Maple Leafs Have Limited Options to Replace Jack Campbell

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas has some work to do this summer and most of it will be centered around goaltender Jack Campbell. “Soup” as he’s known around the dressing room and to Leafs Nation, is a pending unrestricted free agent who can hit the open market on July 13. There’s going to be a ton of interest in him, so the Leafs’ GM will need to get his business in order before early July if he wants the best shot to keep his all-star netminder in town. If the two sides cannot work out a contract extension, the Maple Leafs are going to have limited options to replace him. Let’s examine a few different avenues they could venture down if that happens.

Maple Leafs Free-Agent Options Include Stanley Cup Winners

Toronto currently has just under $8 million in salary cap space for the 2022-23 season and have some restricted free-agents who are in need of contracts with the likes of Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin included, so if we were to ball park, they have roughly $4 million to work with to sign a starting goaltender. Two free agents who immediately pop out include Marc-Andre Fleury and Braden Holtby.

Braden Holtby, Dallas Stars
Braden Holtby, Dallas Stars (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Both veteran netminders have winning pedigrees and could be an option for the win-now Maple Leafs. Holtby had an up and down season for the Dallas Stars in what could turn out to be his only season in Big D. The 32-year-old appeared in 24 games and posted a very respectable .913 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.78 goals-against average (GAA). While he’s not the goalie he once was when he was with the Washington Capitals, Holtby is the type of goaltender Toronto can actually afford at the moment as he’s coming off a contract worth only $2 million in average annual value (AAV). Considering his age and injury history, it’s likely his next contract will also be around this figure. Certainly an option for the Maple Leafs, as Holtby and Petr Mrazek could form a tandem much like what Dubas had in mind for Mrazek and Campbell.

Related: 3 Maple Leafs Who Could Be Traded in Favor of Salary Cap Flexibility

Meanwhile, Fleury is an interesting option as the Maple Leafs were trying to acquire the reigning Vezina Trophy winner before the trade deadline this season in a mega-deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. Their offer got leaked, talks broke off and he ended up with the Minnesota Wild.

Marc-Andre Fleury Minnesota Wild
Marc-Andre Fleury, Minnesota Wild (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

This offseason ‘The Flower’ is expected to circle back to the Pittsburgh Penguins and try to finish out his career with his best buds Kris Letang, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. With the Penguins’ uncertainty surrounding everything from GM Ron Hextall’s future to their new ownership group’s direction, they are currently a bit of a mess and may not have any room to bring Fleury back into the fold.

Perhaps Dubas could offer a one or two-year deal at $5 million per season to get the veteran goaltender’s attention as it’s unknown at the moment just how long Fleury wants to keep playing. He’ll turn 38 years old one month into next season and it will be curious to see where his interest level lies in the Maple Leafs. With Toronto having the likes of Auston Matthews and William Nylander under contract for the next two seasons and John Tavares and Mitch Marner for the next three, Fleury is the type of goaltender the Maple Leafs need to consider adding if Campbell does indeed walk.

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Another interesting option could be St Louis Blues netminder Ville Husso. The 27-year-old burst onto the scene this season and at times took over the number one spot over Jordan Binnington. It appears the Blues are riding Binnington in the Stanley Cup Playoffs now, after Husso struggled early on against the Wild.

Ville Husso St. Louis Blues
Ville Husso, St. Louis Blues (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If you go back to his regular season, Husso’s numbers stack up nicely against the rest of the league, posting a 25-7-6 record with two shutouts. With his current contract only being for $750,000, he will fetch a hefty raise this summer. With only 60 games of NHL experience including two Stanley Cup Playoff games, he doesn’t have a ton of leverage when it comes to salary negotiations. Perhaps Dubas and company will consider the 6-foot-3 Finnish netminder for something around $3.5 million over three seasons? Risky no doubt, but as mentioned, with the Maple Leafs cap situation and interest in keeping most of their team together, options will be limited.

Trade Options Will Be Few and Far Between for Maple Leafs

It feels like Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson has been linked to Toronto for years and it’s likely due to the fact that they made a draft-day deal with them and lost out of selecting Gibson in the draft. All he’s done since is become an all-star caliber goalie who has posted a respectable 166-148-51 career record in Anaheim, including seasons with some pretty bad teams in front of him.

John Gibson Anaheim Ducks
John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Gibson makes $6.4 million annually and is signed long-term through the 2026-27 season. He holds no-trade protection where he submits a list of 10 teams to avoid, and it’s unknown if Toronto would make the list but considering the Ducks’ makeup, he would likely be open to a move. The Ducks aren’t shopping him by any means but it does feel like they are willing to listen. Perhaps a move including Mrazek and his $3.8 million salary and a few top prospects could get their attention. It’s still an unlikely route to say the least.

As for other potential trade targets, Chris Driedger of the Seattle Kraken had a horrible season out west but is signed for two more seasons at $3.5 million annually and while last season was a mess, he was stellar in 2020-21 for the Florida Panthers. The Vegas Golden Knights have financial issues, so perhaps a prospect-filled trade package for Robin Lehner and his $5 million salary could be an option, but again at this point, it’s something that feels unlikely.

Maple Leafs Must Get Campbell Re-Signed

At the end of the day, it comes down to keeping the team together and one of the heart and soul members is Campbell. He’s beloved by his teammates, management, and the fans and Leafs Nation is hoping Dubas and his agent can get their business sorted out. “Soup” is coming off being underpaid at $1.6 million and to this point, it doesn’t sound like there’s been a ton of in-season negotiations. His next deal is expected to be around the $4.5 million mark per season and it’s likely a desperate team could offer closer to $6 million on the open market.

The good news in all of this is Campbell’s interest level to stay and Dubas’ loyalty that dates back over a decade. This is a goaltender that the Leafs GM has traded for twice, once in junior hockey and once in the NHL and to me, there’s no doubt he’d like to have the “Soup” chants continue in Toronto. Campbell has been saying all the right things since the team was eliminated and with how close Toronto was to dispatching the back-to-back Stanley Cup champs, perhaps “unfinished business” will become the two buzz words in the city this summer. If he walks, Dubas will have his work cut out for him in replacing his presence in the crease, making it his toughest test yet since taking over as GM.

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