It won’t be the last trade the Leafs make this offseason, but they are 1 for 1 so far. I am not sure how many people even knew trades could be made at this point of the NHL season, given the current state of everything, but the Leafs made sure we all knew that, indeed, trades could be made and they weren’t going to waste any time in their attempts to shake things up. I’m sure everyone has seen the trade by now, but here it is in its entirety.
Kasperi Kapanen’s value to the Leafs has taken a big hit throughout the 19-20 season. After a breakout type season in 18-19 where the right-winger netted 20 goals and 44 points in 78 games, Kapanen was rewarded with a 3-year contract that had an AAV of 3.2 million dollars. Kapanen deserved that contract, he was fantastic in 18-19, but the expectations were much lower that season.
Coming into this year, Kapanen started on a line with Mitch Marner and John Tavares, but it was clear after just a few games that it wasn’t working. Kapanen was given a chance at other times throughout the year as well to earn his spot in the top 6 too, Sheldon Keefe put him on a line with Auston Matthews and William Nylander after Andreas Johnsson went down and it was obvious that he didn’t fit with them either. Then he had some issues off the ice, getting scratched for a game after he slept in and missed a team meeting. Leading up to the trade deadline, Dubas was looking to try and get value on Kapanen and during his talks with other teams, he realized that Kapanen was much higher valued by teams around the league then his organization. A quote from James Mirtle’s article for the Athletic shows this “Strangely, the outside interest in Kapanen has always been greater than his actual value to the Maple Leafs. Kapanen was a luxury for the Leafs, he had shown he couldn’t consistently produce in the top 6, but was being paid too much to play on their 3rd line, so Dubas made his play.
The return is honestly, quite astonishing for a player of Kasperi Kapanen’s ilk. The Leafs are getting a mid-first-round pick in one of the deepest drafts the NHL has seen in the last 20 years and were able to pick up a top 5 prospect in the Penguins organization. It had to be a no-brainer for Dubas, they now have a lot more flexibility to not only re-sign their pending RFAs but to also improve the right side of their blue line. One Alex Pietrangelo anyone? Okay, maybe we aren’t there yet, but after being ripped for months by the media and a portion of the fans, it must feel good for Dubas to get one in the win column. Going deeper on Hallander, here’s a tweet from prospect expert J.D. Burke.
There have been rumours that his skating is lacklustre, but not one scouting report I saw criticized his skating so that may be overblown. He won’t turn into a huge point guy, but a solid 3C with a very good defensive game is the hope and isn’t that unrealistic to expect. In terms of who they could take with the 15th pick, I will have to do more research on that, but some quick names to look at are Braden Schnieder, Dylan Holloway and Seth Jarvis. Oh, and did I mention the cap space?
Looking back at Kapanen’s time in Toronto should be done fondly, he scored some really big goals, that at the time felt a lot bigger than they do now. The double OT winner against Washington in his rookie season, the nasty shorthanded goal in 17-18 to give the Leafs the lead in game 7 against the Bruins and lastly, the crucial game-winning goal in game 5 of last years series against Boston that made us believe, just for a second, that we were going to win a playoff round. He was apart of this young, fun group, that has now turned into something that isn’t that, but he loved the city and he always gave us some good gossip regarding who he was and wasn’t dating and for that, he will be missed. The first domino has fallen in Leaf land, the question now is, how many more will follow?