High ceiling, low floor. That’s what comes with skilled forward Ondrej Kase. When healthy, Kase’s talent is apparent. The 25-year-old winger has a 20-goal season on his resume and has scored at nearly a half-point per-game pace in his young career. The problem is that Kase has only played in 207 games through five NHL seasons, averaging just a half-season’s worth of games per year due to injury. The Boston Bruins learned the hard way that Kase cannot be relied upon, as he played in just nine regular season games total with the team after coming over from the Anaheim Ducks at the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline. This past year, he missed all but three games due to a head injury in the second game of the season and left his return game early, unable to handle getting checked.
Yet, the Bruins still nearly extended him a $2.6MM qualifying offer this summer. Bruins GM Don Sweeney had planned on retaining the dynamic, but fragile forward but changed course. The fact that Kase even remained in consideration for a new deal at that price point speaks to the upside that he brings if he can get healthy and stay healthy.
The Toronto Maple Leafs appear willing to take that chance. The team has announced a one-year, $1.25MM with Kase. While the term mitigates some risk of Kase being unable to return to form following a year missed almost entirely due to concussion symptoms, the Maple Leafs still had to commit over $1MM in order to sign Kase. That signing puts Toronto right up against the salary cap with their projected 23-man roster; so much so in fact that if Kase is on regular injured reserve, the Leafs will not have the room to even recall a minimum salary player to replace him. The trade-off of course is that a healthy Kase will be an excellent addition to their forward corps as a player who can skate with their stars and produce points. It is the ultimate boom-or-bust bargain for Toronto.