Although every all-star performance that Jack Campbell gifts the Toronto Maple Leafs is exactly what the franchise needs out of their netminder, each tends to exacerbate the concern surrounding the pay increase he can justifiably demand. Yet, unlike many, I don’t think Campbell will force the club’s finances into overdraft.
It’s not to say that he isn’t worth every additional dollar added to his next contract. Campbell is sure to see a healthy increase from the $1.65 million he’s currently making and rightfully so. However, it won’t be the type of raise that strains Toronto’s salary cap or forces him to sign elsewhere this offseason.
While employees are undeniably motivated by monetary gain, there can be other factors at play that prove to be just as influential when it comes to one’s job satisfaction. Campbell’s next deal in Toronto will be a perfect case study of that very point.
Dubas’ Continued Confidence in Campbell
Not every collaboration, whether personal or business, creates the same type of synergy. With that said, it’s far from surprising to see two sides find their way back towards one another if their initial interactions foreshadowed a collective future. Even if their paths navigated drastically different routes in between reunions.
Kyle Dubas was already aware of Campbell’s capabilities when he acquired him in early 2020, as that wasn’t his first time attaining the goalie’s talents.
Back in 2011, as both worked their way through the minors, Dubas put together an aggressive trade package that helped him add Campbell to his Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds lineup. Evidence that he’s had confidence in the netminder since well before they reunited in Toronto.
Despite that 2011-12 campaign not going to plan for the Greyhounds, Campbell quickly found himself thrust into a role that was one step closer to the NHL. He began accumulating more starts with the Texas Stars in the American Hockey League (AHL), so it seemed plausible that he’d be getting called up in no time.
However, despite the franchise drafting him 11th overall in 2010, Campbell only ended up playing one game for the Dallas Stars years later in 2013-14. He was eventually traded to the Los Angeles Kings in June 2016.
Mostly due to Jonathan Quick’s injury troubles, Campbell earned additional opportunities at the NHL level as a member of the Kings. Regardless of the reasoning, that was his chance to showcase why he deserved to be there.
Meanwhile, Dubas obviously kept Campbell in mind, as he pounced on the chance to infuse the former first-round pick into the Maple Leafs’ game plan mid-way through the 2019-20 campaign. An immediate sense of relief followed for the fanbase, as Campbell appeared ready to clean up Toronto’s then messy backup situation.
Yet, that didn’t encapsulate just how pivotal the move would prove to be shortly thereafter. And it’s thanks to the confidence that Dubas maintained in the netminder all those years later, that Campbell’s perseverance was finally able to truly pay off.
With Dubas being a direct contributor to the blossoming of Campbell’s career, it’s safe to say that Toronto’s new No. 1 won’t soon forget that vote of confidence.
Toronto Helped Campbell Find a Home
Again, it was clear that Campbell brought some much-needed structure to Toronto’s backend. He put up decent numbers playing behind Quick with the Kings, so there was no reason to suspect he couldn’t do the same for the Maple Leafs in a backup role to Frederik Andersen.
A record of 3-2-1 through his first campaign as a Maple Leaf, along with a save percentage (SV%) of .915 and goals-against average (GAA) of 2.63, illustrated Campbell’s ability to do exactly what every franchise hopes to get out of their No. 2. What wasn’t yet known, though, was the level of impact Campbell would then have the following season.
With Andersen sidelined for much of 2020-21, Campbell was there when called upon. It wasn’t just that he found a way to manage a starter’s workload for the first time in his career, it was the success he was achieving throughout it. His record-setting run in 2020-21 made Toronto’s decision to let Andersen walk in free agency a pretty easy one.
Dubas acquired Petr Mrázek for good measure, establishing a reliable 1A/1B tandem heading into 2021-22 — or so it seemed. Unfortunately for Mrázek, his history of injuries followed him into Toronto. Luckily for the club, though, Campbell was poised to pick up right where he left off as their go-to starter.
Streaks of success have moved many of Campbell’s counterparts up and down the NHL’s leaderboards this season, while his consistency has turned him into one of the best goaltenders in the league.
Regardless of the stat being studied, Campbell is among the elite in every area of the game. In fact, he currently leads the pack in many key categories, setting a pace that suggests he’ll continue to throughout the remainder of the season.
What’s more, Campbell is already a fan favourite in Toronto and such a reception has not gone unnoticed. He seems to be soaking in every moment, as he should, while crowds continue to chant his name.
Campbell is reaching levels of accomplishment and admiration that he’s only been able to explore since becoming a Maple Leaf.
As such, it’s not farfetched to theorize that he’d prefer to see how much further his stardom can stretch in Toronto before building a new foundation elsewhere. Even if it means accepting less than another city might offer for his services.
Campbell’s NHL Tenure Plays a Part
It’s inaccurate to assume that every athlete is only ever fixated on maximizing their earnings, every step of the way throughout their career. That’s not the case, as has been evidenced on numerous occasions in this league alone.
One such reason centres around the timing that a current term expires, relative to what that respective pro is hoping to accomplish throughout their immediate future in the game. Simply stated, a goalie coming off their entry-level contract (ELC) will have drastically different motivations than one who has been awaiting a starter’s spotlight for the past decade.
Despite his somewhat small sample size of activity since being drafted, Campbell is past the point of committing to a club that’s working its way towards contention.
As he plays through his prime, it only makes sense that he’d want to contribute his peak performances to a team that’s doing the same for him in return. What he’s found in Toronto is a mutually beneficial relationship, wherein everyone’s expectations are aligned. This is a team that wants to win now and Campbell’s all for it.
“It’s an honour to be here,” he said with a smile that hasn’t seemed to leave his face since he landed with the Leafs. “The biggest thing that stands out was the first game against Anaheim, you know, little critical of myself, but the boys picked me up and came out and scored some big goals. That explosiveness was jaw-dropping and I’m excited to keep seeing it.”
Campbell has been granted an opportunity in Toronto that he hadn’t yet come across at this level of play. He progressed from the stagnancy that came with being a backup to a bonafide No. 1 who is relied on more often than not.
That said, he’s certainly earned all he’s achieved, including this chance to build upon his career in ways that may not have seemed plausible just a few short years ago.
It will take Campbell less than three seasons in Toronto, which includes two shortened schedules, to bypass his career’s worth of experience prior to the move. With numbers that tend to sparkle brighter following every additional game played, he’s finally reaping the rewards that his patience has granted him.
Unlike a younger prospect who might prioritize the value of their next contract regardless of where it takes them, Campbell will be 30 when his current term expires.
Having put in the work to pave the smooth path he’s now enjoying in Toronto, perhaps Campbell would prefer to navigate a less turbulent journey at this point in his career.
The Toronto Factor
To be clear, this is not an argument based on the type of arrogance that non-Maple Leafs supporters assume of the franchise. As though Toronto simply expects players to accept less just to play there.
I’m not suggesting that Campbell will take a discount solely because of the city offering it.
That said, the thinking here is rather straightforward. Campbell has patiently waited for over a decade to become an undisputed starter in the NHL. A wish granted to him by the Maple Leafs, as Dubas continues to support and value his contributions to the club. All the while, being the fit that he’s proven to be in Toronto has helped him achieve in otherwise unattainable ways, as more and more Campbell jerseys blanket his new hometown.
Besides, it’s not like Campbell won’t still earn a healthy raise across a commitment that will surely benefit both sides. He’ll secure millions in future income, competing as a fan favourite for a franchise that’s already poised to contend in the present. Although all of these factors matter independent of the other, they mean even more collectively.
While there’s no denying that the organization will face some forced roster revising this offseason as a result of their financials, it won’t be Campbell’s new contract that acts as the catalyst to salary cap concerns in Toronto.
Reason enough to believe that any amount of money left on the table following this negotiation will be worth far less to Campbell than the value associated with continuing his career as a Maple Leaf.
Freelance thinker, paying too much attention to digital aesthetic. Oxford comma enthusiast. Spider-Man supporter. Sports fan, with two favourite hockey teams. If the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs ever meet in the Stanley Cup Final, you can find me wherever they’re playing that night.