Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Knies, Kruse, Dubas & Kadri

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at Matthew Knies’ World Juniors Tournament. Second, I report a signing of Brandon Kruse with the Toronto Marlies. Kruse is a highly skilled, but smallish forward.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Fans Must Stop Blaming Dubas for the Team’s Problems

Third, I’ll look at an interesting take on why Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas might allow so many of his players to walk at the end of their contracts. Finally, I’ll report that – for Nazem Kadri fans – the waiting is over. Kadri has signed a seven-year contract with the Calgary Flames.

Item One: Matthew Knies Didn’t Light It Up at the World Juniors, Still …

Team USA is out of the World Juniors, being beaten by Czechia 4-2. For Matthew Knies, it was probably a tournament showing he’d like to redo if he had a chance. Still, the tournament might have given Maple Leafs’ fans an insight into the player who’ll come to the team later this season.

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Knies played a physical game, which will likely be the kind of game he’ll play once he makes the NHL. However, his scoring was probably less than he wanted and less than many fans expected given his hype at the team’s recent development camp. 

Knies was the Maple Leafs’ second-round pick (57th overall) in the 2021 NHL Draft. He finished the tournament with only three assists in five games. 

Knies was used mostly as a sort of crash-and-bang support for his line-mates and seemed like a secondary go-to option when he was on the ice. No one can fault him for a lack of heart, and perhaps his scoring will come with more play. When he hits professional hockey, he’ll likely engage in that same crash-and-bang role. 

Related: Canucks’ Top-20 Goal Scorers All-Time

Overall, perhaps that isn’t a bad thing. It’s reminiscent of Zach Hyman. Hyman didn’t start out as an offensive player. He grew into it. Perhaps there’s no reason Knies can’t do the same. He’s a worker, that’s for sure.

Item Two: Toronto Marlies Sign Brandon Kruse to One-Year Contract

This morning the Toronto Marlies announced the team had signed Brandon Kruse to a one-year contract. Kruse was a fifth-round (135th overall) draft pick of the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. 

Now 23 years old, Kruse played 38 games last season with Boston College, scoring three goals and adding 23 assists (for 31 points). After his NCAA season ended last season, Kruse played three games with the Golden Knights’ AHL team (scoring an assist in three games).

Kruse is a 5-foot-9, 154-pound left-winger. Before he attended Boston College he played four seasons at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. There, he was an alternate captain and scored 142 points (38 goals and 104 assists) in 151 games. He’ll be part of the Marlies’ training camp when it begins this fall.

Item Three: Is Kyle Dubas Loyal to His Players?

I enjoy reading several other Maple Leafs’ writers. One writer I read regularly is Jon Steitzer of LeafsNation. In a recent post, Steitzer made an insightful comment about Kyle Dubas that I had not considered. 

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Steitzer was talking about how often the Maple Leafs’ general manager kept players until their contracts ran out. Then, if he didn’t think the team should re-sign them, he simply allowed them to walk.

Obviously, part of that history is the fact that the Maple Leafs (since I’ve been covering the team for the past four seasons) are always in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. As a result, the team tries to carry its best roster into the postseason. However, as Steitzer pointed out, it also could be that part of it was Dubas’ loyalty to the players. 

Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs
Kyle Dubas, general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Alana Davidson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Steitzer was focusing specifically on why Justin Holl and Alex Kerfoot remained with the Maple Leafs when they could be traded for some return. They still might be traded, but it also could be that Dubas really wants to keep them. A second reason is that Dubas believes these players are “parties fulfilling their contracts with the team.” 

Steitzer believes Dubas’ practice is more intentional than an error. If Dubas can’t re-sign the players after their contracts expire because he sees their potential value as not worth money being spent, he just lets them walk. Ilya Mikheyev and Jack Campbell are examples.

For right or wrong, Steitzer noted that Dubas is “incredibly loyal to his players” and is “more of a card counter than a gambler. He’s not taking any risk that isn’t calculated.” 

Interesting take on the Maple Leafs’ general manager.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

In news just in, the Calgary Flames signed former Maple Leafs’ center Nazem Kadri. That’s an interesting move. It’s also a bit ironic considering Kadri wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause to go to Calgary because he was trying to hold onto a place with the Maple Leafs.

Related: Toronto Maple Leafs: Revisiting the Nazem Kadri Trade

It sort of comes out of left field for me. I didn’t think he’d leave Colorado after his great season there. I wonder if it’s because he wanted to move back to Canada.