Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadiens, Jack Campbell
Photo: Canadian Press

We have a few quick hits in today’s Leafs Links pertaining to Jack Campbell extension talks, a report about the Leafs potentially shopping a right-handed defenseman, and Wayne Simmonds’ candid perspective on the Kyle Beach story.

Friedman: “I think the Leafs have kind of let it be known that one of their D on the right side might be available”

From yesterday’s episode of The Jeff Marek Show:

Kyper reported yesterday that they are undergoing extension talks with Jack Campbell. He is right.

I do think also that Toronto has let it be known that they might be interested in potentially doing something with their blue line. I don’t know exactly what has been said, but I think they have kind of let it be known that one of their D on the right side might be available. I would suspect that it’s potentially Dermott, but I don’t know if they have actually identified the player. I don’t think it’s Holl or anything like that even though he has been struggling.

I kind of suspect it is Dermott, but I don’t know for sure… Liljegren has played well lately and is younger. I don’t know how it would work, but there is something going on there.

Knowing his camp is open negotiating to in-season and Campbell’s desire to remain a Leaf, working diligently to get an extension done as soon as possible makes a good deal of sense. The more Campbell plays, the more his sample size of high-end goaltending performance grows, the stronger his leverage gets for a big pay raise over his current $1.65 million salary as he heads toward the open market in the summer.

Campbell has been a .922 goalie over 36 regular-season games (and a .921 over seven playoff games) since arriving in Toronto in February 2020 (top 10 in the league in that time among goalies with a minimum 20 games played). He is not showing signs of slowing down to start 2021-22 — he’s posted a .929 through seven starts (also top 10 in the league) even despite a mixed start overall by the team in front of him.

It’s reasonable to assume, barring injury or a sudden unforeseen downturn in performance, the price is only going up as the games tick by, and the Leafs only have so much to spend at the position given their contractual commitments elsewhere, which now include a $2.5 million raise for Morgan Rielly kicking in for 2022-23 — giving them $48 million tied up in their top five skaters — as well as Petr Mrazek’s $3.8 million AAV that is on the books through 2023-24.

They’ve already committed over $75 million on next season’s cap, and that’s with Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren, Pierre Engvall, Ondrej Kase as pending RFAs, and Jason Spezza and Campbell as pending UFAs.

The shopping of a right-sided defenseman does not make as much sense at first blush, although it is interesting timing in light of the recent Rielly extension and the added cap commitment at the position. The Leafs are carrying seven defensemen right now, and their depth options are relatively light on NHL experience outside of Alex Biega, who is currently down on the Marlies.

Biega is a name that wasn’t mentioned in Friedman’s list but could be a player the Leafs are willing to put the word out on and seek out an opportunity elsewhere for, especially given Travis Dermott has been serviceable on the right side and Timothy Liljegren is showing himself to be NHL ready. Biega has been a full-time NHL roster player for several seasons previous to this one (in Vancouver and Detroit), he showed up and competed hard in camp, and his consummate professionalism has been noted by Leafs brass.

Maybe the Leafs see Justin Holl’s eventual return to the top six — we can assume he gets another chance soon, and he probably finds his game again at some point — as pushing Dermott out of the regular six in light of Liljegren’s play, and they want to feel out the trade market for Dermott. Maybe they’re feeling out the market on Holl, who is currently healthy scratched and is signed for this season and next at $2 million/year.

TJ Brodie, 31 years old and signed for two more seasons at $5 million AAV, can’t go unmentioned in light of his early struggles, either, although it’s unlikely the Leafs are thinking too hard about this one yet after a strong 2020-21 season and knowing Brodie’s current role next to Jake Muzzin on the shutdown pair.

All of that said, subtracting from the team’s quality depth on the blue line, especially on the right side, without anything coming back at the same position — whether in the same deal or a separate one — doesn’t make a ton of sense for a team with contention aspirations.

Wayne Simmonds: “The NHL, the NHLPA, everyone has to be held accountable… There are no excuses… This can’t just be another fleeting moment where it is here now and gone tomorrow.”

Wayne Simmonds’ voice has become a must-listen with his willingness to speak eloquently and candidly on league issues as a veteran player who has a wealth of experience in the game. His response to the Kyle Beach story was no exception.

First of all, I want to say my condolences to Kyle Beach. Everything that happened was heartbreaking. I found myself watching that interview, and I started to tear it up a little bit. The thing that got me was when they asked him about the 16-year-old, and he apologized. To me, he has nothing to apologize for. He was the one who was wronged.

This is something that is systemic. I find in the NHL that when something happens that is bad, guys are afraid to speak up because of repercussions. That is something that has definitely got to change. It is unacceptable.

Within our dressing room and within a lot of other teams’ dressing rooms, now the culture is starting to change and roll over considering the new, fresh blood that is coming into the league. I am in lockstep with what Robin Lehner said last night. More players have to speak up. More players have to do their part. We don’t want this to continue to happen.

As we go down the line here, we have to make it better for the guys that are coming in after us. It is not about us anymore. It is about what happens to the young kids that are coming into the league now. I feel like everyone must be held accountable, whether it is the NHL, the NHLPA — everyone has to be held accountable. There are no excuses. This can’t just be another fleeting moment where it is here now and gone tomorrow.

Simmonds continued:

Conversations [internally] were more centered around how unbelievable it was with the fact that something that was brought up at the time was passed over by so many people. That is the biggest crime, especially to Kyle Beach. That is something that should have been handled immediately. Something like that is so… I don’t really have words… It is unacceptable.

I don’t know if we can have an independent arbitrator or something outside of our league where players can speak up so that it is not just in the hands of the teams and the NHL, so there is an outside view and an outside scope and they’re not thinking about who is getting punishment here or who is going to be taken out of a GM or coaching spot. When it comes to sexual assault and a lot of other matters in this league, people shouldn’t be afraid to speak up. People shouldn’t be afraid to tell the truth without fear of repercussion.

When asked whether their failure to act at the time of the incident has shaken his faith in the NHLPA:

Quite frankly, yeah, it has.

Well said, Wayne.