NHL Rumors: Penguins place Kasperi Kapanen on waivers, what’s next?

Today’s NHL Rumors takes a look at the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are on the outside of the playoff picture. Granted, they’re just a point out of the last wild card spot in the East but have three teams tied ahead of them (Sabres, Red Wings, Panthers).

Of course, the grand prize for sneaking in will be a first-round matchup against the league-leading Boston Bruins.

That’s why many feel that regardless of what happens with the Pens, GM Ron Hextall may be out of work at season’s end.

NHL Rumors: Penguins next move?

nhl rumors ron hextall
Jul 7, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, CANADA; Pittsburgh Penguins Ron Hextall speaks before defenseman Kris Letang (not pictured) announces Owen Pickering (not pictured) as the number twenty-one overall pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, the Penguins placed forward Kasperi Kapanen on waivers. This is coming just seven months after signing him to an extension with an AAV of $3.2 million through 2023-24.

Kapanen, 26, has registered just seven goals and 20 points in 43 games to date.

“The feeling was that last year was a bit of a down year and that he would bounce back,” Hextall said Friday. “He’s still almost a half-a-point-a-game guy. I think he can be a productive player, unfortunately, it hasn’t worked here. Tough decisions have to be made along the way and that’s what this was with Kappy.”

So the question for an aging and underperforming Pens squad is how should they approach the trade deadline which comes up on March 3.

One particular insider, Elliotte Friedman believes the Penguins should start thinking about selling. In his latest 32 Thoughts blog, he suggested for Hextall to find out what the market is like for defenseman Brian Dumoulin, forward Jason Zucker, and goaltender Tristan Jarry.

That’s probably the route they should take, but how would you explain that to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang? The latter two were re-signed in summer for an attempt to make another run at a Stanley Cup.

The Penguins will face another struggling team in the St. Louis Blues on Saturday hoping that Kapanen will be claimed to clear cap space. If he’s still on the team it will make it tough for Hextall to add to the Pens hopes.

Oddly enough, one of Pittsburgh’s main targets is Blues forward Ivan Barbashev. Could he be accompanying the Penguins when this one is over? We’ll see.