Pittsburgh Penguins winger Kasperi Kapanen has found his name in the rumor mill as he battles through an up and down season. He’s a pending restricted free agent along with several other Penguins who need new contracts, including some big-name unrestricted free agents. It’s likely the team listens to any offers on the 25-year-old before the March 21 trade deadline. Here are a few teams who might be interested in acquiring the speedster this season.
The Avalanche are in the market for a right-handed shot who can play on their second line, and this fit makes sense. Colorado’s second-line center Nazem Kadri is enjoying a career season and adding one of his old teammates from their days with the Toronto Maple Leafs would be welcomed.
When healthy, the Penguins have enough depth at right-wing to move Kapanen as he hasn’t been able to find that same chemistry with Evgeni Malkin in their short time together this season. They have Bryan Rust and Evan Rodrigues to sign this offseason and may prioritize both of them before turning their attention elsewhere. Colorado isn’t a team the Penguins have to worry about until the Stanley Cup Final.
Neither of these teams has a ton of cap space, so the financials of the deal would need to match. Avalanche players like defenseman Ryan Murray, forward Tyson Jost, and backup netminder Pavel Francouz could be targeted by Pittsburgh.
Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford loves Kapanen’s game and is very familiar with him dating back to when he was young. Rutherford wouldn’t be shy to circle back at the right price, and we might see a Pittsburgh/Vancouver deal before the deadline. Being in separate conferences increases the chances of a deal being finalized or even entertained. While the Carolina Hurricanes would love to add Kapanen to their speedy bunch, it’s unlikely general manager Ron Hextall and president of hockey ops Brian Burke have any interest in helping out a division rival.
As for the Canucks, they appear to be re-tooling on the fly and won’t be undergoing any type of fire sale. They will be interested in calculated trades that help the team now and in the future that create further flexibility down the road for more transactions.
The Penguins might target rugged defenseman Luke Schenn and speedy forwards Brock Boeser or Conor Garland. Boeser was a one-time top prospect who burst onto the scene for the Canucks and now could be on the way out, while Garland was traded for and extended by the old management regime, and now Rutherford is open to moving him. The Penguins would be battling it out with the Boston Bruins, who are very interested.
The Flames would love to add to their forward group and have a need at right-wing that could be filled by the Penguins forward. Burke has a great relationship with the leadership group in Calgary, so if talks picked up steam, there would be a good chance a deal is made.
Calgary also has a few players that could spark some interest from the Penguins brass, including physical defenseman Nikita Zadorov, veteran pivot Trevor Lewis who Flames coach Darryl Sutter loves, and the versatile youngster in Dillon Dube.
Zadorov would provide the Penguins with more sandpaper for their blue line, and the team might be interested in re-signing him in the offseason. Meanwhile, Dube would be a nice addition to play all over the lineup. Considering how many injuries head coach Mike Sullivan and company have had to deal with this season, versatility should be management’s focus before the trade deadline. He’s two years younger than Kapanen as well, so Pittsburgh wouldn’t again be trading away assets, and this would be more in line with the “hockey deals” both Burke and Hextall crave.
Pittsburgh is willing to listen when it comes to upgrading their roster for a playoff push and could trade Kapanen to not only make some adjustments this season but also open up some flexibility for retaining others this offseason. The native of Finland has recorded 24 points in 45 games this season, which includes zero points in his last five games. He’s seen his ice time decrease these last couple of weeks, and he seems to be battling to stay out of Sullivan’s dog house. With two trades already in his career, this season could mark a third.
Shane covers any and everything to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor to the THW family, his passion and unique perspective on the game results in some diverse content. Certainly versatile, you can also find him contributing at NHLTradeRumors.me, BaseballRumors.me & BBallRumors.com. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween