The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford in a February, 2020 trade for depth forward Trevor Moore and a couple of third round draft picks.
It seemed like a lot to give up for the Maple Leafs at the time as Campbell was struggling with a .900 save percentage and Clifford was a fourth line winger at best.
However, it has turned out to be quite a steal for the Maple Leafs and not because of Clifford’s three points in 16 career games in Toronto’s blue and white.
Campbell has been sensational since joining the Maple Leafs. He headed into Thursday night’s game leading the entire league in save percentage at .943. His 1.68 goals against average is also tops in the NHL and he has played as many games as any goalie in the league, so it’s not like he is getting a few games here and there against the bottom feeders.
Quite frankly, Campbell is giving the Maple Leafs elite level goaltending and has been since he arrived in Toronto. Campbell has made 41 starts with the Leafs and his record is 21-8-4 in that time, while posting a 2.07 GAA and a .928 SV%, Those are Vezina caliber stats over a full season without question.
The only question left for Campbell is, can he do it over a full season?
Oh, and can the Maple Leafs afford to keep him beyond this season?
The answer to the first question is, we don’t know yet. We do know the Maple Leafs have had a hard time over the years increasing a goalie’s workload and hoping they’ll win in the postseason.
The most games Campbell has played in one season is 31 back in 2018-19. He is pretty much halfway there already for the Maple Leafs. Can he play this well with a 60 game workload?
That didn’t work out so well for Frederik Andersen. The most starts Andersen had in a season before arriving in Toronto was 53 but that quickly increased to 66 in each of his first two seasons with the Maple Leafs. The result was solid, but not quite spectacular regular season results and disappointing postseasons every year.
The Maple Leafs need to be careful not to wear out Campbell. That’s easier said than done when his crease-mate in town, Petr Mrazek is battling injuries. Mrazek will essentially miss the month of November with a groin injury and he has only played two games so far this season. The Leafs have already used four goalies, with Michael Hutchinson and Joseph Woll each getting a start, but they will have to lean on someone other than Campbell if they want him at his best in the playoffs.
The reason he is playing so much this year is Mrazek’s injury and it’s Mrazek’s contract that might force Campbell to look elsewhere next season.
The 29 year old Campbell is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end and could earn quite a payday considering his performance with the Maple Leafs over the past three seasons.
But will the Maple Leafs have any money left for him?
The team already has just over $75 million committed to players for next season with nine forwards, five defensemen and one goaltender signed. That goaltender is Mrazek and he will earn $3.8 million for the next two seasons after the current one. Will the Leafs want to hand Campbell $5 million next season and commit nearly $9 million in goal?
They only have about $7 million in cap space for the 2022-23 season to fill at bare minimum three forward, one defence and one goaltender spot. That’s very little space and the numbers just don’t work unless Campbell takes about half of what he is wroth.
I suppose the Maple Leafs are just going to focus on trying to win the 2022 Stanley Cup and will then take things from there. They best enjoy Campbell’s excellent play this season, because budget constraints will make it difficult to keep him any longer.