Kapanen On Waivers; ‘We Didn’t Find a Way To Maximize His Potential’
The Pittsburgh Penguins are placing inconsistent winger Kasperi Kapanen on waivers Friday afternoon, according to coach Mike Sullivan. Kapanen was held out of practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex for that reason.
Teams have until 2 p.m. Saturday to claim Kapanen, but his contract might make that unlikely. He is in the first season of a two-year deal worth $6.4 million — a contract after last season that raised some eyebrows.
If Kapanen clears, he could be sent to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. The Penguins would still have to pay his salary, but they would gain a roster spot and could have $1.125 million in salary cap relief rather than his $3.2 million hit.
The move comes a week before next Friday’s NHL trade deadline, and with the Penguins mired in a four-game losing streak — including a humbling 7-2 loss Thursday to Edmonton — that has left them on the outside looking in in the playoff race.
Per rules, Kapanen could be traded from the WBS roster to another NHL team, which then could assign him to its minor-league affiliate, which might make him more attractive.
Sullivan sounded as though, regardless of the waivers outcome, Kapanen’s days with the Penguins could be finished.
“I just think when a team doesn’t live up to expectations, as ours has as of late, I think change is inevitable, and I’m sure that’s part of it,” Sullivan said.
“Kappy is a really talented player. To a certain extent it’s on all of us because we didn’t find a way to maximize his potential. He brings a ton of speed. He has the ability to shoot the puck. He has good offensive instincts. Brings a lot of size. There’s so many attributes that Kappy brings that are really attractive. For whatever reason, we couldn’t find a way to get his potential out of him, and that falls on all of us.”
Sullivan deferred other questions about Kapanen’s situation to general manager Ron Hextall, who did not initially speak to reporters. “I’m not sure what the next steps are” if Kapanen goes unclaimed, Sullivan said.
“Without putting words into (Hextall’s) mouth, I think part of this is roster management and given (Hextall) flexibility moving forward.”
Update: Hextall spoke with reporters about 90 minutes later in a previously unscheduled press conference.
Kapanen, 26, was a Penguins first-round pick in the 2014 draft. He was traded to Toronto while still a prospect, then reacquired in 2020. He has never seemed to consistently lived up to his pedigree. This season, he has seven goals, 20 points in 43 games and has been moved around the lineup.
Meanwhile, defenseman Jan Rutta is eligible to come off LTIR, practiced in what appeared to be a full capacity and could return to the lineup Saturday when the Penguins play at St. Louis. They will have to clear some cap space for that to happen, perhaps by sending a player or two to WBS.