For the second time in nine years, Kyle Dubas has acquired netminder Jack Campbell.
This time around, the Port Huron, Mich., native joins Dubas’ club as the fallback option, a capable backup who can step in and hold the fort when Frederik Andersen’s in need of rest — though, with Andersen sidelined by a neck injury, Campbell’s immediate future with the Toronto Maple Leafs won’t be light on pressure.
It won’t be the first time he and Dubas have joined forces under intense scrutiny, of course. The first go-round came in November 2011, when Dubas was in his first year as the GM of the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, and the size of the deal suggests all you need to know about the stakes at the time:
To the Greyhounds: Jack Campbell
To the Windsor Spitfires: Mackenzie Braid, Patrick Sieloff, and six draft picks (Kingston’s third-round pick in 2012, Windsor’s second-round pick in 2013, Erie’s third-round pick in 2013, Owen Sound’s second-round pick in 2014, Saginaw’s second-round pick in 2014, Sault Ste. Marie’s second-round pick in 2015 and another conditional 2018 Sault Ste. Marie pick)
Campbell was in the midst of his second season of junior when the trade dropped, sitting with a .906 save percentage along with a 3.13 goals-against average and one shutout. He was a decorated international talent at the time, though, having claimed a trio of gold medals for Team USA and earning an 11th-overall selection from the Dallas Stars in the 2010 NHL Draft. The move paired the future Leaf with Matt Murray, who wound up dominating for the Greyhounds a few years later.
Dubas penned a letter to the Greyhounds faithful explaining the deal at the time, writing:
“When goaltenders like Jack become available you need to make a conscientious decision as an organization to pursue him, knowing that you will be in competition with many other clubs and the price will be very high. … In life, you can sit back and allow others to take risks, chances and achieve their ultimate potential. Our club, with Coach Stapleton and me at the helm will not be one of those teams that sit back. We have been and will continue to be willing to dare and take risks in an attempt to build a world class culture of champions. We have and will continue to plan, prepare, and expect to be champions.”
“At the time I thought, quite honestly, this was a guy who can steal rounds in the playoffs,” Dubas said in an interview with The Sault Star’s Peter Ruicci years later, reflecting on his mindset at the time.
Of course, the swap didn’t pan out as planned. The Greyhounds wound up missing the playoffs after a disappointing campaign, and didn’t make it back until 2013. Campbell, in his lone season suiting up for the Greyhounds, posted an underwhelming .896 save percentage, a 3.58 goals-against average, and just 15 wins through 34 games.
“The first year in the Soo was a massive failure,” Dubas told Yahoo Sports’ Sunaya Sapurji in 2014. “There’s no other way to put it. We made a huge trade for (star goalie) Jack Campbell and we missed the playoffs. We were rated top 10 in the country, we made the trade and we kind of pushed in all our chips and not only did we not contend, we didn’t even make the playoffs.”
The following year, Campbell moved on to the AHL full-time, logging 40 games for the Texas Stars. His first foray in the big leagues came in 2013-14, a lone game against the Ducks that saw him get shelled for six goals on 47 shots. He showed better the next time he got up, posting a .924 save percentage through five games in 2017-18.
It was last season, in 31 games for L.A., that Campbell started to truly show his big-league potential, with the 27-year-old putting up an impressive .928 save percentage behind a Kings team with plenty of holes. He faced 30 shots or more in 15 of the 31 tilts (and allowed two goals or fewer in 11 of those), came up against more than 40 shots four times, and even withstood a 50-shot barrage against Arizona in which he emerged with 49 saves to his name.
The context of Campbell and Dubas’ partnership this time around has, of course, a far different look than their brief run in the junior ranks. The price paid this time around pales in comparison to the 2011 sum sent Windsor’s way. And while an increasingly bright spotlight has been aimed at the Maple Leafs’ backup goaltending, it won’t be on Campbell to lift the club to anything.
The roster as currently constructed, and with their current coach in place, has emerged as one of the most offensively dominant squads in the league, and if Andersen’s injury sticks along its current day-to-day timeline, the veteran Dane will carry the goaltending load.
All that’s required from Campbell is to be, at the very least, neutral — to hold the fort and perform well enough to give the team a chance to collect much-needed wins when he’s in the net. A simple enough formula, though one that’s been difficult to correctly carry out for the backup netminders who’ve preceded Campbell in Toronto.
With a back-to-back set upcoming against Anaheim and Montreal on Friday and Saturday, it seems the former King, and the Maple Leafs faithful, won’t have to wait long to see if he and Dubas can author a better union this time around.