By Cole Parkinson
Jack Campbell signed a big five-year, $5 million per season contract with the Edmonton Oilers this past offseason and it hasn’t gone well so far, to say the least. After a pair of pretty good seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, as one of the best free-agent goalies, Campbell was able to cash in with the Oil and it was expected he’d be their new number one for the next few seasons.
But with the first handful of games this year, Campbell has had quite a few really bad games that has sunk his save percentage below .880, his goals-against average is above 4.27, and now his starting job is in question with Stuart Skinner providing solid goaltending so far. And with the Oilers in win-now mode, head coach Jay Woodcroft has to go with the hot hand.
He’s a career .913 save percentage goalie and I’d be pretty shocked if he didn’t get back close to that number by the season’s end. If he can rebound and post a .905 save percentage, that’s more than enough to get the Oilers into the playoffs. Maybe Skinner playing more games also helps as Campbell has traditionally been a backup or in a tandem scenario. While he was looked at last season as the number one, the Leafs did sign a veteran goalie in Petr Mrazek to help shoulder the load. Now, that didn’t go great for anyone, but competition for most goalies is a good thing. And in today’s NHL, two capable goaltenders is crucial for any team looking to compete for the Cup.
Campbell posted a .914 save percentage last season and while those numbers are definitely inflated by his first month and a half, everyone has seen how good he can be when on. And he’s such an easy guy to root for that I really do hope he turns it around. With another four years after this, there’s still a long runway to turn things around. I doubt the Oilers would want to drop his contract early considering the length of the deal and the fact the cap is going up significantly over the next few seasons. He’s already proven he can handle backup duty, and while $5 million a season is an overpay for that role, I’m sure that was figured out in the plan when they signed him to five years.
In may be too early to talk about playoffs, but Campbell has been pretty good the last two seasons. While Toronto never got out of the first round, it was never his fault. The fact the Leafs went up against Carey Price and Andrei Vasilevskiy and Campbell held his own is a good sign that when the big games come, he’s no pushover. He has a career .915 save percentage in 14 games, so he’s certainly a pretty good option come playoff time. But there’s still plenty of time before those discussions need to happen around who gets Game 1.
Looking at his deal, he’ll be 35 by the time it is done, so I’m positive the Oilers brass had an idea by year four or five, he’d be relied upon much less. With some early turmoil in this marriage, I’m sure there are some nerves with how things have looked — but there’s tons of season left, so give it some time.