Connect with us

Penguins

Molinari: Penguins Gambling Kapanen Can Become … Kapanen

Published

on

Pittsburgh Penguins, Kasperi Kapanen

A job that had the potential to be the worst in all of hockey — preparing Kasperi Kapanen’s case for his salary-arbitration hearing with the Pittsburgh Penguins — became unnecessary Thursday.

That hearing, which had been scheduled for July 30, was rendered moot when Kapanen and the team agreed to a two-year deal that carries a salary-cap hit of $3.2 million, the same as the contract that recently expired.

And while it’s rare for a relatively prominent player who’s approaching the prime of his career to accept a contract that doesn’t include a pay increase, Kapanen should feel fortunate to break even on this one.

Considering how he produced — or, more to the point, didn’t produce — in 2021-22, he probably should send his agent, Markus Lehto, a thank-you note for squeezing so much out of Ron Hextall, who had proven to be rather frugal in other negotiations (in the context of the bloated deals that are the norm in pro sports, of course).

Frankly, after watching Kapanen — who was projected as a top-six winger and was viewed, by many, as a potential 30-goal man — put up just 11 goals and 21 assists in 79 games last season, the safest move for Hextall would have to let Kapanen search for a paycheck elsewhere.

To simply decline to extend a qualifying offer to him, allowing Kapanen to become an unrestricted free agent and moving on from what Hextall could reasonably have depicted as a misguided acquisition by his predecessor, Jim Rutherford.

To take the money the Penguins saved by cutting ties with Kapanen and put it toward new deals with some of their other players who needed a contract — Danton Heinen, anyone? — or to snag someone on the free-agent market. It’s safe to assume that, oh, picking up a rugged winger for the fourth line would have been well-received by most of the fan base.

But Hextall, whose work this offseason has purged any doubts about his willingness to make bold moves, instead opted to take another risk: That Kapanen can — and will — become the player the Pittsburgh Penguins believed he could be when they selected him in Round 1 of the 2014 NHL Draft, and who Rutherford felt could be a difference-maker when he brought him back from Toronto two summers ago.

Hextall has seen that Kapanen is an excellent skater who can detect — and exploit — holes in an opposing defense, and that he has a hair-trigger release on what can be a lethal shot.

Of course, he also has witnessed Kapanen disappear for such extended periods that there were suspicions he had swapped his No. 42 sweater for an invisibility cloak.

Hextall obviously is willing to gamble that Kapanen still can become a valuable piece of the Penguins’ personnel puzzle, that he can team up with Jeff Carter to make the third line a consistently productive unit.

And perhaps Hextall has had an even more radical vision — the product of a fever dream, perhaps? — that, say, Kapanen will be so productive that the Penguins would be able to move him up to the No. 2 line, bump Rickard Rakell from right wing to left on that unit and trade Jason Zucker to open some salary-cap space.

That’s not necessarily a crisis at the moment — shedding the $1.3 million or so they are above the cap ceiling now shouldn’t be too difficult to remedy — but there’s nothing wrong with having a little cap space to spare.

Expecting Kapanen to perform at the level that would make any of that realistic probably isn’t wise, and there’s no indication the Pittsburgh Penguins will count on Kapanen to give them any more than a reasonable return on the latest investment they’ve made in him.

Even that would be a most welcome change.

Especially for whoever has to prepare Kapanen’s case for his next arbitration hearing.

Subscribe to PHN+
25 Comments
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
25 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dean
Dean
23 days ago

Kapanen is feeling like Jarry last year. Everyone is negative.

Last year Hextall, the coaches, and players were supportive of Jarry. They were correct.

Here is hoping they are 2 for 2.

Dean
Dean
23 days ago

The cap space is not an issue. They can send 2 people down to the WBS, and they are fine. Smith and Poehling do not have to clear waivers. I also doubt that Zucker will make it out of camp, and he will spend 80%+ of the year on LTIR. He ended the year with most likely a level 2 core muscle injury and, to this point has not gotten surgery. The quick stopping and starting required in hockey will aggravate it from day 1. The real questions are: Can the Pens move Petterson and trade for a top-six winger?… Read more »

Richard Schock
Richard Schock
23 days ago

Sign Phil as a mentor. Kap scores 30 goals a year, stays injury free and the casino folks are happy.

Cal
Cal
23 days ago

A bit of surprise at the Kap hit but if this kid gets it together all will be forgotten.

Ethan
23 days ago

Dave. Curious if Sid could restructure his contract to be at 6.6 mill a year. Not saying he would just curious if he could. Have the 3 amigos all in the 6s and free up a lil cash for some added muscle come elbow season.

Steve Trope
Steve Trope
23 days ago
Reply to  Ethan

This isn’t the NFL, that doesn’t happen.

Ethan
23 days ago
Reply to  Dave Molinari

Thanks for the responses.

Ujn Hunter
23 days ago

He won’t ever have a next arbitration hearing, he’ll either re-sign with the Penguins at the end/before his contract is up or be a UFA.

DaGama
DaGama
23 days ago

I partially blame Sully’s he has the “potential to be an elite player” comment on back firing, turning Kappy into Krappy. The coach needs to try something different if 42 remains a Pen.

William Maloni
William Maloni
23 days ago

OK with this, but would like one fourth-liner who is a “Thumper.”

Paul
Paul
23 days ago

Debate Hextall’s moves, but not his brains.

Don
Don
23 days ago

Does this make it harder or easier to trade him?How about Jesse P for Cap?

Pete
Pete
22 days ago

Hey Dave, ERod can play center or wing, PP or PK. He can fill in if a center gets hurt and he scored 8 more goals than KK. Can someone at PHN ask GM a direct question: Why KK over ERod? A big gamble indeed!

Pepper
Pepper
22 days ago
Reply to  Dave Molinari

Something tells me Kapanen would have been in the same spot as Rodrigues if the Pens hadn’t signed him. Possibly longer than ER. Teams probably waiting on bigger names to sign before giving ER a look. I don’t think anyone would have signed Kapanen until he got a “prove it” deal at the last minute. He’s just shown nothing at the NHL level for two different teams, surrounded by good players at both stops.

Pete
Pete
22 days ago
Reply to  Dave Molinari

Thanks Dave. I really pull for KK but I am tired of hearing about his “higher ceiling”.
Lets hope he actually shows it next year. I think we will miss ERod when Cartsy goes down.

HarkeyPuck
HarkeyPuck
22 days ago
Reply to  Pete

Poehling would come up and play 4th line C and Teddy B will play 3rd

Dean
Dean
22 days ago
Reply to  Pete

Pete, someone posted this analysis in another forum. Erod – 124 Games: 27G, 31A, 58 Pts, even, 42 Blk, 114 Hits, 57.7% Corsi Kapanen – 119 Games: 22G, 40 A, 62 Pts, +17, 27 Blk, 151 Hits, 54.6% Corsi Heinen – 76 Games: 18G, 15A, 33 Pts, +6, 33 Blk, 66 Hits, 56.2% Corsi 3 nearly identical stat lines and GMRH picks the guy who showed the least energy and effort to be rewarded with an overpayment, while letting the other 2 walk when they likely could have and will be signed elsewhere for less. I hope he’s got a… Read more »

Pete
Pete
22 days ago
Reply to  Dean

I appreciate the input. Since you asked, I would have picked ERod. I bet he has more production than KK next year also. We shall see.

Travis
Travis
22 days ago

Hexall in my opinion has made several mistakes , handing out 6 year contracts to several players , caved in to Malkin for four years. Spent 3.2 million on ratta ,wasted 3.2 on kappy, let Rodriguez and hienen go. So now we have 9 defensemen, he didn’t get enough for Marino in my opinion, and ty young is a maybe at best so is poelhing. When you give away a top four of defender in his prime for 34 year old petry you best be getting more then maybes. My question is what is burke doing letting all this happen.

Vince Gori
Vince Gori
22 days ago

Not old on this decision. If he stays I would try him on the PK, couldn’t hurt.

Crazyhorse87
Crazyhorse87
22 days ago

Kapanen needs to turn his hockey stick into a magic wand.

Robert Savage
22 days ago

Still will have a goaltender problem, no playoffs or yet another first round exit, very sad, love penguins but cannot keep up with other playoff teams

Join PHN Extra!

Join PHN+ today for exclusive content from Dan, Dave and Shelly plus a completely Google ad-free experience.

PHN+

Or enter your email below to sign-up for our mailing list.

Thank you!

Something went wrong.

No thanks. I don't want.