Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Judging the Damion Kabuka Deal

All NHL teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, make changes. At the same time, NHL players regularly move from team to team. Sometimes it’s by the team’s choice; sometimes a player wants a change. At other times, a team makes a trade or lets a player walk without compensation to another team because they cannot arrive at a mutually acceptable contract. 

Related: Toronto Maple Leafs’ Zach Hyman: He’s Good, Eh?

Sometimes players retire. Sometimes prospects rise through the ranks. For a variety of reasons, NHL players are often on the move. Teams keep changing season after season.

The Impact of a Flat Salary Cap in the Age of Covid

In addition, in these days of the flat salary cap that’s come as a result of experiencing a pandemic, sometimes there’s no choice but to let a valuable player leave a team that wants him and that he wants to play for. When a contract expires and a player deserves a raise, but his team simply cannot find the salary-cap space under the upper limits of the cap, that can necessitate movement.

David Kampf Toronto Maple Leafs
David Kampf, moved to the Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

When a player signs with another team, the team he left tries to replace him. Quality of play is the first order of business. Philosophical or positional fit are other considerations. However, these days budgets must also be considered.

The Maple Leafs Engaged in That Consideration This Offseason

Both fans of a team and the media that cover that team then weigh in to examine and assess the success of the moves its team makes. Because players regularly move and teams are constantly rebuilt – every season actually – fans and media both examine the moves their hometown team makes to weigh these moves against the movements of other teams. The Maple Leafs are no exception.

Related: 10 Cool Things About the Golden Knights

That’s part of being a fan. You want your team to win.  

There’s an old adage that the team that gets the best player wins the trade.  Of course, arguments can be made to the contrary. In fact, sometimes it’s true, but other times it isn’t. 

Comparing Player X to Damion Kabuka

Let’s say that adage is true. This past offseason one NHL team let a talented, hardworking, and very popular player walk. To fill the space that the player’s absence left, the team used the money it would have had to pay him to search for a replacement. They eventually signed Damion Kabuka. For now, we’ll refer to the player who walked as Player X.

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If we compare Damion Kabuka and Player X to see which team got the better player, we find the following:

During this season, Player X has scored 11 goals and eight assists (for 17 points). Damion Kabuka, on the other hand, has scored 16 goals and 20 assists (for 32 points). Winner: Damion Kabuka 

Ondrej Kase Toronto Maple Leafs
Ondrej Kase, signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

At five-on-five, Player X has seven goals, four assists (for 11 points). Damion Kabuka has 14 goals, 18 assists (for 32 points). Winner: Damion Kabuka 

At five-on-five, Player X has been on ice for 13 goals for and 15 goals against. Damion Kabuka has been on ice for 36 goals for and 29 against. Winner: Damion Kabuka

Player X has averaged 19 minutes of time on ice per game. Damion Kabuka has averaged 43 minutes of time on ice per game, more than double Player X. Winner, by a lot: Damion Kabuka

Related: 3 Takeaways From Maple Leafs’ 5-4 Win Against Blue Jackets – 12/7/21

If Player X gets hurt, all of him misses games. If one-third of Damion Kapuka gets hurt, two-thirds of him keep playing.

Player X has a cap hit of $5.5 million this season. Damion Kabuka has a cap hit of $3.7 million, or $1.8 million less than Player X. Winner: Damion Kabuka

Given these Numbers, Who’s the Better Player?

Given these numbers, it’s obvious that Damion Kabuka is the better player. The team that acquired Damion Kabuka wins the deal.  

What’s so interesting is that Maple Leafs’ fans have been watching Damion Kabuka all season.  

Obviously, you’ve guessed it. Player X is Zach Hyman.

Zach Hyman, Morgan Rielly, Mitch Marner, John Tavares
Former Toronto Maple Leafs’ Zach Hyman, Morgan Rielly, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

Damion Kabuka is DA-vid KA-mpf (David Kampf), MI-chael BU-nting (Michael Bunting), and ON-drej KA-se (Ondrej Kase). 

It strikes us that the perhaps the Maple Leafs should be selling Damion Kapuka jerseys!

Related: Maple Leafs’ Kampf Can Replace Some of Hyman’s Intangibles

Obviously, the Maple Leafs miss Hyman’s contributions to the team. He’s a great player. However, insofar as the team has covered for his absence, it’s easy to make a case that David Kampf, Michael Bunting, and Ondrej Kase are giving it a good shot.

We wish Hyman well with the Edmonton Oilers, until – of course – he plays the Maple Leafs.

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]

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