During the off-season, the Toronto Maple Leafs had a tough choice to make. Sign Zach Hyman to his asking price, or find value elsewhere.
Much to the chagrin of many fans, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas decided to let Hyman go as an unrestricted free agent (UFA).
When Hyman signed a contract with the Edmonton Oilers, his salary cap hit became $5.5 million per season. Toronto was not going to pay that much for one player to provide secondary scoring. The team had to look elsewhere in the free-agent market to find scoring for value.
Trying to get scoring for value can be difficult. Sometimes it works out great, and sometimes it doesn’t. The Maple Leafs signed a handful of new players this off-season, and most of them have produced adequately. Some have exceeded expectations and have provided excellent production for minimal cost.
Overall, the Toronto Maple Leafs have made good use of their cap space this season. The only contract that has not worked out for them is Nick Ritchie at $2.5 million. Ritchie was given plenty of opportunities to succeed this season, but he never found consistency. This is why he is currently in the AHL.
Toronto Maple Leafs Find Great Value in These Players
Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas was able to re-sign and sign these five players for a combined total of $5.35 million. That is five players for less than the amount Hyman is making.
Jason Spezza – $750,000
Jason Spezza wants to retire as a member of the Leafs, but he would love to win a championship first. This is the third season in a row that Spezza has signed with Toronto for the league minimum. His cap hit this season is $750,000, and he has made it clear that he doesn’t care about the money. He wants to win and has even said he would play for free if he could.
Spezza currently has nine goals and eight assists for 17 points in 43 games. That is good production from a player on a league-minimum contract and playing on the fourth line. His production has dipped compared to his first two seasons in Toronto. However, he makes up for his low production with his leadership and faceoff abilities.
Wayne Simmonds – $900,000
Wayne Simmonds’s value to the Maple Leafs is more than his point production. He gives the team grit, someone that sticks up for his teammates and fights when needed. With that in mind, Simmonds is still on pace to produce 20 or more points this season. For $900,000 a season, 20 points is not too bad for a player on the fourth line.
Like Spezza, Simmonds would like to finish his career in Toronto. Playing for his hometown team and winning a championship in Toronto is all that matters.
Michael Bunting – $950,000
Michael Bunting has given Toronto the most bang for their buck. He currently has 16 goals and 17 assists for 33 points in 47 games. His 16 goals lead all NHL rookies, and his 33 points have him fourth in rookie scoring and sixth in team scoring.
Bunting has become Hyman’s replacement on the left side of Auston Matthews on Toronto’s top line. He plays a very similar style to what Hyman played. That style compliments his linemates, Mitch Marner and Matthews. Bunting has one more year on his contract after this one for $950,000. This contract is a big win for Toronto GM Kyle Dubas.
Ondrej Kase – $1.25 million
Due to injuries and concussion symptoms, Ondrej Kase only played in three games for the Boston Bruins last season. This made acquiring him as an unrestricted free agent for $1.25 million pretty easy. Kase was looking for a fresh start, and Toronto was looking for cheap secondary scoring.
Luckily for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kase is having a bounce-back season. He currently has ten goals and nine assists for 19 points in 39 games. For the majority of this season, Kase has been playing on the third line in a shutdown role. That makes his 19 points even more impressive and will make him valuable to Toronto in the playoffs.
David Kampf – $1.5 million
In the summer, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed David Kampf to a two-year contract worth $1.5 million a season. When fans looked up his stats from the 2020-21 season, they realized he only scored one goal in 56 games. Right away, they wondered why Dubas would spend that much on a player who can’t score.
It turns out that Kampf can score, and he has become an important depth player for the Maple Leafs. Kampf currently has seven goals and nine assists for 16 points in 47 games. He has become Toronto’s permanent third-line center thanks to his fantastic defensive play.
The amount of production and hard work that the Maple Leafs get from these five players for a combined $5.35 million is incredible. Credit to GM Kyle Dubas and his staff for making great use of their limited salary cap space.