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

Here’s my straightforward thinking. If the Toronto Maple Leafs were facing a similar goalie issue; and, if Jack Campbell were on another NHL team; and, if his contract were expiring as it is and he became a UFA, I believe the team would try to sign him in a heartbeat. So, why is there any reluctance to re-sign him now? 

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Campbell has been with the team now for two seasons, so we know about him. To me, that gives the team even more reason to re-sign him. Again, I ask, why is there any reluctance at all?

Two Considerations for Re-Signing Campbell

There are two considerations in re-signing Campbell for me. One is the head (the logic of it all), and the second is the heart (what as a fan, I’d like to happen). 

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As a fan, I’d sign him now. He’s a solid goalie; and, from everything we see, his own teammates love him and play hard for him. He’s got a ton of fans who also love him, and the cheers of “Sooouuup” echoing the arena when he makes a great save energize the crowd. He’s a great representative for the city as well and his behavior fits the culture the team wishes to create.

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Campbell’s also a great story. He started out as a youngster with huge potential; lost his way; but, he came back. When the Maple Leafs picked him up from the Los Angeles Kings, he was (only) seen as a capable backup goalie; but, that was something the team needed but had failed to find – Garret Sparks had not been the answer

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Then, as one THW reader put it so well, general manager Kyle Dubas found lightning in a bottle. When Frederik Andersen was hurt, Campbell came in and performed well. In fact, the whole team performed well with him. Campbell set an NHL record for wins at the start of the season. And, even in this past playoff round, he beat Andrei Vasilevskiy at his game by arguably out-performing the Conn Smythe goalie in five of the seven Round 1 games the two teams played.

It’s Possible to Be Both a Campbell and a Dubas Fan

I admit, I am a huge fan of Campbell. But I am also a fan of Dubas. But that’s more my head than my heart. I simply agree with the direction he’s taken. I also appreciate the vision he (and others in Maple Leafs management) have about the kind of hockey they believe can win a Stanley Cup. 

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

And I hope they’re right, because I hate – loathe – what seems to commonly be called “playoff” hockey. That hockey is best exemplified by the kind of play that, after a skater takes a shot on a goalie and the goalie makes the save that skater continues to rub “into” the goalie to deliver a crosscheck. Where every stoppage in play ends with some kind of a face-washing scrum. Where it’s ok to run the goalie, wrestle his mask off while skating by, or remove his glove with a “errant” stick. That to me is cheating and detracts from this amazing game. 

I can’t be the only one who feels that way. 

My Head Also Tells Me Campbell’s Worth the Money

My head also tells me that, given the way money is spent in the NHL these days, Campbell’s request for upwards of $4.5 million (which is my guess for what it will take to re-sign him) is out of line with the going rate for solid goalies. It would be insulting to both parties if Dubas signed Campbell anything less than Petr Mrazek signed for last season. 

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It would also be insulting for Dubas NOT to move Mrazek’s contract – somehow – given that Campbell has performed so well for the team over the past two seasons. It makes sense to parlay those funds into money toward Campbell’s contract. In fact, logic would suggest to me that not doing so would be a sure sign that, for some reason I cannot fathom, the organization WANTS Campbell gone. 

If Elliotte Friedman is correct that the organization’s starting offer was less than $3 million ($2.75 million was the report), if you’re Campbell what are you thinking? If that offer from the Maple Leafs is accurate, Campbell’s agent must be shouting to him that he should sign elsewhere when the free-agent market opens on July 13.

Campbell deserves a nice raise. That’s the way the business of hockey works. The team’s salary-cap is maxed out; but, that’s also the way the business of hockey works.

Related: Maple Leafs Made the Right Move Going With Campbell Over Andersen

Now it’s up to the Maple Leafs’ general manager to find a way to re-sign Campbell. I believe it will happen, although I don’t yet know the rabbit that will come out of the hat to make it so.