Toronto Maple Leafs: Will David Kämpf Bring Identity to the Third Line?

David Kampf #64 of the Chicago Blackhawks is one of the newest members of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
David Kampf #64 of the Chicago Blackhawks is one of the newest members of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed former Chicago Blackhawks centre, David Kämpf, as a free agent on the first day of free agency this offseason.

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed Kampf with the intention of using him as a defensive specialist, as part of a shut-down line.

Since Sheldon Keefe took over for Mike Babcock, he has searched in vain for such a line.  The Leafs had something in that style going last season with Hyman, Engvall and Kerfoot, but ultimately decided Hyman was best utilized on the top line.

Hyman’s time on the third line was about the only time the Leafs have had a third line with a real identify in recent times.  The hope is that Kampf can provide that.

Toronto Maple Leafs and David Kampf

Here’s what Toronto Maple Leafs GM, Kyle Dubas, said about David Kämpf during his media availability after the signing:

"We just feel that he is a center that is able to really take on very difficult assignments — both in the penalty kill and in terms of defensive zone starts — and drive play up the ice despite that. We feel he has tremendous defensive value….We think he has more to give offensively, but he gives Sheldon more options to shift guys to the wing and be more offensive knowing that he has David there in that role."

Dubas had also mentioned days before the free agent signing period began that he was looking for someone to play with Alex Kerfoot and Ilya Mikheyev.  David Kämpf seems to be the player he was looking for.

Whenever I hear Kyle Dubas or Sheldon Keefe talk about the third line of the Toronto Maple Leafs, I hear them describe their vision in terms of identity.  They’re building a line that can start in the defensive zone and drive play up ice – one whose role is 100% defined.   David Kämpf, Ilya Mikheyev and Alex Kerfoot are all players who can do that.  I believe that is the third line’s identity.

The Toronto Maple Leafs got a good taste of what it feels like to face a shutdown centre during the playoffs whenever Phillip Danault was on the ice.  To me, David Kämpf seems like a discount version of Phillip Danault.  David Kämpf doesn’t have Phillip Danault’s offensive upside, but he can display similar defensive qualities to some degree.

I think the Toronto Maple Leafs would have liked to sign Phillip Danault as a third centre but not for the kind of money he was paid by the LA Kings.  Danault received a big day after that amazing playoff run with the Montreal Canadiens.

When Kyle Dubas says David Kämpf will give Sheldon Keefe “more options to shift guys to the wing and be more offensive,” I think he’s talking mainly about Alex Kerfoot.  Kerfoot has been trying to fill the third line centre role that was left vacant when Nazam Kadri was traded, but Alex Kerfoot seems more suited for the wing where he plays a more offensive game.

David Kämpf definitely plays a different game than Nazam Kadri, but I feel he is more suited for the role than Alex Kerfoot or Pierre Engvall, who also spent time as third line center.

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To me, a Kerfoot-Kämpf-Mikheyev line is an upgrade from last season’s third line, but who knows?  There are lots of rumours swirling about a Kerfoot or Mikheyev trade.  Maybe if Kerfoot moves to the wing, he’ll also move up the lineup as well.  Maybe David Kämpf will play with Jason Spezza on the fourth line.  We’ll have to wait and see.