Although he’s not the most offensive forward the Toronto Maple Leafs have had over the past four seasons, there are good reasons why the team should consider re-signing Alex Kerfoot. He’s been a valuable contributor in a myriad of ways.
Kerfoot has been the team’s Swiss army knife and is (to my mind) the best defensive forward on the team. Kerfoot will be 29 years old this summer, and he brings experience and a solid defensive skill set to the lineup.
Since Joining the Team, Kerfoot Has Contributed
Since joining the Maple Leafs as part of the Nazem Kadri trade in 2019, Kerfoot has shown the ability to play defensive hockey when he’s been on the ice. He’s great at limiting shots against and shutting down quality chances. He makes a considerable impact as a shutdown forward – especially on the penalty kill.
His defensive abilities make him as valuable in my mind as David Kampf, who I believe is one of the best values on the team.
Kerfoot Is a Quality Penalty Killer But Not So Much On Offence
Kerfoot has proven himself to be a reliable penalty killer. That makes his defensive contributions extend beyond even-strength situations. He helps solidify the team’s defensive play in all situations.
When he was first brought to the Maple Leafs, I believe the coaching staff saw him as an offensive possibility. However, I believe that evaluation has changed over time. Given that he’s no longer seen as primarily an offensive player, Kerfoot still maintains an efficient shot rate that nets him about 15-20 goals each season.
His shooting percentage was the lowest it’s been during the 2022-23 season. It was well below his usual levels. That said, there’s no reason to believe is a trend but rather an aberration. Likely he will experience a rebound in his offensive production.
Kerfoot’s Strength is His Versatility
One of Kerfoot’s strengths is his versatility. He can play in the top six as a winger when he’s needed. Although he might not score at huge numbers in that role, he doesn’t embarrass himself either. He adds value with his defensive work. That makes him an asset on any line.
Kerfoot can also play center or on either wing. That allows the coaching staff to deploy him in various roles, optimizing the team’s defensive capabilities.
Kerfoot’s defensive impact, his versatility, and his ability to contribute make him an affordable option in the bottom six. If he’s willing to re-sign a contract extension for a term of about three or four years at about $3 million per season, it would be a good value for the Maple Leafs. Although he’s not a top-six winger, his defence enhances the team’s play and solidifies the bottom-six forward group.
The Bottom Line
The initial word was that the Maple Leafs would allow Kerfoot to walk to free agency. However, there’s still a chance the team could re-sign him. It would all depend upon what he’s offered.
And, in this case, his poorer-than-normal scoring season would help in the team’s favour. If he’d come back for just under what he had been earning, his contributions would make him a valuable asset for Toronto moving forward.