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Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Breaking down the Kapanen trade

To say the Kasperi Kapanen trade came as a shock is a bit of an understatement. In a normal year NHL teams generally treat the playoffs as an off limits time to pull off significant movements, and instead we are left waiting until after the Stanley Cup is presented before any real changes are made. This is certainly not a normal year, and it’s nice to see that Kyle Dubas is not treating it as such and has begun the overhaul of the Leafs lineup.

To Pittsburgh To Toronto
Kasperi Kapanen 2020 1st Round Pick (15th Overall)
Jesper Lindgren Filip Hallander
Pontus Aberg Evan Rodrigues
David Warsofsky

Gone from the Leafs

Starting off by who the Leafs gave up, the Leafs have opted to move on from Kasperi Kapanen, the best player in deal, although we’ll get to the appeal of the mystery boxes from Pittsburgh in a bit.

Kapanen is a reminder that being fast isn’t always a recipe for success, and after his 20 goal season in 2018-19, he struggled to reproduce his success this year, and hasn’t been able to find any chemistry with Tavares, Matthews, or Kerfoot on the ice, generally a prerequisite for being a solid top nine player. Kappy is a bit of a lone wolf on the ice, and what he makes he tends to make using his speed, and in the grand tradition of Mason Raymond, Matthew Lombardi, and Michael Grabner, Kappy has struggled to finish, preferring to fire pucks into the goaltender’s chest.

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Kapanen was a solid penalty killer, but that isn’t really a role the Leafs will struggle to replace, his $3.2M cap hit departing with him is an added bonus, although if Kapanen figures it out, as a 23 year old he could go on to a stellar career. Luckily the Leafs have other options on wing, so he won’t be particularly missed.

As for Pontus Aberg departing, well, Aberg has been rumoured to be playing in the KHL this year, and while coming back to the NHL to play for Pittsburgh has a lot of appeal, we might just be seeing the two teams shuffling some names around to balance out their number of contracts. In short, he wasn’t coming back to the Leafs no matter what, so farewell and all the best.

Jesper Lindgren was struggling to get playing time on the Marlies last year, so his departure also doesn’t really impact the Leafs or the Marlies. Toronto recently loaned him to MODO, and I guess Pittsburgh will decide what to do with the 23 year old who has struggled in his brief time in North America.

Meet the new Leafs

Let’s start with the fact that this is all about the 15th overall pick. With the Leafs losing their 13th overall to Carolina this year, this is pretty much as good as it gets for recouping that. We’ll certainly spend a lot of time in the next couple of months discussing what the Leafs can turn that pick into, but with a shallow prospect pool, getting back into the first round in a good draft year helps that a lot.

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Filip Hallander seems far too good to be thrown into this deal. The 2018 2nd round pick is just 20 years old, and has been playing in the SHL the past couple of seasons. He is coming off a year with a bad injury (fractured leg), but the 6’2 winger could find his way to North America soon, and could challenge for role on the Leafs in the coming years.

Evan Rodrigues, the former college linemate of Jack Eichel, has also been included in the deal. He was dealt from Buffalo last season to Pittsburgh, put up just one assist in seven games for them. The fact that Rodrigues is an arbitration eligible restricted free agent with a $2M qualifying offer required means that there is a strong chance we never see Rodrigues in a Leafs uniform, but it’s entirely possible that Dubas acquired him to see if he can sign him to something significantly lower before free agency hits. Rodrigues could be a solid fourth line center option for the Leafs, and having another Toronto kid in the lineup might be a plus.

David Warsofsky is a 30 year old defenseman making the league minimum to play in the AHL next season. Don’t get hung up on what he is or isn’t.

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And finally, CAP SPACE.

Kyle Dubas just cleared $3.2M of cap space, which brings the Leafs total room to work with to around $7.8M. Now, there’s still Mikheyev, Dermott, Spezza, and Clifford as noteworthy free agents to deal with, not to mention Gauthier and Rodrigues, but a certain flexibility to accomplish a roster upgrade this year is also starting to emerge.

No matter what your thoughts are on Kapanen, this seems like a deal that is a huge win for Kyle Dubas and the Leafs.

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