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The Penguins and Maple Leafs had short, disappointing stints in the NHL’s playoff bubble in Toronto. They both failed to advance through the qualifying round. Now, they’re not wasting any time in making adjustments to their rosters. 

Pittsburgh and Toronto struck a deal on Tuesday that will send Kasperi Kapanen to Pittsburgh as part of a multi-player deal that also gives the Maple Leafs the 15th overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft.

Here’s how the deal breaks down:

Some might say there are a lot of empty calories involved in this deal — Aberg just signed a deal in the KHL, Rodrigues is a fringe player on an expiring deal with RFA looming, Warsofsky is an AHL player. However, the main pieces are Kapanen, the first-round pick and Hallander. 

The deal reunited Kapanen, 24, with the team that selected him in the first round of the 2014 draft. He spent one season with the organization before being packaged in the deal that sent Phil Kessel to Pittsburgh, but now he’ll have a chance to bring an impact to the Pens’ lineup years later. Kapenen was a top-six/top-nine winger in Toronto and scored 20 goals for the Leafs a year ago. He had a down year in 2019-20, scoring 13 goals and adding 23 assists in 69 games played. 

His numbers last year suggest he’s more suited to a third line role, but Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford believes Kapanen is capable of more.

“Kasperi is a good, young player that brings speed to our lineup and plays the way we want to play,” said Rutherford. “Having previously drafted him, we know him as a player and feel he can improve our top-6.”

The big question is: Will he be good enough to justify the price tag? 

A lot of early evaluations say the Penguins overpaid, as the 15th overall pick and a decent 20-year-old prospect in Hallander would be a steep price for a fringe third-liner. Pittsburgh has only drafted in the first round twice since 2012 (one of those picks being Kapanen) and they are now left without a first-round pick this year and next year (they traded their 2021 first-rounder to Minnesota for Jason Zucker this season.)

From Toronto’s perspective, not only did they get decent value for Kapenen, they also shed his $3.2 million cap hit (through 2022) in order to free up some money heading into this year’s free agency period. Toronto is tight on the cap and hoping to address some major areas of need — namely on the blue line — in order to help fill out the roster and establish themselves as contenders next year. 

Toronto has been rumored to possibly be interested in landing the services of free agent-to-be Alex Pietrangelo, and this deal frees up a bit of money in order to make that dream more feasible. It also recoups a first-round pick for the Leafs, who traded their own first-rounder (13th overall) to Carolina in order to dump Patrick Marleau’s contract last summer. 

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