Trade: Maple Leafs send Kapanen back to Penguins in six-player deal

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Kasperi Kapanen has been traded back to the Penguins, the team that drafted him in 2014.

The Maple Leafs dealt Kapanen, Pontus Aberg and Jesperi Lindgren to Pittsburgh for a 2020 first-round pick, Evan Rodrigues, Filip Hallander, and David Warsofsky.

“Kasperi is a good, young player that brings speed to our lineup and plays the way we want to play,” said Penguins GM Jim Rutherford. “Having previously drafted him, we know him as a player and feel he can improve our top-6. Aberg and Lindgren are both young players that will further add to our organizational depth.”

Kapanen was a 2014 first-round pick by the Penguins but spent only one season in the organization before he was part of the Phil Kessel trade the following summer. He never played for Pittsburgh, but has suited up for 202 games with the Maple Leafs, scoring 41 goals and recording 90 points.

Reports stated that the Penguins were looking to cut their budget next season and this deal helps them do that. While Kapanen’s salary cap hit is $3.2 million through the end of the 2021-22 season, the actual dollars owed to him drops from $4.4M this past season to $2.86M in 2020-21, and then to $2.34M in the final season of his contract.

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If the Penguins don’t recoup a 2020 first rounder it will mean they’ve only selected in the opening round twice since 2012 — last season and 2014, when Rutherford used his first pick as the new GM on Kapanen. They’ve already given up their 2021 first rounder to the Wild as part of the Jason Zucker trade.

The deal from the Toronto perspective is all about clearing cap space. With the ceiling remaining at $81.5M next season, GM Kyle Dubas has some cutting to do. They currently have nearly $74M committed for next season, per CapFriendly, after losing Kapanen’s hit. Restricted free agents needing new deals this off-season include Travis Dermott, Ilya Mikheyev, Denis Malgin, and Frederik Gauthier. The unrestricted crop of Kyle Clifford, Jason Spezza Cody Ceci and Tyson Barrie may have to find new homes.

When Toronto dealt Patrick Marleau to Carolina during the 2019 NHL Draft, they lost their 2020 first-round pick. They get back into the opening round with this deal and now have the No. 15 pick.

MORE: NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.