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If the Leafs are going to shed salary they need to treat their players as assets

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Jon Steitzer
1 year ago
This feels like an ongoing series at this point, but maybe if I repeat it enough it will resonate with at least a few people. The point that I will continue to hammer home is that despite your personal feelings about Alex Kerfoot, Justin Holl, and Pierre Engvall, they are all decent hockey players that add value to the Leafs and are not contracts that need to be paid to be taken away.
I’m back on this again today largely because there is another example of undervaluing these players circulating Leafs land.
Let’s skip past any feelings that people have about Knies, a 2nd, and a 3rd for Timo Meier and fast forward to inclusion of Kerfoot and Engvall.
I know that fancy stat player cards are not the best way to make the point with most of you looking at this article, but I’m going to start there anyway and continue to reference these comparisons with the acknowledgment that neither one of these players bring what Timo Meier brings to the Leafs and dealing two expiring contracts to land a top talent isn’t going to bother you.
It wouldn’t really bother me either, landing Timo Meier is a great idea.
The point of this is to show that all three of Justin Holl, Pierre Engvall, and Alex Kerfoot compare favorably to some of the other players that are being shopped around the league and there is no reason that Leafs should be moving on from these players without receiving value back for them.

Holl vs. Gavrikov

This is the comparison that stands out the most to me and is the one that we’ll be able to eye test the hell out of the most in the next couple of days. Presently the Columbus Blue Jackets are trying to land a David Savard type return for Gavrikov, a player that certainly has some struggles linked to being on a bad Columbus team, but to some extent someone on Columbus has to be making the team bad and perhaps Gavrikov is part of that problem.
Gavrikov plays slightly more than Holl, but Holl has more blocked shots, more hits, and the two of them are very close offensively this year, Gavrikov having one more goal, but Holl having one more point.
Holl actually has some advantages, as he’s cheaper $2M vs. $2.8M and has the right shot that coveted around the league.
This isn’t me trying to make a case against the Leafs acquiring Gavrikov, but if it’s doing that for you as well, great, but rather if the Leafs are in a situation where they need to dump salary, Justin Holl needs to be a treated as an asset likely valued around a 2nd round pick and I think that’s me being conservative.

Engvall vs Barbashev

Okay, so I’ll acknowledge right off the top that these two players play very different games and Barbashev’s 2021-22 season gives a lot of hope for a reemerging upside (maybe less so if you look at his shooting percentage).  These two do synch up identically when it comes to their $2.25M expiring contracts, position, and role. And admittedly the playoff brand hockey of Barbashev is what has the premium attached to it as well. Still, there’s a lesson here that Engvall is a third line player that is absolutely excelling in his role and if Barbashev is someone that teams think is worth a second and a B-prospect, saying that Engvall is worth at least a third isn’t controversial.

Kerfoot vs Acciari

So admittedly Kerfoot is the hard sell of the group and the cap hit the Leafs would likely want to prioritize sending out. His $3.5M expiring deal is not in the same ballpark as Noel Acciari’s $1.25M cap hit. It doesn’t matter that Kerfoot is the better player, Acciari is the one that can be cheaply added to most teams for a mid round pick.
Kerfoot might not have a ton of trade value (unless 50% retained) or if a team is excited about the cap hit with only a $775k annual salary, but at the very least including him in a deal shouldn’t see the Leafs penalized. He’s as cheap as they come dollars wise and has the potential to be a very flippable asset if his acquiring team retains 50% of his contract.

Intangible concerns and importance of asset management

From a fan standpoint looking at these three players we are pretty quick to push them out the door if we feel that something better is coming the Leafs way. That’s our luxury, but not one that Kyle Dubas has. The Leafs also need to look at the fact that Holl, Kerfoot, and Engvall have been a part of the Leafs room and are players that the current Leafs group wants to try to win with before the clock strikes midnight on their contracts.
Anything Toronto does will need to factor in the desire to keep as many of the current roster players as possible and in cases where that isn’t possible there is going to need to be a clear upgrade to garner buy-in.
The three players listed above all carry some value around the league as well. It’s not something where we are going to hear discussion of Holl, Engvall, or Kerfoot playing in Europe next season, they’ll all be midgrade free agent signings somewhere, a couple possibly re-signing in Toronto. If Toronto is going to be spending assets in bringing in top talent, they owe it to themselves to maximize the value they can get out of the players they need to move for salary reasons.
Data sourced from Evolving Hockey, and Hockey Reference

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