The Maple Leafs announced a minor-league trade this afternoon, acquiring 23-year-old left-shot defenseman Chad Krys from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for 28-year-old forward Kurtis Gabriel.

Here are the main factors at play with this move:

  • Signed to a one-year NHL contract this past offseason, Kurtis Gabriel is by all accounts a great human being who deserves to be closer to a real opportunity — which he should be in a rebuilding organization such as Chicago — to receive a few stints in the NHL, as he did in his previous stops in Minnesota, New Jersey, and San Jose. That opportunity wasn’t there in Toronto with the Leafs‘ depth, especially after the addition of Kyle Clifford.
  • With Curtis Douglas and Rich Clune on the Marlies roster, a third tough guy wasn’t totally essential, and this may clear the path a little bit for other players such as Bobby McMann (five points in 10 AHL appearances) to receive some more opportunity.
  • The Marlies just recalled a few bodies on defense from ECHL’s Newfoundland while Mac Hollowell remains out of the lineup for personal reasons and Alex Biega and Kristian Rubins, both big minutes eaters, are up with the Leafs in the injury absences of Travis Dermott and Rasmus Sandin. The Marlies could use the defensive depth.

The 23-year-old, 5’11, 185-pound Krys was drafted 45th overall in the 2016 draft, 16 spots ahead of teammate Joseph Woll of U.S. National Development Team, where Krys also played with another former Leafs selection from the same draft in J.D. Greenway as well as current-Marlie/Leaf Joey Anderson. After his draft year, the Philadelphia native enjoyed a productive career at Boston University, tallying 47 points in 66 games over his sophomore and junior years before signing his entry-level contract and turning pro.

Krys has fairly limited AHL experience despite being in the league with Rockford for three seasons now; injuries have been an issue, limiting him to just 64 games played (15 points). He is coming off of rehab from a shoulder surgery undertaken last March and has appeared in just eight games this season for the IceHogs (one assist).

Keep in mind this is from Krys’ draft year, but here was the Blackbook’s scouting report on the left-shot D in 2016:

Chad Krys Scouting Report

Krys is a puck-moving defenseman who can use his skating to move pucks and also has good enough vision to pass the puck around. Krys also does a good job of using his skating offensively; he can keep control of the point on the power play and does a good job walking the blueline. While a good puck-distributor, we wish Krys would display a bit more decisiveness in manufacturing offense from the offensive blueline, but he often settles for the basic play and doesn’t overly exert himself.

His mobility is also a big part of his defensive game. At his best, Krys does a good job getting into position quickly to recover pucks or win foot races. This is especially the case on the defensive blueline and in the neutral zone where Krys has the mobility that allows him to retrieve pucks and start a quick re-group. Krys is undersized for a defenseman, so defending deeper in his own zone and around the net poses some challenges to him. This is magnified by the fact that he is not the most engaging defensive-zone player.

Right now, Krys does a good job playing his game, but additional improvement will be needed either in defensive zone or in becoming a bigger offensive threat from the offensive blueline in. Krys has a solid framework with his mobile puck-movement game to build upon, but becoming a full-time NHL defenseman without improvement in those two areas will be quite hard, especially at his size.

Krys is in the final year of his ELC and will be an RFA this offseason.