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Molinari: It’s Time to Wave — Or Waive — Goodbye to Kapanen

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Kasperi Kapanen, Washington Capitals, nhl trade talk

Ron Hextall has made a few bold moves during his time as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Witness his decision during the past offseason to re-sign Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang to long-term contracts, even though both are in their mid-30s.

So far, though, Hextall hasn’t done anything that could be considered even remotely daring.

It’s time for that to change.

It’s time to end, or at least suspend, the Penguins’ gamble on a first-round draft choice who has tantalizing talents — and very little tangible production to show for them.

It’s time to part ways with Kasperi Kapanen.

For a while, anyway. Maybe forever.

Sure, doing that would be a tacit admission that re-signing Kapanen this summer — and giving him the same money he received on his previous deal — had been a mistake, but keeping him on the NHL roster would be a bigger one.

After a reasonably solid start to the season, Kapanen has played his way out of the lineup; he spent the Penguins’ 4-1 victory in Washington Wednesday in street clothes.

Not that he was much less visible then than he had been during the past few weeks.

After putting up one goal and four assists in the first five games — and showing some promise as a penalty-killer — this season, Kapanen had gone seven in a row without a point. And yes, “without a point” can be taken several ways.

Ideally, the Penguins would be able to trade him for a meaningful asset. Which seems about as likely as, ideally, everyone reading this getting a share of the next Powerball lottery jackpot.

Assuming Hextall would be unable to deal Kapanen — and, really, what would any competent GM be willing to give up in such an exchange? — he still would have the option of assigning him to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which would entail putting him on waivers.

Whether the greatest risk in making such a move is that another club would take Kapanen — or that none would — is open to debate.

If the Pittsburgh Penguins were to put Kapanen on waivers, here are the possible outcomes:

  1. He passes through them unclaimed, goes to Wilkes-Barre and gets his game to where it should be, and eventually rejoins the Penguins as a significant contributor.

  2. He passes through them unclaimed, goes to Wilkes-Barre and makes no meaningful progress, at which point he should begin to investigate the real estate market in northeastern Pennsylvania, because he’d likely be there for a while.

  3. Some team, which either has not scouted him for the past couple of years and/or has $3.2 million worth of salary-cap space with which to gamble, claims him, after which Kapanen begins to take his production in a positive direction or his new club begins to explore its options for how to become another of his former teams.

Even if, after going elsewhere, Kapanen would somehow begin to produce the way a player who skates well and has a good shot should — suffice to say, recording 23 goals and 44 assists over 131 games since the Penguins acquired him from Toronto doesn’t meet that standard — his departure would open $3.2 million in salary-cap space for a team that has spent most of the season within a few dollars of the cap ceiling.

No longer being handcuffed by cap considerations would allow Hextall to more fully explore moves to bolster areas of his depth chart that would benefit from an upgrade.

If the cap weren’t a consideration, maybe — maybe — the Penguins could justify keeping Kapanen around, on the off-chance that he’d become the player they’ve envisioned. But the cap is real, and so is the way Kapanen, 26, has performed for most of his time here.

The Pittsburgh Penguins liked his potential and his bloodlines — his dad, Sami Kapanen, was a capable NHLer for 13 seasons — enough that they spent a first-round draft choice (a rare and precious commodity for this franchise) on him in 2014, and only grudgingly parted with him a year later in the trade that brought Phil Kessel from Toronto

And while it took five years, Jim Rutherford, the GM who had drafted him, got Kapanen back in a seven-asset swap with the Maple Leafs in 2020. That trade cost the Penguins a first-round draft choice and Filip Hallander (who later was reacquired); suffice to say, they haven’t gotten much of a return on their investment.

Giving up on a 26-year-old who seems to have so much to offer can’t be easy, but the total of Kapanen’s game never has equaled the sum of its parts. And the Penguins have up to 3.2 million reasons to move away from him now.

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Donny D
Donny D
25 days ago

The persistent negativity about KK over the past year made me root for him even harder. On every goal and assist, I’d think “There you go, Happy.” But those moments have been few and very far between. The contract was flummoxing, but I was still cheering the first few games this season as he seemed to pick up a step and play with speed and intent. And now that’s gone again. I would imagine Hexty didn’t want to lose all that potential for nothing, but I agree with all of Dave’s points now. Too much data not to. Sending through… Read more »

charmaine dawso
charmaine dawso
25 days ago
Reply to  Donny D

like you, Donny, i was rooting for Kasperi to finally reach his “potential” and as Dave noted in this story, it has never materialized and just may never happen.

Dorothy Tecklenburg
Dorothy Tecklenburg
25 days ago
Reply to  Donny D

Totally agree. I’ve been to 4 games this year and watched him closely. The last few games I just wished he’d get off the ice. I think it’s the right move.

maybeTROLLn
maybeTROLLn
25 days ago
Reply to  Donny D

bye bye, kappy. Welcome home, Frieds.

Sean Rutter
Sean Rutter
25 days ago

I 100000% agree with this article. The third line played like a third line should last night. It is evident that he has no place on this team right now.

stan
25 days ago

I agree, Kapanen just not working here, maybe somewhere else.

Steve Hamula
Steve Hamula
25 days ago

Agree with DM’s assessment. Wasn’t a good resigning to begin with, especially not at $3.2 million, but Kapanen has continued to under produce, and his cap hit is really an albatross hindering the team’s ability to maneuver personnel. That said, waiving Kapanen would indeed be a bold move, and one I doubt GMRH is willing to take … at least at this point in the season.

Jeremy Strickler
Jeremy Strickler
25 days ago

I thought the Kapanen signing and the Desmith signing basically undid all the good of signing letang for 6 mm, rust and Rakell for 5. If I were letang I would wonder why Kappy and Desmith got the money I gave up and why Jared McCann is not on this team instead.

maybeTROLLn
maybeTROLLn
25 days ago

desmith is a solid BuG ?? yes we all miss Mccann :/

Last edited 25 days ago by maybeTROLLn
Pepper
Pepper
25 days ago

Krapanen should never have been resigned for anything more than a “prove it” league minimum contract. Hextall wasted over $3M in cap space on a proven underperformer. DeSmith, I can deal with as a backup. He’s not great but there are few great backups in the league. His ceiling is low but at least he has a floor, which can’t be said about a lot of backups. Malkin is the other rather obvious mistake imo. Too much money and too much term for what is now one of the oldest players in the league (14th oldest), declining production, frequently injured,… Read more »

Rob
Rob
24 days ago
Reply to  Pepper

The top two free agent centers available were Kadri and Trocheck. They have less points than Malkin at this point. Your Malkin hatred is baffling.

Piero
Piero
24 days ago
Reply to  Rob

And they’re both more expensive. The new 2C in msg will never be a point per game player.

Last edited 24 days ago by Piero
Rob
Rob
24 days ago
Reply to  Piero

Trocheck isn’t terrible, but he is really more of a 3c

Jeremy Strickler
Jeremy Strickler
25 days ago

Kapanen just doesn’t bring it every night. It’s like the game is a duty he grinds at but not something he loves. I don’t see joy in that blazing speed. He could hypothetically be as impactful as Hagelin was. He has the physical tools to be useful even if he doesn’t score. But he just doesn’t have the desire or the mind for it. Nice guy, tries hard. Not sure he loves the game.

Rob
Rob
25 days ago

Hagelin was a faster skater. Missed him when he left. So sad his career maybe over or is it.

Brian
Brian
25 days ago

This says it all He passes through them unclaimed, goes to Wilkes-Barre and gets his game to where it should be, and eventually rejoins the Penguins as a significant contributor His game is where it should be now, he has had a big enough sample size for anyone to see he doesn’t get it at the NHL level. Just another highly skilled player who either doesn’t care or just doesn’t have what it takes? He needs to go now, waive him and hope someone picks him up or just cut him. He has had long enough and proven what he… Read more »

Frank
Frank
25 days ago

It is ridiculous to keep waiting for Kapanen to “arrive.” Your chances are better that the Titanic will show up in NY. He is 26 years old . . . eight years removed from being drafted. He has been surrounded by no worse than good hockey teams and definitely had a list . . . a list . . . of HOF players on his left and right in two cities. He shows up half the time . . .and I am being gracious. That actually makes his salary $6.4 + not $3.2. In what parallel universe is this wait… Read more »

maybeTROLLn
maybeTROLLn
24 days ago
Reply to  Frank

Ridiculousness at it’s finest!!! especially with E-Rod clipped at a 2 million deal (for ONE YEAR). The return of nothing will now be cap space, so Hextall should count that as a “win”.

Rob
Rob
25 days ago

Maybe he can go the extra mile against his former team Toronto tomorrow. You know like the former Penguins seem to always do and haunt the Penguins when they play them like a few nights ago in Seattle..

Kris
Kris
25 days ago

Dave, might have wanted to point out that if they did waive him and no one picked him up, we would only get $1,125,000 in cap space relief, not the full $3,200,000.
I would still do it, but I think folks need to understand the waiver rules to fully appreciate why some thing are done or not done.

Marc
Marc
24 days ago
Reply to  Kris

Yep, I mean look at the 3rd line… best game in weeks w/o Kappy. The stars are aligning and the night is as clear as ever.

Pepper
Pepper
25 days ago

Getting rid of Kapanen would be a good start. But would have the same effect as GMJR moving Hagelin: none at all. The team needs a bigger shakeup than that.

Gregg Kaminski
Gregg Kaminski
25 days ago

Couldn’t have said better, Dave. Great article!

Katz is Dumb
Katz is Dumb
25 days ago

Would have been nice if they made this decision last week and had the cap space to claim Aube-Kubel off waivers.

Chris
Chris
24 days ago

I didnt read the article because in 3 “full” seasons as a Leaf he scored at a .48 PPG clip and as a Penguin he has scored .51 PPG

Tired of useless analysis like this based on….what? Because you thought he was a PPG player? He never was. Hes always been a useful 2nd/3rd liner who can kill penalties and contribute half a point per game. Hasn’t changed at all.

maybeTROLLn
maybeTROLLn
24 days ago
Reply to  Chris

‘ DiDn’t ReaD tHe ArTicLE ‘…. get off PHN then ya bozo.

Chad
Chad
23 days ago
Reply to  Chris

Kapanen is that you?

Marc Badger
Marc Badger
22 days ago
Reply to  Chad

ah, chrisperi capanen

Cal
Cal
24 days ago

Man am I disappointed with Kapanen. His skill set doesn’t match his production. His signing looks terrible at the moment. Don’t blame Kap for taking the money, that’s on Hex.

Uros
Uros
24 days ago

I’m not on the waive train for Kap, but something needs to be done that isn’t clenching the buttocks and hoping for the best. I don’t know the math to activate Blueger, but it must be complex.

Greg
Greg
24 days ago

Skill was above average player. Why he is not is a mystery.

Ethan
24 days ago

If I was (spoiler alert I’m not) another GM with cap space (guessing Coyote-like) and can get him for a low pick or pluck off waivers I do it. It is possible he could flourish in another system or low pressure atmosphere. He doesn’t seem to get injured–knock on wooden teeth–and might help in a variety of areas. But he also doesn’t seem to have a knack for putting himself in the juicy areas, so I keep working with him everyday to lower the shoulder and drive the net–over and over. Make him run around the arena whenever he pulls… Read more »

Michael Hanczar
Michael Hanczar
24 days ago

Can the GM, who signed him to this stupid contract, be put on waiver also?

Pete
Pete
24 days ago

Horrible signing.
Erod has 4 G and 2 A.
Just saying!

Chris
Chris
24 days ago
Reply to  Pete

Same point total as Kapanen

Glenn
Glenn
24 days ago

Has he been waived yet? Please say it’s so.

Alan Smith
24 days ago

Trade him for a goon! Pens showed they have no defender for the troops last night! Only going to get worse as the season progresses! One dirty shot deserves another!

Wasnt
24 days ago

Rumor has it that the reason Blueger isn’t playing and Kap is a healthy scratch is that Blueger and Kapanen are being considered as a package deal trade.

Russ
Russ
24 days ago
Reply to  Wasnt

No way

maybeTROLLn
maybeTROLLn
24 days ago
Reply to  Russ

rumor has it

Rich
Rich
24 days ago

He was one of those guys that always flashes a ton of talent, and from time you would see results. The issue with guys like kap- either he doesnt have the necessary work ethic outside the rink or isnt able to translate that work into success on the ice OR he just doesnt have the hockey mindset to grow his talent into the results that the talent teases. The contract was error on the GM, cant blame the player.

Vince Gori
Vince Gori
24 days ago

Probably time to move on from him, but what benefit is there? In a Cap world there is no reward for waiving an underperforming player, much less burying him in the minors. This team needs cap space so if a perfect storm happens and multiple players are knocked out of the lineup we can replace them. Hextall definately overpaid for him in the off-season. They weren’t knocking down the doors to get him. He could have been cheaper. If they truly want to move him out they will need to package him with someone they may not want to lose.… Read more »

Tom
Tom
23 days ago

Kappy was one of better players during the start of season. He was making plays and was one the assist leaders. During the losing streak there were planet of blame to go around. Defense wasn’t good. Dumo was. Not skating ok was bad. I think he gets. Too much grief. I root for the kid. Keep him injuries happen and he can be a good replacement