Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Campbell, Murray, Marner & Jake Gardiner

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, with only one more day left prior to free agency, I’ll look at Ondrej Kase‘s status with the team. Sadly, Kase got caught in the numbers and now is a free agent.

Related: Maple Leafs Could Shake It Up By Trading for Patrick Kane

Second, I’ll comment on the team’s goalie situation. I’ll also share my own thoughts about why I think it’s probably good that Jack Campbell left the organization.

Item One: Kase Is Not Given a Qualifying Offer, Engvall and Sandin Are

Ondrej Kase did not receive a qualifying offer from the Maple Leafs, which makes him an unrestricted free agent. It isn’t as if the Maple Leafs don’t want the Czech forward around; however, as an RFA with arbitration rights, it would have been an iffy move qualifying him. Kase would have likely gone to arbitration, which at best would have made the team’s salary-cap picture fuzzy.

Ondrej Kase Toronto Maple Leafs
Ondrej Kase, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Kase played a total of 50 games during the 2021-22 regular season and put up 27 points in those games. However, it might not be that the team is done with Kase yet. His capabilities as a forward that can play anywhere in the lineup, contributing to both special teams units, and providing secondary offense are valued. It’s his history with injuries – especially concussions – that makes him a risky signing.

Related: 1st Overall NHL Draft Picks: Regrets From the Last Decade

The Maple Leafs did extend qualifying offers to both Pierre Engvall and Rasmus Sandin ahead of Monday’s deadline. (from “Leafs set Ondrej Kaše free, keep rights to Rasmus Sandin and Pierre Engvall,” Kevin McGran, Toronto Star, 11/07/2022).

Item Two: The Frustrating Ending Between Campbell and the Maple Leafs

On the weekend, Darren Dreger tweeted a report that the Maple Leafs and Jack Campbell had conversed and that the conversation was friendly. At that time, it seemed there might be hope the two sides could find common ground in negotiating a contract. But, nothing changed and the team eventually signed Matt Murray to be its new goalie moving forward into the 2022-23 regular season. 

That means, in a nutshell, that Cambell will listen to offers starting tomorrow. Rumors have it that the Michigan native will land with the Edmonton Oilers. It’s an interesting and frustrating turn of events. Not that I’m unhappy with Matt Murray’s signing; in fact, he might turn out to be the missing piece. That said, who doesn’t like having Campbell around? 

When Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas cleared some financial salary-cap space with Petr Mrazek’s move on Day 1 of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, it also cleared space to re-sign Campbell. Something we’ll probably never know must be going on. Perhaps the organization didn’t feel Campbell was the guy or perhaps Campbell felt he wanted to get richer elsewhere. Who knows?

Related: The Maple Leafs’ Puzzling Reluctance to Re-Sign Jack Campbell

For his part, Campbell never said anything except that he loved playing in Toronto. I see no reason not to believe him. He always seemed transparent (to a fault). 

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)

I have to wonder if Campbell saw the writing on the wall. If he had signed a huge contract with the Maple Leafs and stumbled, what then? It could be he wanted no part of it. From my history of watching Maple Leafs’ fans engage their stars, I think the worst thing he could have done was a Mitch Marner or a William Nylander.

That is, I think it was better for him to move on than to squeeze the team for money and stay. That could have been a personal disaster for him.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The situation with Campbell reminded me of how tough it is to play NHL hockey in Toronto.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Fans Should Say Their Goodbyes to Jack Campbell Now

Campbell’s a guy who cares – perhaps too much. He carries his mistakes hard. Should the fans’ chants of “Sooooouuuup” turn to boos if he let in a soft goal (which he eventually would), he could become an outcast easily in this town. That could have become a total mess.

Ask Jake Gardiner.