On Wednesday, we talked about the out-of-completely-nowhere idea that the Flyers might try and wow the home crowd next Friday night by moving up for the number one overall pick, making what would surely be a blockbuster trade with the Florida Panthers in order to draft top defensive prospect Aaron Ekblad. Today, let's talk about another possible trade that would drastically effect the Flyers' blueline -- and lo and behold, it's with that same Panthers team.
From Fox Sports Midwest's Andy Strickland on Wednesday afternoon:
Brian Campbell apparently wants out of Florida...still has two years left on contract paying north of $7 million #Panthers— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) June 18, 2014
The Panthers' number-one defenseman, Brian Campbell, is reportedly looking to head somewhere else. This is just one report, so who knows how true it is, but it makes some fairly logical sense so let's move forward as if it's true.
Campbell, who turned 35 last month, probably doesn't have a whole lot more time in the NHL. He's already won one Stanley Cup with
some group of assholes the 2009-10 Blackhawks, and at his age and with his level of skill, he's certainly looking for another chance to do that. Spending the next two seasons with the Panthers -- who, as you'll recall, are picking first overall next week, which is typically a right reserved for bad hockey teams -- will probably not give him very good odds of raising the Cup for a second time.
In short, he doesn't want to stick around in the midst of Florida's rebuild, which will likely last at least another couple of years. So let's turn to what he actually brings to the table.
We've been talking for a while now about how badly the Flyers have needed a workhorse, number-one defenseman ever since Chris Pronger took a high stick to the eye back in October 2011. Brian Campbell isn't exactly a Pronger replacement, and he may not quite be a true number-one defenseman. But if you're looking for the next-best thing -- a workhorse who plays a ton of minutes on a team's top pairing and does well in them -- Campbell certainly fits that bill.
In his last three seasons -- at ages 32, 33, and 34, all with the Panthers -- Campbell was first, second, and third, respectively, in the NHL in total ice time played. In that time, Campbell routinely ended up on the good side of the ledger in possession numbers at even strength, both overall and relative to his team. That's a trend that carried over from when he played for the Blackhawks, as well -- his entire career, he's been a guy who pushes play in the right direction, and usually by a fairly significant margin.
|Year||Team||Campbell's CF%||Campbell's CF% Rel|
("CF%", or "Corsi For", if you need a refresher, is the percentage of all shot attempts on-ice during 5-on-5 play that Campbell's team gets with him on the ice. Above 50 percent is good. "CF% Rel" is the difference between Campbell's team's Corsi-For with him on the ice and its Corsi-For with him off of it. Above zero is good. Percentages above calculated based on raw numbers from Behind the Net.)
Now, while an outstanding player, Campbell isn't quite a tough-minutes guy who you throw out in any situation against any player and automatically expect the best from. Though he spends most of his ice time playing against the other team's top-six forwards, he's usually put in more offensively-oriented positions than his teammates are -- i.e. he's usually given more chances to start shifts in his team's offensive zone than other defensemen may be, and he gets much more power play time than he does penalty kill time.
Still, that all makes sense given that Campbell's main skillset is his passing and puck-moving ability. That's absolutely something the Flyers need, so the fit is there. He controls the puck well and can start a breakout, and excels when he's paired with someone who's defensively responsible. Sounds like a good player to pair with a guy like Braydon Coburn, I would think.
So while Campbell may not be an all-situations stopper, he's quite a good player who can log a ton of minutes and play well in them. Think someone like Kimmo Timonen, if Kimmo Timonen was a bit quicker and could log 26-plus minutes of ice time a night.
What's the catch, then? Well, there are a few.
As mentioned by Strickland, Campbell is making a lot of money. He'll be making $7.14 million against the cap in both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, which is currently more than any NHL defenseman not named Weber, Suter or Letang. While a great player, that kind of money will likely cause at least some teams (including the cap-strapped Flyers, of course) to hesitate on the decision to go after him.
One way around this could be to ask the Panthers to retain salary in a trade, which they can do for up to 50 percent of Campbell's contract. More on this in just a second.
Campbell's contract contains a no-trade clause that gives him a chance to name as few as eight teams that he could be traded to without further consent. Capgeek says that Campbell's team has 45 days to trade him from the time he submits that list of eight teams. With the draft and the beginning of free agency all happening within the next couple weeks, chances are that Campbell's already submitted that list, or will in the coming days.
If the Flyers are on it? Peachy. If they aren't? Well ... you're then left hoping that (a) the Flyers offer a good enough package that it forces Dale Tallon to ask Campbell to waive his no-trade clause, and then that (b) he actually waives it for a team he originally didn't have on his radar. Could it happen? I suppose. But let's just hope that they're on that list.
The hardest part of any proposal like this is trying to figure out what exactly it will cost the team trying to trade for the player. That involves trying to pinpoint that player's value to the team that currently has him -- and for Campbell and the Panthers, that's not easy.
Campbell's an old dude on a young, rebuilding team. As good as he is, he's probably a little overpaid. And he's got two more years left on his contract, during which his current team is almost certainly not going to contend for anything meaningful and after which he is almost certainly going to leave for free agency.
On the surface, his value to the Panthers seems to be "being good enough to keep them from the very bottom of the NHL cellar", and not a whole lot more. (Tangentially related fact: the Panthers are hosting the 2015 NHL Draft, and will quite possibly have a chance to snag one of Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel when that rolls around next June.)
But even so, the decision to trade him isn't a given for the Panthers. In their end-of-season analysis piece on Campbell, SB Nation's Panthers blog, Litter Box Cats, certainly didn't make it sound like they were in a rush to ship him out. Quite the contrary (emphasis mine):
Since then, the 34-year-old has continued to be a minutes-eater, as he still ranks among the top 3 in the NHL in time on ice. However, his play comes under attack by some Panthers fans who were spoiled by his 2011-12 performance. The Panthers have been in the league's basement the past two seasons and fingers need to point somewhere. Campbell is not a shutdown or a stay-at-home defenseman. His offensive specialization makes him prone to defensive lapses. This is why the Panthers must find Campbell a worthy partner to do two things: 1. lighten the defensive load on Campbell and 2. be a force on the power play.
As recently as a month ago, the talk down in Sunrise wasn't of shipping Campbell out -- it was of finding someone who can play with him. And you can understand why. Even if Campbell may not be long for Florida in the big picture, he's still a heck of a player. You don't give up 26-minute-a-night guys without a really good reason. Additionally, they've got a lot of young defensemen down there in Florida (soon to be including, in all likelihood, Aaron Ekblad) and having a good veteran around can help those guys a bit in their development.
If the Panthers do grant his wish and try and trade him, it's likely not going to be cheap for whoever does it. Monetary relief on Campbell's monster deal probably isn't a huge motivator -- Florida is currently close to $12 million short of the salary floor with Campbell's contract, so they've got money they need to spend anyways. The Panthers could retain salary on a trade, if a team that was interested couldn't quite fit Campbell's entire contract in, but of course if that happens then Florida will ask for more assets in return.
And when you consider the number of possible top-pair options out there in free agency this summer (Matt Niskanen? I guess? And then what?), you can figure there will be numerous teams calling on Campbell, which will only drive his price up further. Basically, Florida will do whatever it can get as much in return as possible.
Can Flyers get it done?
Were the Flyers to try and pull the trigger on a move, say, next Friday night, when all the GMs get together for the draft, chances are their first-round pick will be involved. That's fine -- the 17th overall pick for a guy who can play on your top pairing right now is a great deal.
Florida will likely ask for more, though, particularly if the Flyers ask them to keep some salary (which they'll probably have to). That's where it gets dicey. Later-round picks? Next year's first-rounder (in a draft where the Flyers are already missing their second- and third-round picks)? Young roster pieces, be it lower-profile ones like Michael Raffl or somewhat bigger names like Brayden Schenn? A prospect (is now a bad time to mention that top defensive prospect Shayne Gostisbehere is a Florida native)?
Some of those are obviously more appealing options to the Flyers (and, in turn, likely less appealing to the Panthers) than some others. But your guess is as good as mine as to how much of the above they'll be willing to deal for a guy who's on the wrong side of 35.
Brian Campbell's really good, and though he may not be the answer on this defense, the answer probably isn't coming around any time soon, and he's pretty close to the next-best thing.
The Flyers should be calling Dale Tallon and asking about him, because he'd make them a markedly better team right now. But you've got to give to get in this league, and how much the Flyers are willing to give is anyone's guess.