Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas addressed the media on July 1 and discussed the club's trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins and other transactions. Here's what he had to say...
What made this the right combination of players in return for Kessel?
I think it was the quality of the prospects in our mind. Kapanen is a guy who was a first round pick last year — you don't get too attached to where they were picked in the draft — but he was a first round pick last year. Harrington is a player we charted, he had a real good year in the American League, his 10 games up with Pittsburgh he was really, really good by our measures in those games. We were happy to get Harrington obviously and also Kapanen, the first round pick last year. As Brendan alluded to, he was one of the youngest players in the American League, especially coming into the playoffs where he performed really well for Wilkes-Barre. We're excited about that, we're excited about the picks. This just continues that. We've got a lot of picks coming up, we'll continue to acquire more whether it's through trades or getting to the draft floor and collecting picks when teams want to move up and get more. Nick Spaling as well, we're excited to have him. He played real well at centre for Nashville, went to the wing last year in Pittsburgh, he'll come back to centre with us and fill a need for us as he goes into the final year of his contract.
Is Kapanen as quick as his dad (Sami Kapanen)?
That would be great. He's a highly skilled guy with excellent feet. He's very strong. You don't come over at — he was 18 and hasn't even turned 19 yet, he won't be 19 by the time of our development camp, so he's one of the younger players in last year's draft, period. He performed real well in his draft year, performed real well in this year in SM-liiga and was really solid for Wilkes-Barre. He's a player with a lot of potential. I see people saying he's going to come in and be our second or third best prospect. To say that relative to William Nylander and Mitch Marner, Connor Brown, that's starting to accumulate a pretty good prospect pool and it's up to us to develop these players.
How much did this deal change from where you left things at the end of the draft?
I think obviously there's a lot of game theory that gets involved. You go from it's dead and then things start to shake loose around the League and it's alive and well again and a bigger monster than it was before. Everything in this league as I've learned here almost a year in — still have a lot to learn and a long way to go — is every move in the league shakes loose something that somehow affects your team and that's what happened today.
Is Kapanen a guy you coveted in this deal?
Absolutely, if Kapanen wasn't in this deal I don't think we'd be standing here.
Was there a possibility of Kessel coming back?
I wouldn't have been surprised at all, there was no deadline. As much as people like to write about it — and I think the way the team has performed has lent itself to that way of thinking — there was never any pressure internally from Brendan to say, 'Okay, we have to make a move and all of these guys can't come back.' We obviously have a very high end coach that we've got a lot of belief in that can get the best from our players and if it was the exact same team as last year a belief that we'd be a lot better. For us where we're at right now, Phil is in his prime and the Penguins are going to get to enjoy that. Obviously we stand here today and everyone looks and sees the Penguins getting Phil, we're pretty confident in what we got back and we're excited to work with it and make use of those draft picks and get rolling. It's not as exciting for Leafs fans today as it is for Penguins fans but that's what we're here for is to try to build this into a Cup team in years.
How do you feel the management team did today?
It was a great process, it's a great group. It's a fun group with Brendan and Mark Hunter, Brandon Pridham who doesn't ever get enough accolades for the job he does, there's Reid Mitchell there, Mike Penny there, Mike Babcock with the experience. It was a lot of fun, we debated everything through and bounced everything off each other. It's a group where everyone feels comfortable enough to share their opinion and then you have Cliff (Fletcher) there with so much experience to help guide us along as well. I think it's a great group and it was an exciting day for us.
What should the rest of the core group expect between now and training camp?
I don't think they should be nervous, I think they should be ready to come into training camp and be ready to go and help our team be the best it can. I think Babs has hammered that message home with them repeatedly, Dr. Bettle has hammered that home with them repeatedly, we're going to have huge expectations on their conditioning and fitness level when they come into camp. I'm excited about the year. I'm excited about what's ahead. Adding the players we did today, even though they may not be sexy names, they're names that are effective players that are going to play the way we want to play and help us.