After failing to agree to terms on a new contract, the Blackhawks have chosen to walk away from defenseman Chris Campoli’s $2.5 million arbitration award. The 27 year old puck-mover will become an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with any club. However, the Mississauga native has expressed an interest in joining his childhood team, the Maple Leafs.
Much like with the Clarke MacArthur signing for $1.2 million last summer, the Leafs appear to be in prime position to land a capable young player at a potentially reduced salary should they so choose. The problem lies in the current backlog of potentially seven NHL calibre defensemen already cluttering up Toronto’s blueline. That’s not including Matt Lashoff or top prospect Jake Gardiner, whom GM Brian Burke believes may be ready to see some time with the big club at some point later this year. With that said, it should be noted that through various trades and injuries, the Maple Leafs dressed 10 different names on their blueline in 2010-2011.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the Leafs choose to explore this route, as it’s not very often you see talented young players become available for only money, and potentially reasonable money at that. Campoli has developed into a fairly well-rounded second pairing defenseman over the past few seasons, playing 18-20 minutes a night, displaying good offensive instincts and mixing in a little sandpaper to his game as well. For anything around the $1.5 million range, I’d take a gamble on a talented young guy who wants to be a Maple Leaf and let the depth issues sort themselves out through injury or trade later on down the road.