Maple Leafs Commentary: Where Does Calle Jarnkrok Fit?

All’s quiet on the Leafstern Front. (Okay, that was bad, but things are eerily quiet around the Toronto Maple Leafs these days.) 

Something’s likely up, but what? Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas talked about there being “everything on the table” and the team having salary-cap flexibility to make the team better going into the 2022-23 season. It’s not as if there’s been no action, but more must be on the way.

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

First, Dubas addressed the number one priority, the goaltending situation. Then he proceeded to do something about it, to extremely varying and mixed reviews, with a trade for Matt Murray and the signing of UFA Ilya Samsonov.

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Second, Dubas then signed a few of what appears to be depth or bottom-six forwards in Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Adam Gaudette, and Denis Malgin to low-risk NHL minimum or close to minimum salaries.

Adam Gaudette Ottawa Senators
Adam Gaudette, formerly of the Ottawa Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Third, on the third day of free agency, Dubas signed 30-year-old free agent Calle Jarnkrok to a four-year $2.1 million-per-year deal.

After that, no signings, no trades, nothing. The Maple Leafs did hold their development camp this past week, so maybe that was where Dubas and his team were focusing their attention. But, realistically, there are more balls in the air than that camp.

What Might Jarnkrok Bring to the Team?

With the way Dubas has been talking, we are definitely expecting more to happen. Maybe this is just the lull before the storm. There’s still lots of time before training camp opens.

Related: Kraken’s Calle Jarnkrok Is Stepping up at the Right Time

Until now, however, the number one signing has to be Jarnkrok. The question with Jarnkrok is where he fits into the scheme of things. It’s obvious that, given the four-year term and Jarnkrok’s history, this is not a typical, looking for a diamond in the rough, type of signing Dubas has been noted for. There must be something in Jarnkrok Dubas saw to make him seek a longer-term commitment.

Jarnkrok has had a decent NHL career to date. He has played a total of 574 regular-season and 75 playoff games. He’s scored 106 goals and added 135 assists (for a total of 241 points) in the regular season. That’s a 15-goal, 19-assist, 34-point pace for 82 games. Over the past three seasons, leading to his deadline trade from the Seattle Kraken to the Calgary Flames last season, Jarnkrok has, in each of those seasons, scored at a 20-goal pace. He can add scoring.

Where Is Jarnkrok at this Stage of His Career?

For whatever reason, after he was acquired by the Flames, Jarnkrok’s production dropped to zero goals and four assists in 17 games. He was marginally better in the playoffs last season scoring one goal and adding four assists in 12 games. In his career, Jarnkrok has scored four goals and added 13 assists in 75 playoff games.

That tells us that, while Jarnkrok has the potential to be a 20-goal scorer, at this stage of his career we shouldn’t expect more offensively from him than we have seen previously. 

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If we look at Jarnkrok’s defensive use, we see that at five-on-five for Seattle last season, he started 53.5 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone. Of the eleven forwards on the Kraken who played at least 600 minutes at five-on-five, Jarnkrok placed 11th in Shot-Attempts For and Against (48.2 percent), 11th in Shots For and Against (47.0 percent), eighth in Goals For and Against (43.1 percent), 11th in Expected-Goals For and Against (45.7 percent), 10th in Scoring-Chances For and Against (45.8 percent) and seventh in High-Danger Chances For and Against (46.2 percent).

Calle Jarnkrok Nashville Predators
Calle Jarnkrok, when he was with the Nashville Predators
(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

Despite his lack of production with the Flames, Jarnkrok saw a big improvement in Shot-Attempts For and Against, where he ranked third amongst forwards (57.6 percent), and Shots For and Against, where he ranked sixth (56.5 percent). He was seventh (50 percent) in Goals For and Against, and 9th in Expected-Goals For and Against (51.6 percent). He only ranked 12th in Scoring-Chances For and Against (50.6 percent) and 14th for High-Danger Chances For and Against (44.3 percent).

Aside from his five-on-five numbers, Jarnkrok has averaged just under two minutes a game on the penalty kill and has spent a little time on the power play.

Considering Everything, Where Does Jarnkrok Fit?

Those are mixed numbers at best; and, they are not the type of basic analytics usually expected in the players that Dubas covets. We simply don’t know what types of statistics the Maple Leafs’ Analytics department tracks and values. Obviously, they track more than we have available to us.  

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Physicality, Nylander & Kessel

Putting analytics aside and going by Jarnkrok’s salary at just over $2 million, that salary is more than what Dubas can afford to spend on a fourth-line player. However, it’s less than we could expect him to pay for a second-line player. The money fit for Jarnkrok would be on the third line.

That leads us to believe the planned usage for Jarnkrok would be on the third line. There he would likely play alongside David Kampf and Pierre Engvall. We also would expect him to take Ilya Mikheyev’s place on the penalty kill. 

Jarnkrok Is a Wait-and-See Signing

For how we rate the signing, we see it as a “wait and see.” The Flames obviously thought they saw something worthwhile in Jarnkrok at the trade deadline last season because they gave up a 2022 second-round pick, a 2023 third-round pick, and a 2024 seventh-round pick to acquire him. That’s a big return.

As we note, let’s wait and see. 

[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.]