The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed right winger Ondřej Kaše to a one-year contract worth $1.25 million. Kase, 25, was injured for the vast majority of last season, only spending six games with the Boston Bruins. The previous season, he was traded to Boston from the Anaheim Ducks in the David Backes deal. Kase was on a three-year, $2.6 million contract following his ELC, so this is a step back for him after not being qualified by the Bruins.
🖊️ We’ve signed forward Ondřej Kaše to a one-year contract. #LeafsForever— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) July 31, 2021
Kase is a 40-point player when he’s healthy, though it’s been more like 20-something due to missing games with various injuries. Kase suffered a concussion last season on January 16th and was out for most of the season, that concussion wasn’t his first one either. He’s also had shoulder surgery.
Injuries aside, because you never know when a player is going to have a healthy season, Kase is a very good play driver. His last meaningful season in 2019-20 saw him post a 54% shot share in the Ducks top six, about 6% better relative to his team in not especially sheltered usage. His expected goals were not as good, to be fair, with the shots not exactly translating into expected goals. His individual expected goals of 0.72 is similar to that of Ilya Mikheyev. Funnily enough, he also shot 4% in 2019-20 with the Ducks, however that was a blip among other normal shooting seasons.
Overall, this looks to be a very cromulent third line signing.
Ondrej Kase is a surprisingly solid driver of even-strength xG and Corsi differential, but has had a tough time shooting in recent seasons. We project his most likely deals with another team at 1 and 2 years for $795k and $990k respectively. https://t.co/jyUsX49996 pic.twitter.com/Po14no0Dux— Evolving-Hockey (@EvolvingHockey) July 26, 2021
As good as this signing is, it still feels like Kyle Dubas is doing everything possible to not replace the hole at 1LW. Currently the depth chart looks like Kerfoot, Bunting, Mikheyev, Engvall. None of those guys are especially strong offensively to be useful in the top six, and the guy who has numbers to do that has only played a dozen NHL games or so. In my opinion, they still need a real guy. Kase feels like an upgrade on someone like Mikheyev or Engvall, not solving a hole higher up.
And just to be clear, William Nylander can play LW, but he is a notably better player on his strong side. Maybe they could put Kase on his left side, but that feels like shoving a square peg in a round hole.