We had a major trade happen last night with the Toronto Maple Leafs acquiring netminder Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Trevor Moore, a 2020 third-round pick, and a 2021 conditional third round selection. The trade came just after goaltender Michael Hutchinson struggled in a 5-3 loss to the New York Rangers, adding to the concerns about how the Maple Leafs would be able to handle themselves while Frederik Andersen is out with a neck injury, but this kind of trade has been a long time coming.
Even before the season started, the Maple Leafs’ backup goaltending situation stood out as an obvious weakness. Andersen is a more than solid goaltender who can steal some games for the Maple Leafs, but if Andersen ever needs a break or is hurt, as is the case now, Toronto will typically suffer a loss. Hutchinson has a 4-9-1 record, 3.66 GAA, and .896 save percentage in 15 contests. He’s dropped four of his last five decisions and with the Maple Leafs narrowly behind in the battle for a playoff spot, they really can’t afford to just continue to roll the dice with Hutchinson until Andersen is ready to return.
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With Campbell, the Maple Leafs are getting a pretty solid goaltender, at least by backup standards. Campbell has an 8-10-2 record, 2.85 GAA, and .900 save percentage in 20 starts. Those aren’t impressive numbers, but keep in mind that the team in front of him has been pretty bad. With him in net, the Maple Leafs have a decent shot at winning any game and if you can get that from a backup, that’s good enough. In a best case scenario, Campbell will even do well enough to sometimes look like a potential starter, as was the case in 2018-19 when he finished with a 2.30 GAA and .928 save percentage in 31 contests.
The other nice thing about Campbell is he’s more than just a rental. He already signed a two-year, $3.3 million contract extension with the Kings back in September, so he’s locked in through 2021-22. That cap hit is a bit more than is ideal for the Leafs, just because they are in such a cap crunch, but they should be able to make it work.
NBCSN has a back-to-back set tonight. The Red Wings will play against the Sabres starting at 7:00 pm ET and then the Sharks will face the Oilers at 9:30 pm ET. If you want to watch the games online, you can check out the Sabres-Red Wings game here and the Sharks-Oilers game here.
By contrast, getting Clifford is a relatively minor addition for the Maple Leafs. He’s a gritty bottom-six forward who was part of the Kings during both of their Stanley Cup runs and was a regular grinder for them in the playoffs during their 2014 Stanley Cup championship. So while he’s not a big factor, he’d be a great complimentary piece should Toronto make the playoffs. Clifford will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer, though it wouldn’t be shocking if he ends up re-signing with Toronto if this trial run goes well.
From Los Angeles’ perspective, picking up a couple picks helps. Getting Moore is interesting too. He has five goals and 13 points in 52 career NHL games and probably won’t ever be much of an offensive threat. That said, he’s still just 24-years-old and hasn’t had an opportunity to play a big role as part of the stacked Maple Leafs, so the move to Los Angeles could do him some good. It’s also worth noting that he has been a significant contributor at the AHL level. He scored 23 goals and 39 points in 46 AHL contests in 2018-19.
The other repercussion of this trade is that Toronto is no longer a potential trade candidate for Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev. That’s kind of a blow to the Rangers, who are in the awkward position of having three goaltenders on the roster. Igor Shesterkin is their goaltender of the future, so there’s no way that the Rangers would move him and Henrik Lundqvist’s $8.5 million cap hit through 2020-21 makes it very unlikely that anyone would trade for him, even if the Rangers offered to retain 50% of his remaining contract. Georgiev on the other hand is a solid young goaltender. He’ll be a restricted free agent this summer and will consequently get a decent raise – which is part of the reason why simply holding onto him is less than ideal for the Rangers – but for now he’s on an entry-level contract. He’s not a star by any stretch of the imagination, but he’d look good as a backup for almost any team. Unfortunately for the Rangers, there aren’t many teams in the market for a backup and with the Maple Leafs out of the bidding, there’s even less potential suitors for the Rangers to talk with. In fact, at this point it might make more sense for the Rangers to hold onto him until the summer when the goaltending market will open up more. For example, the San Jose Sharks could use a goaltender, especially given Martin Jones’ struggles, but it would make more sense for them to wait until the summer after Aaron Dell’s contract expires. After all, the Sharks aren’t making the playoffs anyways, so they have no urgency to fix their goaltending at the moment, but they’ll want to address it over the summer.
Speaking of the Sharks, Joe Thornton spoke about the possibility of him being traded before the deadline. He has a no-movement clause, so he gets to decide if the Sharks can trade him or not. He’s not ruling out the possibility though, instead saying that he’d need to think about it. With the Sharks increasingly unlikely to make the playoffs and Thornton being 40-years-old, a trade could be his last shot at a Stanley Cup championship. Additionally, even if Thornton did want to continue into 2020-21 – and given his decline there might not really be a market for him at that point even if he wanted to – he could also re-sign with San Jose over the summer even if he is traded.