The Pittsburgh Penguins are not in need of a defender that badly, and Kasperi Kapanen is just what they needed.
There were two things rattling around in my head on Sunday when it came to how to fill this space, and instead of picking just one I am going to roll with both of them here briefly.
Let’s start with the big story sweeping across the NHL right now, which of course is the Tony DeAngelo saga with with the New York Rangers.
These are the facts:
The Penguins are dealing with several long-term injuries on defense and obviously have a need for somebody.
Tony DeAngelo is a flawed, but still pretty good player that is available for nothing on waivers. A player that under normal circumstances would never be available for nothing on waivers.
When you put those two things together it create a natural question: Should the Penguins put a claim in?
The answer to that question is very simple. Remarkably simple. Insanely simple. So simple that it probably does not even need to be answered. Am going to answer it for you anyway.
The key phrase above there is “normal circumstances.” The fact that DeAngelo is even available right now is all the proof you need that these are not normal circumstances, and THAT there is simply no place in your organization for that player. In fact, when you see a 53-point defender (that received a handful of Norris Trophy votes!) from a team that is also desperate for good defensemen on waivers just six games into the season that should be a pretty good red flag that you do not want to get involved in that situation with that particular player.
DeAngelo’s entire career can be summed up as a series of red flags. The racial slur in junior hockey. The fact he has worn out his welcome in three different organizations by age 25. The abuse of an official suspension. The reported altercation with a teammate in New York on Saturday night. The fact he seems to be uncontrollable on and off the ice. There is just nothing positive that seems to come with it, and that is before you even get into the financials and the fact there is no way they should (or even could) take on that contract.
The Penguins might need a defenseman right now.
They do not need a defenseman so desperately that they should spend even one millisecond discussing the merits of potentially adding Tony DeAngelo to their organization.
Kasperi Kapanen is changing games
Now we need to talk about something positive and actually meaningful to the 2020-21 Pittsburgh Penguins (and beyond). That, of course, is Kasperi Kapanen.
What a breath of fresh air he has been on the ice this season and to this roster.
Jim Rutherford made a lot of questionable moves over the past three years that almost certainly did more harm than good to the roster, but this is looking like a pretty significant deal on the positive end of the transaction spectrum.
If nothing else, it is a great first impression.
The thing that stands out to be me about Kapanen is just how FAST he is. Every time he is on the ice and in the vicinity of the puck he is a bolt of lightning across the screen causing havoc for opposing defenses. Since joining the lineup he has probably been the biggest positive among the team’s forwards (and the second biggest positive after the emergence of Pierre-Olivier Joseph on defense) and a constant game-changer.
He only has two goals, but they have been significant at big moments.
His passing has been superb.
He always seems to be at the center of a scoring chance.
While I agreed with the mindset that the Penguins did pay a steep price, and thought those assets could have been used in a different area, I was always under the assumption that Kapanen was a good player that was going to help the team and provide a lot of traits that they were lacking. Youth. Speed. Skill. He has done all of that and then some in his first two weeks with the team.
In the end I am not sure which line he ultimately sticks on, but he is going to make an impact on any of them.