Fit for Ottawa:
Kasperi Kapanen would finally get the recognition he deserves as a top 6 player in the league. Speed and skill are kapanen’s game and he always stands out when taking in a Leafs game. The Senators certainly have holes to fill on their wings, Kapanen plays a similar style to the electric, Anthony Duclair. I think in an increased role, much like his former teammate Connor Brown, Kapanen would thrive in Ottawa. Kapanen fell just short of his PPG totals (0.52 19-20) from a season ago (0.56 18-19) putting up 36 points in 69 GP this season but it should be notated that his ice time dipped almost a full minute from last season (16:37 18-19 15:47 19-20).
Again, I think it’s a no brainer that he’d get a large jump in ice time under DJ Smith as well as a large role on the PP. Perhaps he and Duclair could be line mates for incredible speed from the wings. I also like Kapanen’s physicality and ability to fight for pucks. I think this quality is lacking on The Leafs roster and has really prevented them from going places. In Ottawa however, The Sens are all attuned to playing with that same mindset under DJ Smith and Kapanen would fit right into the mold.
Why trade him?
Honestly it wouldn’t surprise me if Kapanen wanted to play in a quieter market. He took a lot of heat from the media this season as Toronto media continues to ridicule players under the largest microscope in the league. As the team struggled to find their identity, despite having a championship caliber roster on paper, Kapanen became a media whipping boy. I thought his days in Toronto were numbered midway through this past campaign and again with the pandemic it’s now certain that The Leafs will have to shed some salary.
Certainly, they’ll try to protect their big six in Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, John Tavares, Morgan Reilly and Frederick Andersen. Outside of those guys, Leafs brass Kyle Dubas and Brendan Shanahan will have to be one of the most creative teams when they prepare to get under the cap next season.
Obviously, no one was preparing for a global pandemic and the economic fallout from that but the Leafs really handcuffed themselves in terms of adding much, if any quality around their core players. In fact, they may be forced to try to move on from one of their core players to round out a competitive roster. Guys like Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen did an excellent job in lesser roles on the Leafs this season however, before considering reshaping their core, surely, they’ll look to move on from these guys first.
I think Formenton fits the mold here in terms of what The Leafs will have to do moving forward if they want to keep their core intact. Formenton essentially can step right into the NHL next season after a fantastic rookie year in Belleville of The American league (53 points in 61 GP, including 27 G). For the Leafs, he brings a very similar skillset to what Kapanen can provide but he’d be on a fresh ELC for the next 3 years at league minimum. Formenton is the younger player, just 20 years of age and could very well turn out to be a better all-round player than Kapanen. For Ottawa, you’re getting a young, established player and basically a mold of what you want Alex Formenton to become but it’s been tried and tested at The NHL level. As we know from the past (Curtis Lazar), no prospect is a sure thing.
To conclude, I think the salary cap situation could place The Sens in a very favorable position heading into the upcoming off-season. If there’s an opportunity to increase the pace of the rebuild by adding a young player to your core as opposed to a placeholder veteran and the price is right, there should be nothing stopping Pierre Dorion from pulling the trigger. Unless of course his boss holds firm on not spending money until the following season. If that’s the case, I’ve wasted my time writing this and The Senators will surely miss out on a once in a rebuild opportunity to add pieces that would otherwise be unavailable.