In today’s edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll focus on two imminent decisions the organization must make about its roster heading into next season. Obviously, one of the biggest issues is the status of goalie Jack Campbell. I’ll share some news that’s emerging about that situation.
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First, however, I’ll try to unpack some of the rumors about a possible Jake Muzzin trade during the offseason. For as much as different hockey writers – myself included – have talked about the possibility of trading Muzzin, is it even possible? Would all the parties involved agree?
Item One: The Implications of Jake Muzzin’s No-Trade Clause
The Maple Leafs, like many other NHL teams, seem to have salary-cap difficulties that would only to be remedied by trading a current high-salaried player. The name Jake Muzzin keeps coming up. In fact, I’ve brought it up myself wondering if he might waive his no-trade clause in his contract to return to the Los Angeles Kings. After all, the Kings are a team he played for over the course of his career – eight seasons to be exact. Living in southern California must have some appeal by itself.
Jake Muzzin Toronto Maple Leafs
But would Muzzin even consider waiving his no-trade clause? Maple Leafs’ hockey writers, pundits, and fans seem to think that’s a possibility. In fact, we all seem to ignore the fact that he even has a no-trade clause in his contract.
Obviously, that clause exists for some reason; and, I can’t see that as the organization’s contract-bargaining policy. It would be too restrictive in making later trades. Logic suggests it would be initiated by the player’s agent as part of their contract negotiations. Ergo, Muzzin either must desire to stay in Toronto or want more choice in his movements.
Yesterday, Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star wrote about Muzzin’s no-trade clause. He noted that if the Maple Leafs want to move Muzzin’s contract off their books (which is a salary-cap hit is $5.625 million), they must consider that no-trade clause. The clause itself means he can be waived but not traded.
McGran goes on to note that the Maple Leafs might waive Muzzin and hope another team claims him. Or the team could buy him out. However, because so much of his money is included as a signing bonus, the salary-cap savings on a buy out would only be about $1.4 million.
If Muzzin were waived but not claimed and the team chooses not to buy him out of his contract, he could be sent to the Toronto Marlies. That would save the Maple Leafs $1.125 million in salary-cap space. In short, it might not be as easy as Maple Leafs’ writers seem to think it is. (from “Leafs mailbag: Playoff what-ifs, format riffs and the trouble with ‘Hockey Night’,” Kevin McGran, Toronto Star, 03/06/2022).
Item Two: What’s the Thinking about Jack Campbell?
Other than Muzzin, who’s already signed for $5.625 million, perhaps the Maple Leafs’ player who’s gaining the most metaphorical ink is Jack Campbell. Yesterday, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Campbell’s agent, Kurt Overhardt, had noted that “there’s been no material contract conversation” with the Maple Leafs since the end of the season. He also noted that whatever the two sides had discussed then likely wasn’t relevant any longer.
Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
None of that specifically means that Campbell will test free-agency; however, it does mean that – for some reason – the talks are not proceeding. Obviously, Campbell might still re-sign with the team; and, there’s no reason to believe there wouldn’t be some mutual interest in working something out.
I’m just guessing that the average salary for a starting NHL goalie would be between $4.5-$6 million. Campbell is coming off a contract of $1.65 million. At the time that contract was negotiated, Campbell wasn’t likely able to negotiate for more. Then Frederik Andersen went down with an injury, and (as “nor,” one of THW readers noted) Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas “caught lightning in a bottle.”
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But, can an agreeable contract be negotiated? So many things come into play in this decision. For example, if Campbell leaves and shows he can stay healthy and can play upwards of 55 games a season; and, if the Maple Leafs’ goaltending situation falters, the organization would experience a setback and fans would be up in arms. However, there’s nothing in Campbell’s recent history so suggest that he’s that durable.
So, the Maple Leafs as an organization must be diligent about how to spend its salary-cap resources. Obviously, there are eyes on others (sort of like the second-best date for the senior prom). Some names that have been bandied around include both Colorado Avalanche goalies Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz.
Darcy Kuemper Colorado Avalanche
Is Darcy Kuemper of the Colorado Avalanche on the Maple Leafs’ radar? (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)
Then there’s current Minnesota Wild goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, the Edmonton Oilers’ Mikko Koskinen, long-time veteran Braden Holtby (from the Dallas Stars), or youngsters Ville Husso (from the St. Louis Blues), and Alexander Georgiev (from the New York Rangers).
In other words, there’s a big “who knows?” about what’s happening with Campbell’s future with the team.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
There have always been some discussions about the possibility that Auston Matthews might jump to Arizona when his contract expires with the Maple Leafs. That was always Brian Burke’s critique of the current contract that Matthews signed with the organization. He’ll have an out while he’s still young and in his prime; and, his home is in the Phoenix area.
Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Just yesterday, the Tempe, Arizona, city council approved negotiations for a new $2.1 billion Arizona Coyotes arena proposal. It’s probably likely that the Coyotes would try to convince Mathews to return home to Scottsdale.
By the way, for those parsing numbers, Tempe is about six miles from Matthews’ home in Scottsdale. Phoenix, on the other hand, is 12 miles from Scottsdale. And, those of us who have lived in that area know that the Phoenix traffic can be difficult at certain times of the day.