Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Kampf, Mennell, Biega, Gabriel & More

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll share more information about some of the new signings the Maple Leafs have made this past week. Although most of the players I’ll talk about here are likely depth players, many of them bring interesting past experiences to the team. I’ll share more in-depth information for Maple Leafs’ fans over future posts about these players.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Chynoweth, Thornton & Player Development

For now, here are some of the moves the organization made this past week.

Item One: Will David Kampf Become the Maple Leafs’ Third-Line Center?

On Wednesday, the Maple Leafs signed David Kampf to a contract that calls for $1.5 million over two years. Kampf is a 26-year-old, undrafted Czech player who’s played in the bottom-six with the Chicago Blackhawks for the past four seasons. When Kampf didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the Blackhawks before Monday’s deadline, that made him an unrestricted free agent and the Maple Leafs jumped in.

David Kampf Chicago Blackhawks
David Kampf, when he was with the Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While he doesn’t score much, looking at his stats suggests that the Blackhawks believe he’s reliable. He played all 56 games last season and averaged almost 15 minutes TOI during those games. He’s also a good penalty killer.

Although he might see less ice time with the Maple Leafs, there’s also a chance that the organization sees him as a possible third-line center. That was his job with the Blackhawks. If so, that might suggest that Alex Kerfoot could be on the move or might be expected to move into a top-six role with the team. And, if so, where? 

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With Alex Galchenyuk exploring the free-agent market, it will be interesting to see how this signing works out. I don’t know Kampf’s body of work well, but he seems like a player who might be a positive addition to the team’s bottom-six next season.

Item Two: Maple Leafs Acquire Brennan Menell’s Rights

Also on Wednesday, in what might seem like a minor deal, the Maple Leafs picked up the rights to 24-year-old right-shot defenseman Brennan Menell from the Minnesota Wild for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2022 draft. Mennell spent three seasons with the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Iowa and played five games for the Wild during the 2019-20 season. 

What makes Menell interesting is tracing his offensive production over the seasons. He’s the kind of low-risk asset that Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas likes to take a flyer on; and, he put together an impressive KHL 2020-21 season with Dynamo Minsk scoring five goals and 33 assists (for 38 points) in 47 games.

Related: Maple Leafs Sign Bunting to 2-Year Contract

Menell’s probably a long-shot to make the team – ever; but, who knows? The expectation is that the RFA will sign a contract with the Maple Leafs’ organization over the next few days.

Item Three: Maple Leafs Sign NHL Veteran D-Man Alex Biega

Speaking about right-shot defensemen, the Maple Leafs signed 33-year-old NHL veteran Alex Biega to a two-way, NHL league-minimum contract. Biega played five seasons with the Vancouver Canucks and the past two seasons with the Detroit Red Wings. During the 2020-21 season he spent most of the season on the Red Wings’ taxi squad and played only 13 games (scoring three assists).

Alex Biega Detroit Red Wings
Alex Biega, when he was with the Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

However, he’s good insurance on the defensive corps because he’s logged 241 NHL games over his career. He might be in competition for a bottom-pairing role with the Maple Leafs; however, his two-way contract suggests he’ll play a more significant role on the Toronto Marlies’ roster.

Item Four: Kurtis Gabriel Signs with the Maple Leafs for League-Minimum

Kurtis Gabriel signed a one-year, $750,000 contract with the Maple Leafs on Wednesday. He’s an interesting signing because he’s well-known for his physical play, which suggests he’ll probably compete for a spot on the team’s fourth line as an enforcer. 

Last season, Gabriel played only 11 games with the San Jose Sharks last season and didn’t score. However, Gabriel is almost more well-known for his social advocacy – a solid supporter of the LGBT community and of Black Lives Matter. I’m not suggesting that Dubas and the Maple Leafs leaned towards signing Gabriel for those connections; however, it wouldn’t surprise me if there were some connection either.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

I’ve often admitted that I’m a sucker for a reclamation project. And, I’m obviously not alone. Last season, Dubas signed both Jimmy Vesey and Alex Galchenyuk. Both remain NHL players, and Galchenyuk played well with the Maple Leafs during his time with the team. We’re not sure yet if he’ll be returning to Toronto or not.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Galchenyuk, Andersen, Cogliano & More

This season’s PTO signing of Josh Ho-Sang is an interesting one for the team. There’s little risk for the Maple Leafs and potentially bigger return. If Ho-Sang doesn’t impress the coaching staff at training camp, he’ll be on his way. On the other hand, could he turn out to be another Galchenyuk? 

I’m looking forward to how that works out, and will be watching the training camp roster carefully. It could be a fun preseason.

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