One winger that the Leafs should consider selling high on

Published January 29, 2022 at 11:19
Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas is going to have some big decisions to make leading up to this year's March 21st trade deadline. There are a number of weaknesses that will need to be addressed, some questions that need answers, and some improvements to be made if he hopes to give his team the best possible chance to get past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in his tenure with the team.

While the Leafs will almost certainly need to add to their blueline, particularly on the right side, they also have had a longstanding need to improve their forward corps, and more specifically in the top-six. We got a brief look at what spreading out the talent across 3 scoring lines could do for the team on Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks. The Leafs dominated almost every facet of the game, and the scoreboard certainly did not tell the whole story.

Bringing in one, possibly two more bodies that can play top six/middle six roles could be a game-changer for the Leafs. But there is a caveat here. If they want to do that, they may have to move one or two bodies out. I think the writing is already on the wall for big Nick Ritchie, who has seen himself healthy scratched on multiple occasions of late. Another interesting name is that of Alexander Kerfoot, who is enjoying a career season.

Now, this is not to suggest that Kerfoot is not a good player or that he does not help this team, because he certainly does. This is simply pointing out that to bring in impact players and improve the team's top six, some salary has to move out, and if Kerfoot and his $3.5M salary are shipped out, along with Ritchie and his $2.5M salary, there's $6M in savings with which to work. That could be absolutely vital to the success of the Leafs in this year's playoffs, provided that that $6M is spent wisely and on the right type of player(s).

Alexander Kerfoot has value. He is a tenacious workhorse who can play up or down the lineup. He can play wing or center. He can play on the power play or on the penalty kill. So why would the Leafs want to move out such a versatile player? Well, they may want to do so because his value on the trade market may finally be exceeding his value to the team - which is tough to do with a player like Kerfoot, who can serve so many purposes.

Kerfoot has one season remaining after this one, but next year, he'll gain the ability to submit a 10-team no trade list, so he will have some control over where he can be sent. The Leafs are not going to be able to afford to sign him after next season either. The flat cap, and several long-term commitments, plus the ones they're going to have to make to Jack Campbell, Rasmus Sandin and some of their other up-and-coming players will likely push Kerfoot out. Why not deal him while he has some term remaining, and during a year in which he is breaking out offensively?

Kerfoot had a career-high 43 points in 79 games with the Colorado Avalanche in his rookie year, back in 2017-18. He essentially matched those totals the following season, and then was subsequently dealt to the Leafs, along with teammate Tyson Barrie in the infamous Nazem Kadri trade. Since that time, Kerfoot has seen a significant drop off in offensive production. He has played anywhere from the first line to the fourth line over his first two seasons in Toronto before finally settling in with John Tavares and William Nylander this season. He currently has 27 points in 39 games, though he and Nylander have since been shifted down to the third line to play with two-way checking center David Kampf, so his production may begin to taper off. Then again, it may not.

With Kerfoot being on a 56-point pace, with a year remaining on his deal, he should be able to fetch a decent return. He could even find himself as the centerpiece in a deal for a younger piece like Travis Konecny, though the Leafs would certainly need to add a high pick and one of their better prospects to even have a shot at Konecny. Jakob Chychrun is another name that stands out, but the pieces in that deal would likely end up being something along the lines of Kerfoot, Nicholas Robertson and at least one 1st round pick, but more likely two.

At this stage of the game, the Leafs are in "win now" mode, and while it's nice to keep guys that you like and guys who have more than strength, any time you have a legitimate chance to upgrade your roster and compete for a Stanley Cup, you have to do it. In my opinion, it would be a huge miss if Dubas didn't at least consider moving out Kerfoot while he's on a high.
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