What Should the Penguins Do with Kasperi Kapanen?

Kasperi Kapanen, Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Kasperi Kapanen, Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

It has not been a great season for Kasperi Kapanen.

As the NHL Trade Deadline approaches, one decision that the Pittsburgh Penguins will have to make is whether or not to trade the struggling forward.

Kapanen, who was originally drafted by the Penguins back in 2014, is in the second season of his second stint with the Penguins organization. He had been shipped to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2015 as part of the trade that brought Phil Kessel to the Steel City before being re-acquired in 2020.

On the season, the 25-year-old forward has 26 points (nine goals and 17 assists) in 56 games. He had a better season last year when he recorded 30 points in only 40 games, but he has been unable to find that type of output in this campaign.

The most glaring slump for Kapanen was his 13-game pointless streak that began on January 25 and ended on February 27 when he tallied an assist. The former first-round draft pick has felt invisible at times this year, even in a season where injuries have thrust players into larger roles.

As a result, the Penguins must determine whether or not he is worth keeping around. It is not an easy decision, as a case could be made in favor of keeping him or in favor of letting him go.

Should the Penguins trade Kasperi Kapanen?

On one hand, he really hasn’t been impactful for the Pens. He is seventh on the team in points, but the expectation would be that he contributes more than 0.46 points per game.

In addition, he does not have an overly impressive history in the playoffs. In 31 games, he has scored 10 points to go with a minus-11 rating, including three points and a minus-three in last season’s first-round exit.

The other point against keeping him is that he hasn’t found his connection with Evgeni Malkin. The two found some chemistry last season, so when Geno came back, I thought it would benefit Kapanen.

Instead, Malkin has been fantastic while Kapanen has been unable to find the scoresheet with any consistency. It would be one thing if Geno’s return simply didn’t help number 42, but it’s another thing when one is thriving while the other is getting lost in the shuffle.

On the other hand, Kapanen is at the perfect age to be a key part of the Penguins after Malkin, Sidney Crosby, and Kris Letang are gone. Pittsburgh doesn’t exactly have a plethora of players in that category, so the idea of trading one away, especially one that was drafted in the first round, is anything but ideal.

Further, one has to wonder what the Penguins could actually get in return for him. Pittsburgh certainly wouldn’t want to see him go for next to nothing, but I can’t imagine that there are many teams lining up to grab Kapanen, especially not teams that are trying to win the Stanley Cup this season.

I genuinely do not know what would be more beneficial for the Pens. Perhaps simply freeing some cap space would be enough of a positive for Pittsburgh to go ahead and move Kapanen.

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I won’t be overly excited or disappointed either way, but it’s a situation that I am anxious to see unfold in the coming weeks.