The Pittsburgh Penguins gained Toronto Maple Leafs forward Kasperi Kapanen in a multiplayer trade on Tuesday, rejoining the 24-year-old forward with the general manager who drafted him.
The Penguins sent center Evan Rodrigues, defenseman David Warsofsky, forward Filip Hallander and their 2020 first-round draft pick (fifteenth in general) to Toronto for Kapanen, the rights to KHL forward Pontus Aberg and defenseman Jesper Lindgren.
“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-six,” Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford said.
The Penguins chose Kapanen with the 22nd overall pick in 2014, preceding exchanging him to the Leafs the blockbuster Phil Kessel trade of July 2015. Rutherford likewise drafted Kapanen’s dad, Sami, in 1995 while general manager of the Hartford Whalers.
“Super excited about that obviously,” Kapanen said. “It’s where it all began for me, which is pretty cool.”
In four years with the Maple Leafs, Kapanen had 41 goals and 49 assists in 202 games. He hit the 20-goal mark for the first time in 2018-19. Yet, he battled in the NHL restart, as the Maple Leafs lost a qualifying-round series to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He had only two aids the five-game series.
“Puck wasn’t going in for me,” Kapanen said. “Overall, my game was iffy.”
The trade gives Toronto some salary-cap flexibility. Rodrigues is a confined free agent. Hallander is on his newbie deal through 2022, and Warsofsky is on a rookie deal through 2021. Kapanen makes $3.2 million against the salary cap through 2022.
The Penguins, who additionally lost in the qualifying round, looked for change after a discouraging elimination to the Montreal Canadiens. With the center of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang all at least 33, Kapanen’s appearance gives the Penguins some new legs to work with as they attempt to keep the championship window open.
Kapanen, who considered it a “obvious honor” to play with Crosby and Malkin, views himself as a two-way player who can help the Penguins at the two closures of the ice.
“Obviously, I love scoring goals, who doesn’t,” Kapanen said. “I love playing with the puck and making plays, but at the same time I want to forecheck and be physical and be that guy to kind of get in your face a little bit and knock you off your game.”