Just when you thought that the Toronto Maple Leafs releasing Mark Fraser meant that there wouldn’t be any new adds to the blue line…
The team went and added another random face in the form of AHL journeyman Andrew Campbell.
Andrew Campbell is a former Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds blue liner, drafted by the Los Angeles Kings as a third rounder in 2008, who just… never really stuck at the NHL level.
A mainstay with the Manchester Monarchs following his graduation from the major juniors, Campbell finally left the Kings’ system in the summer of 2014 by inking a one-year, two-way deal with the Arizona Coyotes. This summer, the Coyotes opted not to re-up the 27 year old Caledonia native, which leaves us where we are now.
Campbell hasn’t played at the NHL level enough to accurately evaluate whether he’s a useful long-term player at the highest level of competition, but he does have a pretty interesting story from last season that makes this a kind of worthwhile signing.
Aside from a weird one-game stint in December, Campbell was initially recalled by the Coyotes from Portland on January 26th to fill in for injuries on the blue line (blue liner Zbynek Michalek was out with an upper body injury) and to replace prospect Brandon Gormley, who had been reassigned to the AHL to get himself back into shape following a lower-body injury late in the fall. He would actually notch his first NHL point three minutes into the game against Philadelphia on January 27th, though, and ended up staying with the team for the remainder of the season.
He even did a pretty good job of pushing Gormley out of the lineup altogether until the very end of the year.
Expectations in Toronto
At the AHL level, Campbell’s been a reasonable puck moving contributor; at the NHL level, he had decent positioning and played considerable minutes for the struggling Coyotes without looking too out of place.
The best the Leafs can expect from Campbell is an extra defenseman, but one who provides a considerable bit more upside than Fraser would have. He’s got a good read for positioning, although he’s not really all that physical for a big player, and he’s at best the guy who doesn’t screw up when he’s out there. He managed to log 20 + minutes with the Coyotes some nights, even skating alongside Oliver Ekman-Larsson a time or two, and he didn’t have to be babysat; he won’t often be the one shooting at the net, but he’s got a moderate ability to move the puck up the ice and generate that clean zone exit that some of Toronto’s depth players may struggle with.
He’s insanely cheap for a guy who may or may not be more useful for Toronto than Roman Polak, but he’s got that work ethic that Polak brought last year and
everyone Steve Dangle fell in love with. The worst case scenario is that you waive him, but he proved during his stint with Arizona that he’s got the ability to be a flexible add to the lineup during a season full of ‘wait, who’s that on the ice??’
Also, I once saw him get his teeth totally smashed in by a stick during a game, and he totally finished playing. #Grit.