Toronto Maple Leafs Re-sign Cody Ceci and Alexander Kerfoot
In case you are part of the growing collective blocked by Darren Dreger, here are the details. Alexander Kerfoot signed a four-year, 14 million dollar contract with an AAV of 3.5 million, and Cody Ceci signed a one-year, 4.5 million dollar contract. Both will be Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) at the conclusion of their deals.
As the above tweet indicates, Cap Friendly now shows the Leafs as having $3,765,301 in projected cap space. Keep in mind that Nathan Horton’s contract can be moved to Long-Term Injured Reserve, allowing them to exceed the ceiling by his total cap hit of 5.3 million. Other potential candidates for LTIR include Travis Dermott ($863,333) and Zach Hyman ($2,250,000), both expected to miss at least the first month of the regular season. These signings mean that the Leafs have only one RFA left to sign, albeit a significant one, in Mitch Marner.
Let’s take a quick look at these contracts and what they mean for the player and the Leafs.
There were rumours at the time the initial trade with the Ottawa Senators was made that the Leafs had agreed in principle with Ceci on a one year, 4.5 million dollar deal. This would make his cap hit identical to departing defenceman Nikita Zaitsev on a much shorter term. However, rumours also swirled that the Leafs would choose not to re-sign Ceci, viewing the cap space as a greater asset than the oft-maligned defenceman. Evidently, the paucity of a right-hand shot on the backend forced the Leafs hand.
Babcock appears to have penciled Ceci into the top-four, partnering either Morgan Rielly or Jake Muzzin. At the press conference announcing the trade, general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas spoke of getting a highly motivated player, as he will be using this season to showcase his talents for a UFA payday next July.
All things considered, I don’t mind this deal. The Leafs desperately needed help on the right side. Regardless of how you felt about Zaitsev, his departure left a gaping hole on the defence. Ceci fills that spot with no long-term risk. Searching Twitter for Ceci highlights shows most of his goals coming against the Leafs. So unless he channels his inner Kris Russell, Leafs fans won’t need to worry about that whilst he’s on the roster.
The blockbuster trade the Maple Leafs made with the Colorado Avalanche centered around two pieces in particular. Outgoing center Nazem Kadri, and incoming right-shot defenseman Tyson Barrie. But don’t sleep on the 24-year-old Kerfoot.
At a 3.5 million dollar cap hit, he should fill the role of third-line center for a million dollars cheaper than even Kadri’s reasonable deal. Granted, although there is still room to grow offensively, it’s unlikely that Kerfoot will ever match Kadri’s offensive production, a two-time 30-goal scorer. Kerfoot has contributed at around a 0.5 point per game pace throughout his two-year career. However, it’s not unreasonable to expect Kerfoot to develop into a 20-goal scorer at some point under this contract. Additionally, Kerfoot had a 56.0 faceoff percentage in his sophomore season.
With this contract, the Leafs bought one year of UFA status. Once again, I like this deal. The cap hit is quite reasonable for a third-line center. His versatility will likely make him a favourite of the coaching staff in Toronto, and the fact that he will likely improve over the length of the contract is gravy.