PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — The Penguins are making some waves at the first round of the NHL Draft in Philadelphia tonight.
They have traded forward James Neal to the Nashville Predators.
According to the team, they have acquired Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling in the deal.
Neal, 26, had 27 goals and 34 assists in 59 games for the Penguins this season. He has 161 career goals and 154 assists in 413 career regular-season games.
Hornqvist, 27, had 22 goals and 31 assists in 76 games this season. He has 106 goals and 110 assists in 363 career regular-season games.
“In this deal, we got to drop our cap a little bit with Hornqvist,” Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said. “We like Hornqvist as an all-around player. Hornqvist plays at the net, goes to the net, works the corners. We like his all-around play.”
Spaling, 25, had 13 goals and 19 assists in 71 games for Nashville this season.
“We like Spalding, he can play all three positions on the third line,” Rutherford said. “I think we were just trying to change the mix of our team a little bit and get a little different type player.”
The Pittsburgh Penguins took a step to address their forward prospect depth in the first round of the NHL Draft, too.
With the 22nd overall pick, the Penguins selected Kasperi Kapanen of Kalpa in Finland’s SM Liga.
The 5-foot-11-inch winger is the son of former NHLer Sami Kapanen. One interesting note is that Rutherford selected the elder Kapanen with the 87th overall pick in the 1995 NHL Draft when he was the general manager of the Hartford Whalers.
According to the Penguins’ official site, Kasperi Kapanen was the No. 1-rated European skater by NHL Central Registry.
This past season, he recorded seven goals and seven assists in 47 games with Kalpa.
He also represented Finland at several junior tournaments and scored the game-winning goal in the 2013 World Under-18 Championships bronze medal game.
The draft has become a big event on the league’s calendar, but it’s becoming even more important in recent years with an increase in blockbuster trades.
That is the case again this weekend after the salary cap for this year was set at $69 million. Teams like the Penguins have some maneuvering to do if they want to create space for re-tooling their rosters.
With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin’s salaries untouchable, the attention was squarely on the future of Neal.
He’s been very productive as Malkin’s linemate, but Neal’s salary takes up $5 million in cap space and his production in the playoffs and lack of composure at times has been disappointing.
But that’s not stopping Jim Rutherford’s phone from ringing. There were multiple reports leading up to the trade that interest in Neal was high.
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