Toronto Maple Leafs: One of the Best Value Contracts in the NHL

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) /

Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas is a lot like the Blue Jays Vladimir Guerrero – he hits a lot of homeruns.

The Toronto Maple Leafs GM has revitalized the Leafs moribund prospect pipeline, he’s kept the team’s superstars in Toronto throughout their entire primes, he traded for Jake Muzzin, signed TJ Brodie, signed John Tavares, traded for Jack Campbell, brought in Sheldon Keefe, almost won a  President’s Trophy and did win a division title.

But two moves that haven’t received nearly as much press as the rest of them are the signing of Ondrej Kase and especially David Kampf, who may provide some of the best value per dollar in the NHL.

The duo has formed one of the NHL’s best shut-down lines so far this season.  (stats 

Toronto Maple Leafs David Kampf

Some coaches don’t like to have a “shutdown” line because they believe that every line should be balanced and should have the ability to both score and defend.  The Toronto Maple Leafs believe no such thing.

Since being hired, Sheldon Keefe has made no bones about the fact that he wants a go-to shutdown line.   Now that he has one, it’s no surprise or coincidence that the Leafs are on a five-game winning streak with peripheral stats that suggest they’re something like the NHL’s best team.

Most of the time, NHL coaches send out their best lines to face the other team’s top lines.  It’s really the only way to avoid being totally caved in by elite players.   However, if a team does happen to have a shutdown line that is actually effective, the coach of that team suddenly has a ton of options.

At home, where you get the last line change, you have more control of matchups, and the Leafs are using this to their full advantage.  Instead of placing Matthews against the other team’s first line, the Leafs use the Kampf line, thus freeing up Matthews to play easier competition.  Since the Leafs essentially have two first lines, this has the double effect of getting the Marner and Tavares line out against 3rd lines.

As you can see – the results speak for themselves.

Starting just 10-12% of their shifts in the offensive zone (one in ten) the Kampf/Kase combo has the hardest, most extreme usage in the entire NHL.   Despite this, Kampf has a 51% puck-possession rating, and 50% of the scoring chances.

Sure, he’s a minus-five, but who cares? If you regularly are used in a defensive role, you will be scored on. You will not have the chance to score many goals.  If Kampf “deserved” to be a -5 he’d still have been very effective and successful so far.

However,  if you look at the puck-possession and scoring chances numbers, and consider also that with Kamf on the ice the Leafs are shooting under 3% while getting below average 5v5 goaltending, it’s clear that that -5 is a function of bad luck.

The thing is, you can’t measure the full value of Kampf by looking at his numbers alone.  Part of what he brings to the team is easier matchups and more offense for the Leafs best players.

Nylander was starting 58% of his shifts in the offensive zone last year, now it’s at 63%. Matthews was at 57% now its 67%.  Tavares was at 55% now he’s at 63%, same with Mitch Marner.

Over enough time, this is going to add up to a lot of goals.  This makes the Toronto Maple Leafs a much, much better team than they were.  For the 1.5 million dollars the Leafs are paying Kampf, he’s making 4 elite players slightly more effective.  He’s worth the money just on defense alone, but he’s making the best players even better.

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It’s hard to quantify just how much, but considering he cost nothing to acquire and makes just slightly over the league minimum, it’s hard to imagine many players at this price point providing more value.