So far we have had two entries in our What Would You Do? series. The first looked at Josh Leivo, by myself and Ian Tulloch. Most recently, Jon Steitzer and Scott Maxwell discussed Andreas Johnsson.
Today, Jon and I are going to explain our viewpoints on Kerby Rychel. The 23-year-old joined the Leafs’ system a little over a year ago from a trade sending Scott Harrington the other way. Toronto and Columbus swapped players in essentially the same role, who played a different position. Both were fringe roster players at best, holding spots they probably weren’t ready for on the NHL roster.
Rychel has been a strong addition to Toronto’s AHL team, the Marlies, but has yet to play a game for the Maple Leafs. Is it time to move on from him, or does he deserve a chance to earn his way into the NHL roster?
Trade Him, by Jon Steitzer
The thing with Kerby Rychel is that I never really found him that good. I probably need to base this off of more than just my own personal feelings about him, but I honestly thought Scott Harrington would be more valuable to the Leafs than Rychel, albeit I don’t blame them for chasing the better upside with Rychel.
Rychel has the talent to be good at the AHL level, but his speed is going to limit him at the NHL level. That definitely gets said about too many players, and guys like Connor Brown will occasionally prove me wrong, but I’m fine with bias to guys who can’t keep up at full speed. Rychel would probably need that always fun to quantity “high hockey IQ” in order to make up the difference and at this point I’m comfortable assuming he doesn’t have that.
Odds are if Rychel wasn’t a first round pick we wouldn’t even need to have this conversation about him because he’d already be lumped into the Chris Mueller, Colin Greening pack of players, but the 23 year old is going to earn an extended look because of that.
Before the Pickard trade went down, Rychel was one of the names I was comfortable being offered up for the goaltender, and while Lindberg is absolutely an even better option for the Leafs, this is the kind of deal I’d see as optimal for the Leafs.
Rychel was acquired via a deal to let each team have a go at an older prospect, potentially they try the same thing again now, with an even lower bar on what the return is. I think we can guess how it will play out for the next player they bring as well, but why not? With Rychel still being a bit more household name-y as an older prospect there’s also potentially some hope that he’ll have value as a throw-in player in a deal somewhere down the line.
At the end of the day, Rychel is a player who was exposed in the expansion draft, went unclaimed through waivers, and is behind Kapanen, Soshnikov, Aaltonen, and Johnsson on the call-up list at this point, and this is assuming the Leafs play Leivo before those call-ups happen. He’s not really part of the future and if there is a drop of value left in him, it’s probably best for the Leafs to find it.
Sign him, by Ryan Hobart
When the Leafs initially acquired Rychel, I had much higher expectations for how he’d fit into the roster. I had figured that Day 1 of the 2016-17 season would see him on the 4th line LW, but the Leafs had other plans. Instead, they signed Matt Martin to fill that role, and appears to have a stronghold on that spot for the foreseeable future.
However, that’s still the place I would slot in Kerby Rychel, whenever the Leafs decide that the enforcer/team dad role is no longer required of Martin. Rychel plays the physical style that coaches and GMs have yet to separate from the definition of a 4th line player, and because of that, I think he’ll earn a spot there.
The good thing about Rychel is he’s not just a bruiser, he can score as well. His stats above definitely show a presence offensively that Martin isn’t capable of bringing, but the toughness and forechecking are still there.
The trade market is likely to be very similar to Richard Panik when he was on his way out of Toronto, or even Rychel himself when he was on his way into Toronto. Because of the value of contract slots, the only thing you’ll get back is another contract, and I’m doubtful that player will be nearly as talented as Rychel.
Instead, I would keep Rychel right on that 1st line of the Marlies, chomping at the ankles of Matt Martin. I have no question in my mind that Rychel is a much easier sell on Mike Babcock than Leivo or Johnsson are in that role. I could maybe see Kapanen, since he can PK, but Rychel is an option I’m sure Babcock is pleased to have in case Martin becomes injured (or if management ever decides to move him).
Obviously it’s tricky with depth forwards that have yet to make an impact on the NHL club. At 23, there isn’t much room for improvement of his abilities on the ice. The only thing holding Rychel back now is opportunity (though the same can be said of about 10 other forwards employed by the Leafs).
It becomes a question of whether the Leafs value Rychel more than whatever other contracts are being floated their way by other teams. And obviously that’s a question no one except the people on those telephone calls can answer. 2018 will be a very interesting time for the Leafs and their depth forwards, Rychel included, so for now we will have to wait and see.