early in the 2020 playoffs, our hope for an eventual Philadelphia Flyers defeat, and Joe’s newfound affinity for the Colorado Avalanche.
Plus, we discuss the life of a comedian during a pandemic.
Penguins/NHL | Sports | Breakfast With Benz