2 Potential Trade Destinations for Penguins’ Kasperi Kapanen

The Pittsburgh Penguins have made Kasperi Kapanen a healthy scratch the past two games and the next move could be facilitating a trade. The 2022-23 season has been a struggle for the speedy winger as he’s found himself in the doghouse of head coach Mike Sullivan numerous times throughout his first 12 games and now, he’s being asked to sit in a press box and watch.

The Penguins are very likely discussing Kapanen’s availability with a number of teams, this coming mere months after signing the 26-year-old to a two-year contract extension worth $3.2 million per season. The only good thing for Penguins general manager (GM) Ron Hextall is the fact that Kapanen doesn’t hold any trade protection on his deal and can be moved at will. Let’s examine two potential trade destinations for the Penguins’ winger.

Arizona Coyotes

If there’s any team in the league open to taking on a bad contract, it’s the Arizona Coyotes. All Hextall and the Penguins need to do is sweeten the pot and include a second-or-third round pick to make it happen. Perhaps something down the road like in 2024 or 2025; the Coyotes pulled of a similar trade last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs involving Nick Ritchie.

Kasperi Kapanen Pittsburgh Penguins
Kasperi Kapanen, Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

So far in 12 games this season, Kapanen has recorded one goal and five points. This comes after back-to-back 11-goal seasons where he was given some looks within the team’s top six and power-play units. However, this season, Sullivan has finally been using Kapanen in a penalty-killing role, something he flourished at while with the Maple Leafs. Even this new role on the team isn’t enough to keep him in the Penguins’ lineup.

Related: 3 Pittsburgh Penguins Emerging as Trade Candidates

The Coyotes are a likely trade destination as they are comfortable adding some salary if it means they acquire at least one more asset in the deal. They have close to $20 million in cap space and could easily fit Kapanen on their roster. Speaking of Ritchie, perhaps a deal involving the pending free agent would interest both sides. The 6-foot-2 rugged winger plays a heavy game and can finish around the net, a couple of traits that could certainly interest Hextall and the rest of Penguins management. Ritchie makes $2.5 million against the cap, so Pittsburgh could be in a position to save money with this trade.

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Another potential Coyotes target could be former Penguin Nick Bjugstad. The 30-year-old versatile forward is also a pending free agent, making much less at only $900,000 and could appeal to the Penguins because of his penalty-killing abilities, a role, as mentioned, they were looking to have Kapanen fill this season. Bjugstad won’t provide much offensively but is capable enough to fill in should there be a short-term need due to injury. He’s best suited in a checking role and perhaps fans will see a reunion in Pittsburgh in the near future.

Vancouver Canucks

One management group who knows Kapanen very well is the Vancouver Canucks. Both Canucks President Jim Rutherford and GM Patrik Allvin were recently employees of the Penguins and are certainly familiar with the speedster’s game.

General manager Jim Rutherford Pittsburgh Penguins 2019 NHL Draft
General manager Jim Rutherford of the Pittsburgh Penguins, 2019 NHL Draft (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Canucks have struggled to start the 2022-23 season and are expected to be open to making trades. They have a dire need for a defenseman, so perhaps the Penguins could package Kapanen with a defenseman and create a bigger package for a sweeter return from the Canucks. Ty Smith or Pierre-Olivier Joseph are two defensemen the Canucks would likely want to get their hands on.

Conor Garland is a Canucks forward who is an intriguing option for the Penguins here. He’s signed long term, makes $4.95 million annually and would provide the Penguins with some secondary scoring. Garland would make the Penguins’ third line more dangerous and give the team an option for their second line moving into next season as Jason Zucker is a pending free agent and may not be back.

The Penguins will exhaust all options when it comes to next steps for Kapanen. Expect to hear some trade chatter pick up with every game he sits in the press box. The Penguins are 2-0 with Kapanen out of the lineup and at this point it doesn’t look like he’ll draw back in anytime soon. The Coyotes and Canucks are two teams Hextall should have on speed dial.