The Toronto Maple Leafs knew they were taking a slight risk when they picked up Czech winger Ondrej Kase at free agency.
There is little doubt the Toronto Maple Leafs knew all about his injury history and the concerning number of concussions Ondrej Kase has accrued in his NHL career.
Regardless of that, the Leafs signed him to a one-year $1.25 million deal and for just over half the season, he looked like an absolute steal.
He fit right in on a third line group that has a strong focus on checking and making the right defensive play, while also proving versatile and slotting in higher up the line-up on occasion.
Toronto Maple Leafs and Ondrej Kase
Despite obviously feeling his absence and shuffling William Nylander (at least for now) down to the third line to compensate lately, the Toronto Maple Leafs shouldn’t be rushing Ondrej Kase back.
He certainly adds something to the line-up, showing great chemistry with fellow Czech David Kampf and benefits the team in terms of secondary scoring with 14 goals and 13 assists in his 50 games with the Leafs.
However, at some point, health has to become both his and the team’s number one priority.
Unfortunately for Ondrej Kase, he’s building quite a catalogue of concussions now and that’s absolutely going to influence any team decision-making.
Given he plays a real kamikaze, gung-ho style when it comes to physical contact, he is immediately more of a risk factor when it comes to getting another concussion.
And not to offer any sort of medical commentary, but given his track record, you’d have to imagine he is potentially more susceptible to them, in general, at this point.
Jake Mirtle of The Athletic (subscription required) speculated that this latest injury could have him in double figures with regards to head injuries in his North American career.
As such, the Toronto Maple Leafs are making the absolute smartest decision not to rush him back to the ice, regardless of any positional needs in the line-up. They’re showing a very strong level of care for him and no doubt he’s got the best medical teams possible investigating his issues.
The obvious hope is that he is fighting fit just before the end of the regular season and that Sheldon Keefe can ease him back into the line-up before the physicality ramps up in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
That’s the ideal scenario, otherwise it feels a little unnerving to throw him to the proverbial lions immediately upon his return.
However, in all actuality, it’s seeming like he may end up shut down for the season, if not his whole career. At some point, someone needs to see sense and call it a day for him.
Given how great value Ondrej Kase has proven to be for the Toronto Maple Leafs, it’s potentially a disappointing way to end the season.
You would have to imagine a contract renewal is still on the table at least, provided the Leafs medical team recommends it. That’s the small upside here.