The return on the Phil Kessel trade today made it pretty clear Leafs management felt Kessel returning to Toronto in the Fall was simply not an option.
At least in these parts, the return value for the Leafs‘ best asset will be panned as underwhelming. It’s always hard to fetch fair value for an elite player — who are generally only dealt when they absolutely have to be — but the Leafs didn’t get a high-end defence or center prospect, got a (likely to be) late first round pick, gave up a second round pick, and retained salary. There’s been so much talk about how a team can’t build a team around an elite scoring winger like Kessel as a centerpiece, only for the Leafs to not receive a high end C or D prospect/young roster player in return for him.
Anyway, Leafs management decided to pull the trigger, putting a rubber stamp on the rebuild by loading up on more prospects & picks and opening up $6.75 million in cap space by offloading 85% of Kessel’s contract for the next seven years.
It’s a convoluted nine-piece deal, so here are the final details.
Kasperi Kapanen: An 18 year old right-handed winger and the best piece in the deal from the Leafs perspective (the 1st will be late to very late, Harrington is a grade below in pedigree). He was a 22nd overall pick last June, and played the last three seasons in the SM Liga. One of the youngest 2014 draftees, Kapanen is still 18 for another 22 days. He didn’t take a big leap forward in his +1 season over in Finland after nearly making the Penguins at their 2014 camp, and struggled in the World Junior Championships with just one point in five games, but he came over to Wilkes Barre at the end of the Finnish season this Spring and put up three goals and five points in seven AHL playoff games. He’s been playing against men for a while, has upside, and could be a factor at Leafs camp this Fall, but the Leafs will be patient with his development and he’s eligible to play in the AHL at 19. He’ll need to keep adding strength and work on his two-way game.
Kaspari Kapanen Scouting Report
The son of former NHL’er Sami Kapanen, Kasperi returned for a second consecutive season in the Liiga having an opportunity this year to skate along side his father .. showed little difficulty adjusting due to his compact, explosive skating ability that allowed him to intimidate defenders with speed .. possesses a steady cadence to his stride pattern which he can quicken and shorten to suit the purpose .. ‘lurk in the weeds’ type of player once he has gained the zone – sets up well as a shooter with a wicked release on his snapshot and wrist shot, maintaining a strong center of balance while shooting .. tends to keep plays to the outside on account of his physical frame, easily over powered and man handled – he relies more on his finesse and 1 on 1 offensive skills .. shows enthusiasm to finish hits and play physical only in the offensive zone while his efforts wane on the back check .. can be selfish and individualistic when playing with his peer group as was the case at the 2014 World U18 Championships .. after winning a bronze medal at the tournament last year where he finished second in tournament goal scoring (7-5-3-8) Kapanen appeared overwhelmed and fatigued in a 10-0 QF thrashing by Sweden.
Scott Harrington: Concerning his place in the deal, there will be some discussion about what Harrington is not (Derrick Pouliot or Olli Maatta). Harrington, a leftie, is a mid-level 22-year-old prospect and former mid-second round draft choice in 2011 who Mark Hunter will be very familiar with from his time with the London Knights. Not a high end skater, he’s considered more of a steady, physical, shutdown defenceman in terms of skillset. Harrington appeared in ten games for the Penguins last season and 48 for Wilkes Barre, posting 12 points in 48 games and a +19 rating. He’ll compete for a spot at camp on the left side, with lots of competition; Babcock, based on his track record in Detroit, doesn’t worry so much about handedness on defence, so if he can play the right it helps his chances. Again, the Leafs will be patient, and will be fine with giving him more time in the AHL with the Marlies.
Scott Harrington Scouting Report
Rugged, defense-minded rearguard plays a steady, low-frills game… adequate puckhandler – misses elusive hands and fine in-close control… keeps game simple though – making smart puckmoving decisions… okay skater – has plow like quality… first step is sluggish – gradually accelarates via a wide, languid stride… lacks quickness especially in transitions and while moving laterally… top speed is adequate though… compensates with his strength and physical compete level… persistent, hard to play against… strives to close gaps, aided by improving stickwork… biggest improvement last season was his consistency of effort defensively… learning to keepy his feet activated and stay involved… brave and competent shotblocker.. plays disciplined positional game – stays patient 1-on1 for the most part – though can get pulled away at times… evolving into a solid prospect.
1st-round pick: Conditional on the Penguins making the playoffs in 2016. It’s lottery protected, so if the Penguins miss the playoffs, it is pushed back to 2017. Full details:
3rd-round pick: This is the Devils’ 2016 third round pick. A mystery box, obviously. The Leafs are up to two firsts, a second, two thirds, one fourth, two fifths, one sixth and one seventh in 2016 (11 picks total).
Nick Spaling: Can play center. A cap dump for Pittsburgh who will be able to play on the Leafs’ lower roster and chip in some points. He has one year left on his $2.2 million contract. Still reasonably young at 26 and has chipped in 25-30 points the past two seasons for Nashville and Pittsburgh.
Phil Kessel: Top-10 scorer over the past 5 seasons; turning 28 and coming off his worst season since his rookie year — by far. A special player and a sell low.
2nd round draft pick: Reacquiring their own pick in 2016 the Leafs had previously acquired in the Daniel Winnik trade at the 2015 deadline, but it is tied to the condition on the Penguins’ first round pick in the deal. See above.
Tyler Biggs: Even though he’s a former first round pick and still only 22, at this point it is a simple Standard Player Contract dump for the Leafs. Biggs split time with the Marlies and Orlando of the ECHL this past season and hasn’t been able to produce at the pro level, so there is no indication of an NHL future.
Tim Erixon: Basically another SPC dump, although he could’ve played a role as a depth defenceman this season. The Leafs just added Matt Hunwick and Martin Marincin on the left side, so he was an expendable bit piece.