The Los Angeles Kings will not have to spend any time this season worrying about their future goaltending depth. With starter Jonathan Quick signed through 2022-23 and promising prospect Cal Petersen locked up through 2021-22, the Kings have announced an extension with backup Jack Campbell as well. It is a two-year, $3.3MM deal for Campbell beginning after this coming season, keeping him under contract through 2021-22 as well at a discount cap hit of just $1.65MM.
One has to wonder if this contract came with a handshake agreement that Campbell would take over as the Kings starter during or immediately after the term of the deal. The 27-year-old Campbell was set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer and, while $1.65MM is a nice bump up from the $675K that he’ll receive in the final year of his current contract, it doesn’t seem to accurately reflect what his market value could have been. Campbell has been a revelation for L.A. since the team took a flier on him in a minor trade with the Dallas Stars in 2016. In 37 appearances with the club, Campbell has posted a stunning .928 save percentage and 2.30 GAA. 31 of those appearances (25 of which were starts) came last season alone and produced identical numbers, which also landed in the top five among NHL goalies with at least 25 appearances. It’s fair to argue that Campbell was the very best backup goaltender in the NHL in 2018-19. So why did he sign so early and for so little?
The rumors that the Kings are shopping Quick have persisted for several years now. The two-time Stanley Cup-winning keeper is one of the most decorated goalies in the NHL, but missed most of the 2016-17 season due to injury, prompting the initial rumors, and then followed up a Jennings Trophy-winning 2017-18 campaign with a career-worst performance last season, which also included more injury issues. Quick did not look like himself last year and some believe that L.A. will continue to try to move on from the veteran and the remainder of his hefty contract before things get worse. If they succeed, Campbell would take over as starter. It could be that the promise or at least the likelihood of this scenario unfolding may have led to this underwhelming deal for the current backup.
On the other hand, Campbell is obviously a late bloomer and putting up these numbers at age 27 makes him a less exciting name than a much younger backup in the situation. Campbell also lacks the sample size that some might like to see before calling him a starter-caliber goaltender. If he had a repeat performance of last season, he could have demanded much more on the open market. However, if his numbers had dropped off, he would have be overshadowed by a strong goalie market next off-season. Not only could starters like Braden Holtby, Robin Lehner, and Jacob Markstrom be available, but some of the league’s other top backups – Thomas Greiss, Darcy Kuemper, Jaroslav Halak, Anton Khudobin – and several veterans set to transition into backup roles – Jimmy Howard, Corey Crawford, Craig Anderson – could also hit the market. Despite the fact that he outplayed all of these netminders last season in his limited action, it could be that Campbell took the safe route and opted to stay in a situation that he was comfortable with. The worst case scenario for Campbell would be that he continues to play exceedingly well, but Quick also returns to form and he remains stuck as the backup. But even in that scenario, Campbell would still generate quite the trade market, especially at his inexpensive price tag.