JUST IN: The Maple Leafs to Trade David Kampf Due to Insufficient Forward Depth……

“In the midst of a lack of forward depth, there’s a good chance they cut bait there as well.” Could the Maple Leafs trade David Kampf?

Kampf signed a four-year, $9.6 million contract in the summer of 2023, and he is currently in the second year of that agreement.

With a significant portion of their cap space already committed to strengthening the team’s defense and locking down a goaltending duo on the first day of NHL free agency, the Toronto Maple Leafs will need to make some costly additions to their offensive line.

The team lost the rights to forward Tyler Bertuzzi when he signed a four-year, $15 million contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, despite bringing back Max Domi. This further cemented the team’s lack of forward depth on the wing and their previous need for help up the middle. The team will need to develop a strategy to meet these demands now that the initial wave of NHL free agency is over.

A leading option to clear cap space is the trade route, and according to the Toronto Star’s Nick Kypreos, forward David Kampf, who is the club’s sixth highest-paid forward in 2024-25, could become a viable option to ship out with his $2.4 million cap hit over the next three seasons.

“Additionally, the bottom six forwards require some improvement. Is David Kampf expected to be the starting center for the Leafs’ checking line? They most likely cut bait there as well, Kypreos added. “Is there a potential Fraser Minton who can take his place, or should we search elsewhere for a guy who is ready for the NHL?”

Given that the team’s four forwards—Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares—collect more than half of the team’s salary cap, they are collectively referred to as the “Core Four,” and as such, the organization must make strategic use of every dollar. Kampf is entering the second year of a $9.6 million contract that will last four years, so his services might be one of which the team can no longer afford.

Kampf, who primarily centers the fourth line, carries a $2.4 million cap hit and could be on the outside looking in when considering the cap constraints the team faces – especially given prospects are waiting in the wings at a much lower price. Though his offensive production saw a dip in 2023-24 where he scored eight goals and added 11 assists in 78 games in comparison to the 2022-23 season, which saw the Czechia native score 27 points in 82 games, his most valuable asset is on the first penalty-killing unit as a more defensively reliable player.

But in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when the team lost to the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs, Kampf displayed glimpses of his offensive potential at the Men’s World Hockey Championship. In his only other tournament experience, he ended with a gold medal, two goals, five assists, and a team-high +9 rating.

He might fit in with many teams that have room to add a defensive forward at a fair price, given his role, price, and duration. However, as it is, the Leafs will need to make some sacrifices and may need to get inventive in order to increase their offensive capability, but it seems sense to replace Kampf with a less expensive option.