Oilers Should Target Maple Leafs UFA Goalie Jack Campbell

The 2021-2022 NHL season wrapped up on June 26 when the Colorado Avalanche were crowned Stanley Cup champions. For the Edmonton Oilers, the fun part is about to begin, as the retooling process starts with expectations for a busy offseason. Will Evander Kane be returning to Edmonton? Will there be trades or buyouts to clear cap space? Also, which netminder will they pursue in an attempt to solidify their goaltending?

Hockey analyst and TSN 1260’s Tom Gazzola and Sportsnet’s Mark Spector have suggested recently that the Oilers are interested in pending unrestricted free agent Jack Campbell. TSN reported that talks between the goaltender and the Toronto Maple Leafs have been quiet. That said, would Campbell be a good fit with the Oilers? The Hockey Writers’ Rob Couch recently wrote about Maple Leafs free agents the Oilers should target, and we take a deeper look as to why Campbell makes sense for the Oilers.

Oilers’ Hockey Analysts Think Campbell Would Be a Good Fit

Gazzola spoke on the “Oil Stream” podcast with co-host and TSN 1260’s Dustin Nielson, saying, “The Jack Campbell name, I’ve heard rumblings that if nothing works out with Campbell in Toronto, Edmonton would be very much interested in Campbell and understandably so.” He added, “He’s serviceable, he had a fantastic season, and he’s more than capable when he has a good team in front of him. The Oilers do have a good team right now. It’s going to look interesting and different by the time we get to training camp. But that is a guy I think could wind up here in Edmonton, for sure.”

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Also, Sportsnet’s Mark Spector indicated the Oilers’ probable goaltender targets this offseason are Ville Husso and Campbell, although, Husso is more of an unknown commodity. He predicted the Oilers’ will acquire Campbell for stability.

Campbell Would Be a Reasonable Pickup for the Oilers

According to CapFriendly, Edmonton has just over $7 million in cap space for next season, but Oilers’ Colour Commentator and host of “Oilers Now” Bob Stauffer has been hinting recently that the Oilers will have more cap room than people think, suggesting that trades or buyouts are all but guaranteed. With Mikko Koskinen’s departure to Switzerland and Mike Smith’s future with the team still unknown at this time, the Oilers need a stable goaltender.  

Taking a look at the goaltender market this offseason, there’s the pending unrestricted free agent Husso. However, like Spector mentioned, with only 64 games under his belt, he’s still relatively unknown, yet it’s expected there will be a bidding war for his services. The Hockey Writer’s Kristy Flannery tweeted that it’s projected he’ll want $5 million AAV on a four-year term.

There’s also the 32-year-old Darcy Kuemper, who made $4.5 million AAV on his last contract. He’s coming off a Stanley Cup victory, his value is at an all-time high and he’d most likely expect a raise. He’ll be looking to cash in on a big pay day, which might be too rich for Edmonton. Moreover, there’s Sergei Bobrovsky who turns 34 in September. There are rumours the Florida Panthers are trying to shop the netminder with 50% of his salary retained and he’d likely cost $5 million AAV for the next four years.

In comparison to the other goaltenders, the 30-year-old Campbell, who posted a 31-9-6 record with a 2.64 goals-against-average (GAA) and a .914 save percentage (SV%), looks like a reasonable option between the pipes. Assuming that he’ll cost between $3-5 million AAV, he’s slightly more proven than Husso, won’t cost as much as Kuemper and at 30 years old, he’s a better fit to grow with the current cast of Oilers, in comparison to an aging Bobrovsky.

Also, he’s proven he can handle playing in a Canadian market. He had a stellar regular season and played in his first All-Star Game last February, playing in the “Hockey Mecca of the World,” Toronto, which has more scrutiny and media coverage than Edmonton. This is worth noting because quite often we hear of players succumbing to the added pressure of playing in a Canadian city because of harsh criticism (from ‘Pressure of Playing in Canada Can Be Too Much for Some,’ Toronto Sun, 4/11/16). Goaltenders, in general, have to be mentally tough — even tougher in Canadian markets it seems — and Campbell has proven to perform under those conditions.

The Oilers Have Had Success With Former Maple Leafs’ Players

If Campbell needs an incentive to sign in Edmonton, he should look no further than the success his previous Maple Leafs’ teammates have had playing with the Oilers as of late.

He was briefly a teammate of Tyson Barrie in the 2019-2020 season, where the defenseman recorded 39 points in 70 games. He signed a one-year deal with the Oilers in October 2020, and led all NHL defensemen that year in the shortened season with 48 points in 56 games. With his first season’s success, he turned that into a three-year deal worth $4.5 million AAV. He tallied 41 points in 73 games this past season, and for as much criticism he receives for his lack of defensive ability, he played steady two-way hockey for the Oilers this past playoffs.

Campbell was also a teammate of Cody Ceci in the 2019-2020 season with Toronto. He had a less-than-ideal offensive output that year with only a goal and seven assists in 56 games and became a scapegoat for Leafs fans. Edmonton signed Ceci to a four-year deal worth $13 million on July 28, 2021. Many Oilers fans were wary of the player, due to his poor outing with the Leafs, but he proved doubters wrong and emerged as a pleasant surprise on the blue line. He recorded five goals and 28 assists in 78 games while averaging 20:54 time on ice (TOI) for the Oilers. He also had a big playoff performance, tallying seven points in 16 games, including the game-winner in Game 7 against the Los Angeles Kings.

Related: 3 Maple Leafs Free Agents the Oilers Should Target

Zach Hyman spent six seasons with the Maple Leafs, and was a teammate of Campbell for two. In his first season with the Oilers, he was a vital member of the Oilers’ special teams, he was tenacious on the forecheck, and tallied 54 points in 76 games. In addition, he raised his level of play in the postseason, scoring 11 goals and added five assists in 16 games, while throwing 44 hits.

If Campbell can’t work out a deal with Toronto, and with the success, his former teammates, Barrie, Ceci, and Hyman have had with the Oilers, does that entice him to sign in Edmonton? Possibly. At the same time, from an Oilers perspective, general manager Ken Holland is three for three in signing former Maple Leafs players. Will he make Campbell the fourth? Only time will tell, with free agency set to start on July 13.

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