Maple Leafs’ Alex Kerfoot: Swiss Army Knife & Ultimate Trade Chip

Amazingly, because it seems longer to me, Alex Kerfoot is playing in his fourth season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He came to the team in the Nazem Kadri trade to the Colorado Avalanche on July 1, 2019. 

Kerfoot was joined by defenseman Tyson Barrie and a sixth-round draft choice in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft (that turned out to be Joe Miller). Moving to Colorado with Kadri was Calle Rosen and a third-round pick in the 2020 Draft (that turned out to be Jean-Luc Foudy).

Kerfoot’s Reputation Coming to Toronto

When Kerfoot came to the Maple Leafs, he was touted as an intelligent player. Perhaps that’s because he had played hockey at Harvard University before turning pro. He was also reputed to be a player who had a strong two-way game, with an ability to contribute both offensively and defensively. 

Alex Kerfoot
Alex Kerfoot, when he was playing at Harvard University (THW Archives)

As a young center, Kerfoot was supposed to be a good playmaker. Additionally, he had good on-ice vision and a strong work ethic.

Kerfoot Has Come as Advertised

All that has proven to be true in Kerfoot’s four seasons with the Maple Leafs. When he was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the fifth-round (150th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, he wasn’t pegged as a star. And, while he hasn’t been a star, he’s been a solid and reliable player. 

Related: Maple Leafs Commentary: Alex Kerfoot, Versatile & Unappreciated

He’s been responsible in his own zone and has shown an ability to anticipate the play well. That helps him make quick and smart decisions on the ice. In addition, he’s also a good skater. He has good speed and is agile. He gets to the right place on the ice at the right time. 

These attributes have helped him become an effective player and a valuable asset to the Maple Leafs. He’s also been an asset on the team’s penalty kill.

Kerfoot is also known as a Swiss Army knife. He’s malleable. Put him in the third-line center’s role, and he makes it work. Move him to the first line on the wing, and he handles that as well. If there’s a hole created by an injury, Kerfoot has become Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe’s “fix” – he’s been a reliable asset wherever he’s played.

Because of Kerfoot’s Skill and Consistency, He’s an Attractive Move

That not only makes Kerfoot a valuable player for the Maple Leafs but an attractive possibility as a trade chip for another team. What he has done for the Maple Leafs, he can do for another team. Another upside to Kerfoot is that he seldom gets bitten by the injury bug.

Related: Maple Leafs Have a Tough Choice Between Mikheyev & Kerfoot

Finally, he’s been signed for a medium-sized salary-cap hit of $3.5 million, which expires after this season. He’ll become an unrestricted free agent when this contract expires. His next one won’t be much higher than that number.

Kerfoot’s History with the Maple Leafs

During Kerfoot’s first three seasons with the Maple Leafs, he’s been a steady point producer. In 2019-20, in 65 games he scored nine goals and added 19 assists (for 28 points) in 65 games. The 2020-21 season showed a similar result with eight goals and 15 assists (for 23 points) in 56 games. Both those seasons were shorter because they were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alex Kerfoot Toronto Maple Leafs
Alex Kerfoot, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

However, in a full 82-game season in 2021-22, Kerfoot had a career year. He scored 13 goals and added 38 assists (for 51 points). Given his deployment up and down the lineup, from the top-six units to the bottom-six, those are not poor numbers by any means. Thus far, in 50 games this season, he’s scored seven goals and added 16 assists (for 23 points) in 50 games.

Kerfoot’s 2022-23 Season to Date

Kerfoot started the season playing center for the team’s third line with Pierre Engvall and Calle Jarnkrok on his wings. The line was described as a “pesky speed-based” line that coach Keefe believed would be tough for opponents to play against. However, the prognosis was that the line wouldn’t generate much offense. 

Toward the end of October, Kerfoot was promoted to the team’s top line in an effort to generate more offense. Playing with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, in a 4-3 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks, he registered two assists. It was his first multi-point game of the season. At that point, after eight games he had scored a goal and added three assists (for four points).

Related: Paul Henderson: More Than Just “The Goal”

Later in November, against the red-hot New Jersey Devils, Kerfoot had an assist in his team’s 2-1 win. It was the primary assist on Pontus Holmberg’s first NHL career goal, which ended up being the game-winner that broke the Devils’ 13-game winning streak. 

In December, Kerfoot Heats Up a Bit

In early December, Kerfoot followed that up with a two-assist game in his team’s 3-1 win against the Sharks. It was his second multi-point game of the season. Although he was not scoring goals, he was contributing in other ways. With Kerfoot’s help, the Maple Leafs had gone on a strong run, putting up a record of 8-0-2 over their last 10 games.

Finally, Kerfoot ended his goal-scoring drought by scoring an empty-netter in the Maple Leafs’ 4-0 win over the Dallas Stars. He also blocked three shots in the game. The goal was his first in 21 games (since Oct. 20). Still, he had registered eight assists and was a plus-5 through 27 games.

Alex Kerfoot Toronto Maple Leafs
Alex Kerfoot, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In mid-December, Kerfoot scored twice in his team’s 7-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks. He had been playing well, scoring three goals and adding an assist in his last four games. On Dec. 28, he scored a short-handed goal in the 5-4 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. 

Then, in late December, Kerfoot scored a goal in the Maple Leafs’ 6-3 loss to the Coyotes. He had scored in consecutive games; and, in the month of December, he scored five goals and added two assists in 11 games. 

In Friday’s 6-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators, Kerfoot recorded another assist. As it stands heading into today’s (Jan. 29) Washington Capitals’ game, Kerfoot has scored seven goals and added 16 assists (for 23 points) in 36 games.

Related: Best NHL Players Not in the Hockey Hall of Fame

Despite being productive with three assists over the last five games, Kerfoot’s limited role as a bottom-six center and lack of power play time (20:23) mean that his production may not be enough to keep him around.

Kerfoot Is on Everyone’s Trade List

With the 2023 Trade Deadline approaching in just over a month, there seems to be a never-ending discussion surrounding potential trades and player movement. One topic that always seems to be discussed with the Maple Leafs is whether Alex Kerfoot, Pierre Engvall, or even Matthew Knies might be moved in a trade.

I’m not so certain that Kerfoot is on the move, although I seem to be in the minority on that question. But, if he is moved, it would make sense. He’s a solid player, who seldom is injured, plays a 200-foot game, and can successfully produce anywhere in the lineup.

We will see over the course of the next month.

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