Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the focus of the goalie news, as they made a massive trade after a major meltdown. Let’s look at the two events chronologically.
Following Frederik Andersen’s injury, Michael Hutchinson quickly became the biggest question in Toronto. Could the backup goaltender shoulder the burden of a starter’s role in Andersen’s absence? Or would he continue to struggle like he had most of the season, despite recent improvement?
Hutchinson and the Maple Leafs answered that question quickly — in the space of six seconds, actually. Late in the first period, New York Rangers forwards Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider scored consecutive goals six seconds apart. Though Hutchinson ultimately saved 30-of-34 shots (for a save percentage of .882), that brief meltdown must have been enough to send Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas to the phones.
It can’t exactly come as a surprise, though. Toronto’s backup position is a difficult one to hold down at the best of times. This season, Hutchinson’s .886 SV% and 3.62 goals-against average (GAA, entering Wednesday) have not been nearly enough to get the job done, nor has his 4-9-1 record. The Maple Leafs need to fill their backup position on a budget, but even so, they needed more than they were getting. Now, they’ll hope their newest acquisition can do what Hutchinson couldn’t.
Maple Leafs Acquire Campbell, Clifford
Though Dubas has reportedly been in contact with the Los Angeles Kings for some time, the negotiations obviously became of primary importance during the course of the Rangers’ defeat. The Maple Leafs didn’t waste any time, getting a deal arranged to acquire backup goaltender Jack Campbell, along with former Dubas client Kyle Clifford.
The details of the trade are fairly simple: the Leafs acquire Campbell and Clifford. In exchange, they surrender Trevor Moore, a 24-year-old forward, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft (acquired from Columbus via a trade with the Ottawa Senators), and a conditional third-round pick in 2021. Pierre LeBrun reports that the conditional pick could become a second-round pick either if Clifford re-signs with the Maple Leafs, or if the team makes the playoffs and Campbell wins six or more regular-season games.
Campbell, 28, is contracted through the 2021-22 season, giving the Maple Leafs flexibility for the upcoming 2021 Seattle expansion draft. In fact, Campbell is now the longest-contracted goalie in Toronto, as Andersen’s contract will expire after the 2020-21 season. It is a simple, reasonably-priced, low-cost acquisition for the Maple Leafs. But can Campbell provide what they need on the ice?
Fans who look immediately at Campbell’s 2019-20 performance may wonder why the Maple Leafs acquired him. He is 8-10-2 with a .900 SV% and 2.85 GAA, hardly inspiring stats. Add to it his minus-4.82 goals saved above average (GSAA) and .350 quality start percentage (QS%), and he doesn’t seem like much of an improvement on Hutchinson. Fortunately, his history promises better performances.
Before this season, in which the Kings are a disaster at the distant bottom of the Western Conference, Campbell’s numbers are much better. Last season was his breakout campaign, and also his first with significant playing time. He went 10-14-1 and had a .928 SV% and a 2.30 GAA. His GSAA was ridiculous at 15.16, and his QS% was .640. Impressively, the Kings were at the bottom of the Western Conference last season as well.
Los Angeles rewarded the strong performance with a contract extension prior to the season. While it’s difficult to identify what explains the downturn in Campbell’s numbers, the Maple Leafs are obviously anticipating a return to form worthy of that contract. Only time will tell. But in the meantime, Dubas has answered the most pressing question facing his team.
We’d be remiss if we closed the goalie news without discussing the jaw-dropping save from Chicago Blackhawks’ goaltender Robin Lehner. Take a look for yourself.
A pass reaches David Krejčí on Lehner’s blindside, sliding through four Blackhawks’ defenders. But Krejčī bobbles it just enough to give Lehner time to react. The netminder sprawls across the net and makes an incredible save. It wasn’t enough to secure the victory, but it may have saved a point for the Blackhawks. Lehner continues to make the case that he deserves a big raise this offseason, wherever he ends up.
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Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.