As the Feb. 24 trade deadline approaches, the New York Islanders have proved that they are a playoff-caliber team. However, along the way, they also showed that they really lack goalscoring, which is a significant problem. Although the team is built on a defense-first mentality, it is nearly impossible to go anywhere in the playoffs without consistent goalscoring. This is why the perfect trade deadline target for them is Toronto Maple Leafs forward Kasperi Kapanen.
Who is Kasperi Kapanen?
Throughout his five seasons in the league, with only two of them being full campaigns, Kapanen has been a consistent producer. He finished last season with a total of 20 goals and 24 assists through 78 games, which isn’t too shabby for a 22-year-old. On top of those numbers, Kapanen also finished the season as a plus-12, which is pretty high considering his time in the league. Regardless of the fact that he’s almost always been on high-scoring Maple Leafs teams, his numbers shouldn’t be underestimated at all. Kapanen has proved time and time again that he’s an offensive threat every game.
Given these facts about Kapanen, it’s not surprising that Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas made it a priority last season to re-sign him before July 1, when he would become a restricted free agent. Dubas ended up signing Kapanen to a three-year, $9.6 million contract extension on June 28, six days before he would have become a restricted free agent.
Maple Leafs’ Salary Cap Situation
As of today, the Leafs are sitting $5.8 million under the $81.5 million salary cap. However, the only reason why they’re that far under is because of injuries to Morgan Rielly, Cody Ceci, and Ilya Mikheyev. If these three players were not injured, the Leafs would be sitting at about $4.6 million above the salary cap. And considering they have to re-sign defensemen Jake Muzzin and Tyson Barrie, among others, they may have to move some contracts to make that happen.
Fortunately for Dubas, he has a plethora of offensive weapons on hand, and could afford to lose a guy like Kapanen if need be. Besides needing some help on the back end, another key reason as to why Dubas may be inclined to move Kapanen ahead of the deadline is that he has had some problems with the team.
Recently, Kapanen was benched due to being late for a team practice. Obviously this would be a big deal for anyone, but for Kapanen in particular, this was not the first time he’s done this in the organization. Even though the Maple Leafs have seemed to move on from the incident, one can’t help but think that it can make him expendable.
How Would Kapanen Fit?
Considering the Islanders are desperately looking for a goalscorer, Kapanen perfectly fits the bill. Since they have to re-sign Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock, and Devon Toews to contract extensions after this season, the Isles need to find a scorer with an affordable price tag. As previously mentioned, Kapanen is sitting with a $3.2 million cap hit, which is an unbelievable bargain for a young player who already has 32 points on the season.
The best part about making a trade for Kapanen is that he has another two seasons left under contract after 2019-20. This would certainly help the Islanders because it’s known to be difficult to get players to sign long-term contracts with the team. That flaw was certainly pointed out when Artemi Panarin decided to sign with the New York Rangers at a lower cost than the Islanders offered last offseason.
What Would Land Kapanen?
Due to the injury of Adam Pelech, the Islanders don’t have a defenseman to trade to the Maple Leafs. And since the Leafs are in dire need of a defenseman, at first glance a trade between the Islanders and the Leafs for Kapanen may not seem possible. However, a scenario that may work could be a trade that involves a pick and a prospect for Kapanen.
Since the Maple Leafs traded their 2020 first-round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes last offseason, they no longer have one. This means that they could maybe look to acquire one from the Islanders alongside a defense prospect like Bode Wilde or Sebastian Aho. This way, they could either take the pick and use it as a trade chip for another defenseman, or save it for the draft and allow Aho to fill in one of their defensive holes.
Regardless of how much they may have to give up, as long as it isn’t a ridiculous amount, the Islanders should be all in on Kapanen.
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