Kasperi Kapanen was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins by the Toronto Maple Leafs as part of a six-player deal that also included Toronto acquiring Pittsburgh’s first-round selection (No. 15) in the 2020 NHL Draft.
Kapanen, a 24-year-old forward, scored 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists) in 69 games this season, and had two assists for the Maple Leafs when they lost in five games to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. He has 90 points (41 goals, 49 assists) in 202 NHL games, as well as seven points (four goals, three assists) in 25 postseason games.
His best NHL season came in 2018-19, when he scored 44 points (20 goals, 24 assists) in 78 games. He has two seasons remaining on a three-year, $9.6 million contract ($3.2 million average annual value) he signed with the Maple Leafs on June 28, 2019.
“Kasperi is a good, young player that brings speed to our lineup and plays the way we want to play,” Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said. “Having previously drafted him, we know him as a player and feel he can improve our top six. Aberg and Lindgren are both young players that will further add to our organizational depth.”
Kapanen said he was thrilled to hear he is being considered to play on one of the top two lines, which would give him to chance to skate with centers Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.
“Even the fact that they think I can be in one of those two spots is a huge honor for me, obviously playing with one of the two better hockey players in the world,” Kapanen said. “It does mean that I kind of have to be hitting the gym soon. Start working hard for next year. I want to be great. I want to come into camp ready to go, show everyone I’m not messing around. So like I said, I’m very excited to be back in Pittsburgh. Excited for this opportunity.
“I feel like I’m an energy player. I bring as much energy as I can and do everything I can, really, to help the team. I’m not going to be the biggest goal-scorer, the point-maker. That’s not my job. But just to be a part of the team and do anything possible to help our team win night in and night out is something I’m going to try to do.”
The Penguins drafted Kapanen, the son of former NHL forward Sami Kapanen, in the first round (No. 22) of the 2014 NHL Draft. He was acquired by the Maple Leafs on July 1, 2015, in a trade that sent forward Phil Kessel to the Penguins.
“I think when I was drafted, I was little one-dimensional. I loved to play on offense and with the puck. Everything else was kind of lacking for me, especially to make that hop into the NHL,” Kapanen said. “I got traded to Toronto and they put me through the AHL process, which looking back on it now, I’m very grateful for. They turned me into more of a two-way player, which I think has helped me in the long run, for sure. So in that way, I think I played penalty kill for the last three years. Bit more physical. Tried to be more banging. Just more of an all-around person, and a player too. So, older now than I was back then. A lot has changed, for sure.”
By trading away the first-round pick this season, the Penguins do not have a pick in the first round until the 2022 NHL Draft. They have already sent their first-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft to the Wild as part of the trade for forward Jason Zucker on Feb. 10.
Aberg, who turns 27 on Sept. 23, had one assist in five games this season with the Maple Leafs, his fifth NHL team. He has 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) in 132 NHL games with the Maple Leafs, Minnesota Wild, Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers and Nashville Predators, who selected him in the second round (No. 37) of the 2012 NHL Draft. Aberg spent most of this season with Toronto of the American Hockey League, scoring 44 points (20 goals, 24 assists) in 55 games.
Lindgren was Toronto’s fourth-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. The 23-year-old had nine points (one goal, eight assists) in 31 games with Toronto of the AHL this season.
Rodrigues, a 27-year-old who was acquired by the Penguins in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 24, had one goal in seven games with Pittsburgh after scoring nine points (five goals, four assists) in 38 games with the Sabres. He has 72 points (27 goals, 45 assists) in 199 NHL games and can become a restricted free agent after this season.
Hallander was Pittsburgh’s second-round pick (No. 58) in the 2018 NHL Draft. The 20-year-old scored 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 27 games for Lulea of the Swedish Hockey League this season.
Warsofsky has not played in the NHL since 2017-18, when he had five assists in 16 games with the Colorado Avalanche. The 30-year-old, who had 33 points (10 goals, 23 assists) in 51 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL this season, has 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in 55 NHL games with the Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, Avalanche and Penguins.
Independent correspondent Wes Crosby contributed to this report