The Toronto Maple Leafs have dominated headlines as the draft approaches because of their ongoing negotiations with top restricted free agent Mitch Marner, but might be making news of another kind in the coming days. Darren Dreger of TSN reports that the Maple Leafs are “bracing for activity” and will listen to trade offers for both Kasperi Kapanen and Nazem Kadri. Dreger also lists Connor Brown as a possible trade candidate.
Kapanen, 22, has already been traded once in his young career, flipped to the Maple Leafs as a key part of the Phil Kessel deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2015. Though he’d flirted with NHL playing time over the last several seasons, Kapanen broke out as a regular with the Maple Leafs in 2018-19, scoring 20 goals and 44 points in 78 games. Often strapped to Auston Matthews’ wing, Kapanen took advantage of the situation Toronto found themselves in without William Nylander to start the season and proved he could be a top-six player in the NHL even at a young age.
Scheduled to hit restricted free agency for the first time, the speedster isn’t yet eligible for salary arbitration but should still earn a healthy raise. That poses a problem for Toronto who are still waiting to see where Marner’s deal will leave them in terms of cap space for next season. With news that the cap ceiling may not be as high as originally thought, there’s good reason for the Maple Leafs to listen on potential trade offers, and Dreger notes that they are looking for a defenseman in return for the young winger. In fact, Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic tweets that Toronto recently spoke with the Carolina Hurricanes about a deal that would have seen Kapanen and Brown exchanged for Brett Pesce. LeBrun isn’t the first person to indicate that Carolina isn’t willing to move Pesce at the moment however.
Kadri meanwhile is in a different situation, as he is one of the few bargains the Maple Leafs have on the roster currently. Now a third-line center thanks to the acquisition of John Tavares, the 28-year old is a two-time 30-goal scorer and carries just a $4.5MM cap hit for three more seasons. His contract is relatively inexpensive for his skill level but after seeing his goal total drop to just 16 in 2018-19 and earning a playoff suspension for the second consecutive season, his name has been in trade rumors for weeks. Dreger notes that the Maple Leafs would want a center back in any Kadri deal.