The Pittsburgh Penguins are entering one of the most important trade deadlines in recent memory as the team has a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup and has some major decisions to make on their pending free agents. Extensions for Kris Letang, Bryan Rust, Evan Rodrigues, and Evgeni Malkin are looming large over the club, and management has shown – with the recent extensions for Jeff Carter and Chad Ruhwedel – that they aren’t shy to get some business done with those who are willing.
This future of Kasperi Kapanen is also weighing over the franchise as he continues to slide down the depth chart and has recorded zero points in his last 11 games. Kapanen is a prime trade candidate as the Penguins have never used in him the proper role, and now management would be wise to contact the Vancouver Canucks about his services.
Canucks President Loves Kapanen
Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford has drafted, traded away, and traded for Kapanen and Pittsburgh needs to be in touch and get a sense of his interest ahead of the deadline. The team has played much better under new head coach Bruce Boudreau. However, they are still seven points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and the math is not on their side.
Rutherford isn’t worried about much besides creating more cap flexibility for his team, so extending Brock Boeser may not be in the cards. The Canucks paid forward Elias Pettersson and defenseman Quinn Hughes handsomely in the offseason before his arrival, and they have just under $11 million in cap space for next season with roughly eight spots to fill. Huge decisions are coming, and several Canucks have found themselves on the trade market as teams continue to reach out.
Insert Boeser. The soon-to-be 25-year-old was recently named trade bait by hockey insider Frank Seravalli, and a lot of that has to do with his contract status. He is a pending restricted free agent and is due for a massive qualifying offer of over $7 million for 2022-23.
The Penguins could avoid any of that nonsense by signing the young sniper to a long-term extension, and while some think money is tight, team president Brian Burke and general manager Ron Hextall have just under $30 million in cap space to work with this summer. They have lots of contracts to get done, but there is money in the bank, and Boeser has 15 goals and 28 points in 45 games this season, which includes three goals in his last five games.
Canucks Sniper Gives Penguins Options
How would Penguins fans feel if the team lost Bryan Rust to free agency and had Boeser in their back pocket to play with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel? What about losing Evan Rodrigues along with Rust? So far, there have been no substantial extension talks with either player and, of the two, Rodrigues is much more likely to stick around.
Adding Boeser to the Penguins gives them great security in case of notable departures upfront and gives them a foundation piece to build around when Crosby, Malkin and company move on. He has 30-goal potential, and playing alongside Malkin on the team’s second line would be a massive upgrade for the rest of this season and would allow for the team to move Jeff Carter back to the third-line center position. He would also add more depth and create a more offensively balanced lineup for head coach Mike Sullivan.
Penguins Need More Than Slumping Kapanen To Entice Canucks
Who better to pick and choose a couple of prospects from Pittsburgh than the man who is mostly responsible for its construction? Rutherford knows the Penguins system better than anyone, and the Canucks recently named general manager Patrik Allvin for an executive duo that has their fingerprints all over the franchise.
While Burke and Hextall have been clear they don’t want to sell off assets, this is the type of “hockey deal” that could have huge long-term implications. This isn’t a rental deal, where first-rounders and top prospects are shipped out for a couple of months; Boeser is a long-term solution for the Penguins.
While Kapanen, and his $3.2 million cap hit, would be heading to Vancouver in this blockbuster, it would need to include other pieces – likely two other pieces and prospects Alex Nylander, Samuel Poulin and Valtteri Puustinen could find themselves heading to western Canada. It would be ideal if the Penguins could pull this off without giving up their first-round pick. The Canucks aren’t rebuilding; they are re-tooling to create flexibility and would likely be more interested in NHL-ready prospects over draft picks anyway.
If the Canucks are serious about moving Boeser, the Penguins need to be involved as Burke and Hextall need to use their organizational familiarity as leverage in these trade negotiations. They have a prime trade candidate in Kapanen who is a familiar face to the Canucks brass and in dire need of a change of scenery, while the young sniper would give Pittsburgh a foundation piece for the future and a massive upgrade to their depth chart. This blockbuster trade is a no-brainer for Hextall and Burke. The Canucks, on the other hand, may need some convincing.