By Craig Custance and Corey Pronman Aug 25, 2020
Pittsburgh Penguins receive forward Kasperi Kapanen, forward Pontus Aberg and defenseman Jesper Lindgren.
Toronto Maple Leafs receive the No. 15 overall pick in 2020 draft, forward Evan Rodrigues, forward Filip Hallander and defenseman David Warsofsky.
Toronto Maple Leafs: A-
It’s going to be a real challenge to move money this offseason so give Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas credit for striking early and pulling this trade off now while it was still a possibility. The Maple Leafs get back into the first round and do it by dealing from a position of strength. Kapanen is a skilled player but he’s also not a perfect player.
The big return here is the draft pick. One amateur scout said he sees the Maple Leafs getting back into the top 15 as a chance for them to take advantage of a group of defensemen in that window who should be available after an early run of forwards.
“It’s forward heavy at the top and they’re going to go in any particular order,” said the scout. “The first two D who should go are (Jamie) Drysdale and (Jake) Sanderson. Then, you get into an interesting situation.”
He pointed out that a defenseman like Braden Schneider could be someone the Leafs might look to add in that spot but the Maple Leafs certainly aren’t going to limit themselves to one position with so much riding on this pick. They have to get a cheap, young player who can contribute to a franchise that’s going to have a cap issues in a flat-cap world.
In terms of the players the Leafs added, forward Filip Hallander has the highest upside. The 20-year-old Swede was the No. 58 overall pick in the 2018 draft. One amateur scout projected him as a bottom-six guy in the NHL.
The wildcard is Evan Rodrigues. Because he’s bounced around a bit, he might appear to be a throw-in but this at least gives Dubas options on his fourth line. Assuming Dubas wants to rebuild Toronto’s fourth line for next season, adding Rodrigues makes a player like Frederik Gauthier expendable. Rodrigues is a hard worker who has just enough skill to make a case for himself in Toronto.
“He’s not perfect by any means,” said an NHL source of Rodrigues. “But I could see him being a roster player for the Leafs.”
Corey Pronman on Hallander:
“Hallander has been successful versus men for the last few years at varying levels after being a second-round pick in 2018. Hallander is a very intelligent and competitive player who has shown the ability to help both special teams. His skill and speed don’t pop, but he makes a lot of plays in the tough areas of the ice. My opinion is he projects as a bottom-six forward in the NHL, which is shared by a poll of NHL scouts now and at the time of his draft. He would not fit into the top tier of Toronto prospects such as Nicholas Robertson or Rasmus Sandin, but in the next group with the likes of Timothy Liljegren and Nick Abruzzese. His advanced play versus men in Sweden has him trending as a player who could help Toronto in the next year or two.”
Pittsburgh Penguins: B
This is what you do when you have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the stretch run of their careers. You try to maximize that window as long as possible. No issues here at all with Jim Rutherford trading the 2020 first-rounder, even if a 2021 first is already headed to Minnesota.
“He keeps putting all his cards on the table. Listen, you’ve got two of the best centers in the league,” said one NHL source on Tuesday. “And they’ll be able to move one of their goalies.”
The question is whether or not Kapanen is the right guy to use that first-round bullet on. In Kapanen, the Penguins are getting a second-line player who is still just 24 years old signed to a reasonable contract ($3.2 million AAV through 2021-22). One coach said he likes the fit, especially because he thinks Sidney Crosby is the kind of player who will be able to maximize Kapanen’s ability.
“I think he’ll be good (in Pittsburgh),” the coach said. “A guy like Sid, he’s a good person to get (Kapanen) to understand, ‘You need to get these pucks.’ Sid wants to play with guys who can go get the puck and also finish. He’s the right personality for that.”
Since his draft year, there have been some questions as to whether or not Kapanen wants to put in the work to be a high-end player but the Penguins know him as well as any organization, considering they drafted him. They know what they’re getting here.
“I like Kasperi Kapenen enough,” said a scout. “In a perfect world, on a deep team, he’s a third-line guy but I look at him and what he’s able to bring — the straight lines, the north-south — this guy has good hands and skill. He also plays with that pace where defensemen — when a guy comes that fast down the wing, that puts pressure on them.”
Aberg has always had offensive potential but consistency is an issue and he’s most likely a KHL player for the immediate future.
Corey Pronman on Lindgren: “He is an intelligent defenseman who can make a good first pass and make some stops. I wouldn’t say the 23-year-old stood out when I watched him in the AHL, with average footspeed and not a ton of offense and he’s likely more of an AHL piece than someone who is part of the NHL picture for the Penguins.