Alex Kerfoot had an inconsistent first year as a Toronto Maple Leaf. Even he’s not afraid to admit that.
That said, he had big shoes to fill. Being part of the Nazem Kadri trade, he was replacing someone who had become rooted in what it meant to be a Maple Leaf, but also saw his recklessness cost the team – twice. While Kerfoot wasn’t the entire return for Kadri (Barrie was the key piece to this deal), he was the defacto replacement because he was slotted right into the third line centre spot.
Aside from just the expectations, a lot went against Kerfoot this season. He could never really find his place in the lineup, and was tossed around a lot (there was only one line he spent more than 70 minutes of ice time this season, he saw a lot of different linemates). That doesn’t really help you develop chemistry with a new team when you don’t really get a chance to play with anyone consistently. Between that plus his injury and suspension near the start of the year, it makes some sense that his season didn’t go as planned.
With that, it also means that he might start to become a trading possibility for the Leafs, according to Rory Boylen of Sportsnet. He also mentions Johnsson, Kapanen, and Dermott, but those topics have been overdone.
The Nazem Kadri trade just didn’t work out for the Leafs and they’re likely to let Tyson Barrie walk to UFA. That would leave only Kerfoot behind from the trade, but even he could be a candidate to move on in the off-season. Toronto is facing a cap crunch so there are a few possibilities — and, no, we’re not including William Nylander here. Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen would join Kerfoot among the forwards, and there is some question as to whether Travis Dermott could be added on to the pile after the Mikko Lehtonen signing.
It should be noted that this is purely speculative, and not a report or factual. That said, Kerfoot hasn’t really been brought up in trade talk, so I figured it was worth bringing to the light the idea of trading him.
However, trading Kerfoot right now would probably be a mistake. Nothing that would truly hinder the team, but they’d be selling low on a player who didn’t have a lot going for him in his first season. He did pretty well in terms of his underlying numbers, sporting a 52.53% 5v5 CF% and a 52.16% 5v5 xGF%, so he did pretty good defensively considering a lot of his role was playing as a center. The fact that his goalies only stopped 89.26% of their shots when he was on the ice didn’t help the eye test, but he did good job of limiting chances and shot attempts.
There’s still potential for Kerfoot to become a solid third line centre, or even play in the top six as a winger, and he should get more than one chance to do so, especially considering everything that’s happened with this team this year.
Now, it also does make sense to deal him right now. The continuous cap crunch that plagues this team makes it impossible to hang on to everyone, and with three years left at $3.5 million after this season, he is definitely a player who makes sense to do so. On top of his contract, the Leafs also still have a surplus of forwards who can round out the bottom six making much less, so if the team wants to improve the team in other areas, he wouldn’t be the worst option to move out all things considered.
Overall, Kerfoot had an inconsistent year, but I think he deserves a second chance to at least prove himself and either become an integral part of this team, or at least raise his trade value to be worth a bit more. But, we’re also in a cap crunch, so it makes sense that any player who isn’t a part of our main core are expendable. It just wouldn’t be wise to move on from all of the assets of the Nazem Kadri this quickly.