On Tuesday, the National Hockey League saw something occur that hasn’t happened since February 24, 2020: a trade. Yes, that’s right. It had been 183 days since the NHL’s trade deadline, to which teams are jettisoned from making roster moves amongst themselves. The span of 183 days without movement is the longest period of time since the NHL work stoppage in 2005.
In late May, league commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the NHL would be concluding the regular season and returning to play in going ahead with a postseason in a 24-team format. That announcement also served as a note to general managers league-wide that trading was open amongst the seven teams that did not qualify for the Qualifying Round of the 2020 postseason.
Despite informally being open for months, the first deal of the ‘trading period’ saw the Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins (two teams that had been eliminate in their best-of-five, play-in series) combine for a seven-piece, six-player swap. Officially, forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Pontus Aberg, alongside defenceman Jesper Lindgren were sent to Pittsburgh in exchange for the Penguins’ 2020 first round draft pick (15th overall), forwards Evan Rodrigues and Filip Hallander, as well as defenceman David Warsofsky.
Serving as ‘cap dump’ for the Leafs, Toronto shed the two upcoming years of Kapanen’s combined $6.4 million owed in contract money, while collecting a first round selection and some future roster players in sending the 24-year-old forward back to the Penguins. Kapanen – a former 22nd overall selection of Pittsburgh in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft – was dealt to Toronto as a part of the return for Phil Kessel on July 1, 2015.
In 69 games for the Leafs, Kapanen had 13 goals, 36 points and 22 penalty minutes in 2019-20, following a 2018-19 campaign that saw the speedster land alongside John Tavares and Mitch Marner on the team’s top line, where he put up 20 goals and 44 points in 78 games. His 202 NHL game career has seen 41 goals, 90 points and 55 penalty minutes, while adding four goals, seven points and 16 penalty minutes in 25 playoff contests – all with Toronto.
With the NHL’s free agent signing period not set to open until the completion of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in very early October, one would expect fellow teams eliminated from the postseason who are sitting on players or are in similar cap crunch situations as of that of the Maple Leafs to follow suit in striking up conversation surrounding offseason deals.
Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff also is one with lots of work to be done, as eight regulars from the 2019-20 season have contracts set to expire following the conclusion of the extended season. Trades very well may be in the near future for the Chevy and Co.