Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
David Kampf’s PDO with Ryan Reaves is .750 and other signs that duo doesn’t work
By Jon Steitzer3 months ago
There is a finite amount of time in a season that should be spent discussing the fourth line. Given that the Leafs are in the midst of a five day break between playing hockey it seems like a worthwhile time to bring it up and honestly, as inconsequential as 4th lines can be in hockey, the Leafs fourth line has come with a huge impact. For the most part the impact has been negative, but in the game against the Canucks, Noah Gregor’s two goal night hammered home the fact that in the right situation the 4th line can provide positive experiences for the Leafs as well.
As mentioned above, the last game went a lot better for the Leafs fourth line and the notable change was scratching Ryan Reaves in favour of Bobby McMann. McMann had two assists in the game. Ryan Reaves is yet to be on the ice for a Leafs regular season goal during his time on the team. That is certainly a notable problem.
The second challenge on the fourth line stems from their centre, David Kampf. It’s not so much that David Kampf is a problem as a 4th line centre, David Kampf is a problem as a third line centre. He’s an expensive option as a fourth line centre and comes with the reality that most fourth line players come with: he’s not likely to make anyone better, he’s not talented enough (comparatively around the NHL) to handle dead weight on his line, and that if he can’t figure things out, he too is highly replaceable.
David Kampf is very much the Czech Jay McClement. There are rare moments that you can point to where skill was briefly on display before completely evapourating, he’s a fourth liner that coaches (and GMs) want to believe can do more and giving him anything but one year contracts seem completely unnecessary.
Kampf had a very nice 2021-22 season in Toronto that began with the instant chemistry of playing with his friend, Ondrej Kase, but also benefited from the play of Ilya Mikheyev, Pierre Engvall, and Alex Kerfoot all helping take the line in a shot suppressing direction. As these players have been disappearing from the Maple Leafs roster the fit for Kampf on the roster has become somewhat non-existent and instead, he is a $2.4M AAV centre for the next four years when Pontus Holmberg is waiting for the chance to do the job at one third of the price.
Kampf and Reaves together are a $3.75M AAV multi-year commitment to a fourth line that doesn’t work and while it is still early in the season and they’ve got three years under contract together with the Leafs to figure it out, there are some truly historic numbers that point to Brad Treliving needing to find a way to move on from Reaves and possibly Kampf as well.
When looking at the Kampf and Reaves duo together here are some of truly shocking numbers we’ve seen in their 47 minutes on the ice together:
So, how do the Leafs fix it? It would be nice if we were legitimately asking that question at this point. The question is likely more around whether or not the Leafs actually want to fix it?
When it comes to David Kampf, Brad Treliving made a four year commitment at way too much money for someone who is essentially a 3rd/4th line tweener and solid penalty killer (assuming you ignore the success rate of the Leafs penalty kill this season.) Kampf is very much someone that Sheldon Keefe has a lot of comfort leaning on and is a player that when you surround him with speedy puck possessors, he can be the ideal pivot for a shot suppression line that probably can’t be used as a shutdown unit against a top line but can make life incredibly difficult for the middle six of the opposition. You can salvage David Kampf if you go out of your way to find the fit for him. Given that the Leafs want to be a tougher team to play against and that’s not a typical David Kampf bottom six line, is there an appetite to accommodate him when Pontus Holmberg and Dylan Gambrell offer heavily discounted alternatives? How important is his status as a penalty killer to the Leafs?
The Reaves situation is in some ways more transparent. He’s simply not doing what the Leafs need him to do and the Leafs can’t afford to spend $1.35M AAV for the next three years for someone to hang out in the locker room and send out good vibes. The Leafs can’t use a five minute a night player and even if two goals weren’t being scored during those five minutes it would be a tough to swallow pill. When you look at what Marlies replacements provide for $600k less, it is incredibly hard to justify allowing Ryan Reaves to block Bobby McMann, Pontus Holmberg, Alex Steeves, Nick Robertson, etc. from being in the lineup. When you talk about good locker room situations, I can’t imagine it’s good vibes when players are watching a young player pack up their gear to return to the AHL after helping the team in order to justify an aging veteran playing out their contract.
Moving on from either Kampf or Reaves isn’t as easy as it is to say they are underperforming. There might be some interest in Kampf, you can certainly look to a former in GM in Pittsburgh with a history of acquiring players that worked out for him in the past and connect some dots there, but with the awareness that likely comes the challenge of then trying to move the Jeff Carter contract.
Reaves is far less easy to move despite the lower cost because at the end of the day no one is likely to want to have Reaves actually play. The good news when it comes to Reaves is that despite him being 35+ at the time of his contract being signed, the lack of bonuses or frontloading (at least according to CapFriendly) would mean that Reaves’ contract can be largely buried in the AHL (or non-rostered). The Leafs would still be on the hook for a $200k cap hit but in contrast to what would need to be done to send Reaves to another organization or even buy him out after this season (a $450k hit for the next four seasons) it seems like the easiest way to correct this mistake.
If Toronto is able to send David Kampf out and replace him with a cheaper option like Pontus Holmberg, the Leafs save $1.6M. If the Leafs bury Ryan Reaves’ contract in the AHL, they save $1.15M. That amount of money makes it pretty easy to upgrade a blueline and a Gregor-Holmberg-McMann 4th line should get by just fine.
With the American Thanksgiving/20 game mark milestones right around the corner, we are exiting the “it’s still early” phase of the season and the evaluation period for NHL GMs on their teams should lead to making changes. Hopefully Brad Treliving sees an expensive fourth line as something that can be addressed.
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