Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Kerfoot, Moldenhauer & New 4th Line

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at the value of Alex Kerfoot and note why I’ll miss him as a player should he be moved. Second. I’ll share information about one of the Maple Leafs’ draft picks from the 2022 NHL Entry Draft – Nick Moldenhauer.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: More About Aube-Kubel & Gaudette

Finally, I’ll look at one area I think will be improved for the 2022-23 NHL season. That’s the fourth line. Although I really like almost everything about the NHL season – I know, I’m silly that way, I really look forward to the young players fighting to make their way onto the team’s roster.

Item One: If Kerfoot Leaves, He’ll Be Missed

There’s no doubt that Alex Kerfoot Is a valuable trade asset. And, given the way his contract is structured, there seems to be little doubt that the Maple Leafs would be able to find a trade partner should he be offered. He’s a good pick-up because, although his cap hit is $3.5M, he is only owed $750K in salary. 

Alex Kerfoot Toronto Maple Leafs
Alex Kerfoot, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Obviously, regardless of Kerfoot’s modified no-trade clause, there are ways that the Maple Leafs can figure out how to move him. My point here is that, if he does leave, I for one will miss him on the roster. He’s valuable because of his versatility. He’s also a player I would love as a coach. 

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He’s been dubbed a Swiss Army Knife because can play multiple positions. Sometimes he played center and sometimes he played wing. I remember that, during the COVID-19 shutdown, the Maple Leafs used the time to study film and came to realize how good Kerfoot was on the penalty kill. He reads the passing lanes well. He also can play on the power-play unit. He’s just pretty good at many things.

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There are also two things that I also appreciate. First, he’s low-maintenance. He does his job without drama. That’s easy to live with. Second, he’s one of those players who either aren’t prone to injuries or aren’t prone to showing them. A coach can rely on him being ready to jump in as needed.

Should he leave, another team will get a 28-year-old who’s just had his career-best season with 13 goals and 38 assists (for 51 points) in 82 games. There are a ton of teams who’d want him. Sadly, I think he’ll be gone.

Item Two: What Do the Maple Leafs Have in Nick Moldenhauer?

Nick Moldenhauer was selected 95th overall by the Maple Leafs in the recent NHL Entry Draft. What do the Maple Leafs have in this youngster? Two days ago, LeafsNation’s Nick Barden wrote a nice post looking at three players who had “distanced themselves” early at the Maple Leafs’ development camp. Moldenhauer was one of them.

Nick Moldenhauer, Chicago Steel
Nick Moldenhauer, with the Chicago Steel (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Barden gave some background about Moldenhauer that put his USHL numbers into perspective. Moldenhauer had only 18 goals and 27 assists (for 43 points) in 41 games in his first USHL season. However, he spent a lot of time in the hospital and had all sorts of health issues after he was “clipped with an errant skate” early in the season. 

Now that Moldenhauer is healthy, he’s been able to showcase his skills. He’s an excellent skater and a hard worker. Early in the development camp, the 18-year-old skated with the first group and was a standout.

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Barden noted that Moldenhauer’s puck protection under pressure and his ability to find open ice in small spaces was impressive. He’s also capable of finding his teammates with a well-placed pass and has a ton of on-ice hockey smarts. The assessment was that he could provide value to the Maple Leafs in a couple of years.

The plan is that Moldenhauer will return to Chicago of the USHL next season before likely deciding on a college for the 2023-24 campaign. He’s enjoying the development camp. He’s from the Toronto area. 

When Mondenhauer was asked what he enjoyed about the camp, he noted that “I’m eating my lunch the other day and John Tavares walks over and introduces himself to me. So, that’s pretty insane, it was definitely pretty cool.”

John Tavares Toronto Maple Leafs Andrei Vasilevskiy Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs Center John Tavares screens Tampa Bay Lightning Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy
(Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Moldenhauer also has a great relationship with new Maple Leafs Assistant General Manager Ryan Hardy, who was with the Chicago Steel when the youngster played there. Mondenhauer noted that Hardy “has a really great relationship with my family.” As a result, “It was pretty cool to share that moment (being drafted by the Maple Leafs) with him.”

Item Three: The Maple Leafs Reshaped Fourth Line

I am really looking forward to the start of training camp and the regular season. I enjoy almost everything about following the Maple Leafs. I look forward to seeing if the bet on Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov in goal works out. I’m looking forward to watching Callie Jarnkrok play with the third line. I want to see if Michael Bunting can improve even more with his two partners Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews.

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However, I’m really looking forward to what I think will be a newly reshaped fourth line. First, I love watching the young players try hard to make an impact with the team – mostly they care and work so hard. I want to see them earn their way onto the team.

Second, I’m a sucker for a player who’s moved around the NHL for a while and is desperate to show value to a new team while earning the NHL’s league minimum salary. I’m especially rooting for Adam Gaudette, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, and Denis Malgin. Throw Joey Anderson into that group as well.

Joey Duszak Toronto Marlies
Joey Duszak, Toronto Marlies (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

As far as the fourth line goes, I look forward to it being an energy line that crashes, bangs, and plays disruptive defense. I’d love to see Jason Spezza work with them and turn them into a line that develops an identity to make life as uncomfortable as possible for the other team. 

I believe that the Toronto Marlies should be the farm system for the whole of the Maple Leafs’ roster. In addition, I’d love to see the fourth line become the farm system for the top three lines. Let the kids earn their time and, when they do, give it to them. How fun would that be to watch?

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

As I’ve noted, it’s been deathly quiet on the Maple Leafs’ front. Something is about to happen, you just have to know it. What it is, who knows?

It might be that Rasmus Sandin is going to hold out in the way that William Nylander held out? If so, that could be because they share the same agent; and, it’s been a tactic that agent Lewis Gross has utilized in the past. If so, there’s a chance that Sandin might actually sit out until December. 

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That would be tiresome. I’m glad that I’m not a general manager, it isn’t a tactic I would tolerate easily.