3 Most Logical Destinations For Maple Leafs’ Jack Campbell

One of the biggest questions facing the Toronto Maple Leafs continues to go without an answer as we approach the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft. What is going on with Jack Campbell‘s status with the team?

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Campbell is a pending UFA who is entering his one and perhaps only chance to cash in big in free agency. In a perfect world, the Maple Leafs would love to re-sign him and Campbell would love to return. But if the going rate for these kind of goalies runs you $5 million per season, can the Maple Leafs afford to keep him?

That’s the decision Kyle Dubas and staff will ultimately have to make. While it’s certainly not the end of the road yet for Campbell and the Maple Leafs, time is slowly starting to run out on a possible decision.

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Campbell’s agent Kurt Overhardt recently told the Athletic: “We’ve had a couple of conversations. I think it’s been reported that we haven’t exchanged numbers or anything like that. But we continue to have a good dialogue.” (From Latest on Jack Campbell-Maple Leafs negotiations and more: What we’re hearing, Jonas Siegel, The Athletic, 6/15/2022)

There may be good dialogue, but there appears to be no real updates on negotiations otherwise. This means facing the possibility of Campbell moving on in free agency. With just under $8 million in cap space and only 17 players signed, dollars are tight. Unless they’re able to do something with Petr Mrazek, the Campbell era is likely over.

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell would love to come back to Toronto, but it might not be possible. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If it comes to that point, where will Campbell end up? That’s what our focus will be on here. He will want to go somewhere that has both cap space and number-one opportunity from the start. He’s done everything possible to set himself up for his chance to cash in. His performance against the Lightning in the first round certainly caught the attention of possible suitors.

In looking at the current state of teams, three teams stand out as the most logical destinations for Campbell should he leave the Maple Leafs. Who are they?

Buffalo Sabres

How juicy would this storyline be? If you can’t beat them, join them, right? The Sabres have enjoyed recent regular-season success against the Maple Leafs. Perhaps Campbell wants to get in on the winning side for once.

All kidding aside, the Sabres have significant questions in their crease. They have a need for a veteran guy to play alongside up and coming goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. The question here is two-fold. Would Campbell be willing to join in this situation? And then would the Sabres be willing to dish out the term Campbell is likely looking for?

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The Sabres have plenty of cap space so paying out dollars isn’t an issue. They just acquired the contract of Ben Bishop in an effort to help them get to the cap floor. But with Luukkonen possibly ready to become a number one in a couple of years, the term would seem to be the hold up for the Sabres. Can they offer Campbell higher dollars while keeping the term low?

If this happens, Campbell would go from beloved to mortal enemy in short order. Those would be fun games to watch.

New Jersey Devils

GM Tom Fitzgerald didn’t hold back in his end-of-season press conference. The New Jersey Devils clearly understand the goaltending has to be better.

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Mackenzie Blackwood was able to play at the end of the season but is still young and has a lot of room for development. Jonathan Bernier has one more season left at $4.125 million. However there is real concern about his status after undergoing hip surgery during the 2021-22 season.

“I am worried,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “We’re all concerned about long term (health) and where this is going to go, where we’ll end up going forward, so I’m worried and very concerned.”

Should it get to a point Bernier is unable to come back, the Devils will need to address their goaltending situation in free agency. Fitzgerald said he owes this to everyone in the organization including the fans. This is where Campbell could fit in.

Like the Sabres, the Devils are not against the cap and can easily afford Campbell. That would actually give them a formidable goalie tandem with both he and Blackwood being able to shoulder a load if they’re winning or someone is injured.

The Devils have good pieces in place. But they need saves. Bringing Campbell on would help solidify their biggest need while giving a veteran presence around Blackwood to boot. Again this comes down to Bernier’s status. But it makes a lot of sense for a team that is looking to finally take the next step.

Chicago Blackhawks

Here’s another situation that has the opportunity available. The Blackhawks’ struggles are well documented. As we sit here today, we have no idea who their starter for opening night will be in October.

Both Colin Delia and Kevin Lankinen are pending UFA’s. Marc-Andre Fleury was of course traded to the Minnesota Wild. The only other goalies under contract at the moment are Arvid Soderblom, Jaxson Stauber and Cale Morris. So the need for a netminder is pressing.

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell would be the unquestioned starter if he signed with the Blackhawks. (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)

Despite having $20 million in cap space available, they have several key pieces in need of new deals. Kirby Dach, Dominik Kubalik, Philipp Kurashev, Dylan Strome and Caleb Jones all need new contracts. They also need to figure their defense out. And is Alex DeBrincat even coming back?

Related: Blackhawks Should Avoid Trading Alex DeBrincat

So this will be interesting to see how everything unfolds. Does Campbell want to really cash in or will situation play a role? He would be the unquestioned starter on the Blackhawks. But he’d also join a team many think are in the running for Connor Bedard. Would he want to endure that given all the team’s concerns? Payday and opportunity or chance to win the Cup? That’s the ultimate question.

Campbell regardless holds the cards. He’s earned the right to test the market. As one of the best free-agent goalies available should it get that far, he’d have no shortage of suitors. Don’t rule out a return to Toronto just yet. But if he can’t get something done with the Maple Leafs, don’t be surprised to see him wear a jersey of one of the three above teams next season and beyond.

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