Although the contract is still in its infancy, it is safe to hypothesize that Ken Holland is questioning the contract length and amount given to Jack Campbell. Especially with the recent play of Stuart Skinner and the decision to give the young netminder four straight starts while the Oilers’ highest-paid goalie rests from the sidelines.
However, this article reviews the potential options the Oilers could have gone with other than Campbell via trade and free agency. It should also be stated that goalies undergo stretches of variance and inconsistency from year to year that may not truly reflect accumulated yearly statistics.
Comparing other 2021–22 free agent goaltenders’ season to date
Above are several options the Oilers could have chosen to pursue in free agency to pair with Stuart Skinner. The goalies vary in age, contracts received, current role, and acquired via trade, with each goalie representing an interesting contrast to the play of Campbell to date. Backup goalies were not included in the assessment as management would not allow Skinner, who had only had 13 career starts preceding the 2022–23 season, to be relied upon as the primary netminder.
The workhorse starters options
The workhorse starter tier is regarded as goalies who have received above 67% of starts or who, over the pace of an 82-game season, would start a minimum 55 of 82 regular season games. Goalies of this tier typically include Connor Helleybuck, Jusse Saros, and Andrei Vasilevsky.
Beginning with the contract equivalent, Darcy Kuemper has not started his Washington Capitals’ tenure ideally either. Where Kuemper has posted a losing record, with a slightly above league average SV% (SV% >.905) and league norm GAA (GAA < 2.97). Interestingly, these two goalies represent the highest-paid alternatives on the list of Ken Holland’s potential options.
Both goalies are not living up to their contracts to date. Although Kuemper and Campbell are middling for HDSV%, they have posted subpar GSAX and GSAA compared to their counterparts, with Campbell posting the worst metrics among each netminder and Kuemper close to the worst. It should be noted both goalies are either tied for first or third for their teams giving up the most High Danger Scoring Chances Against (HDSCA) per game.
Martin Jones, signed via free agency, has posted remarkably better statistics than Campbell. By comparison, Jones has outclassed Campbell by regular and underlying statistics, including record, SV%, GAA, GSAX, GSAA, and HDSV%. Interestingly, this has allowed the Seattle Kraken to sit 11th among the NHL in points while limiting opposing teams to six shots against less per game compared to Campbell and less HDSCA per game. Additionally, Jones’ play has been on a remarkably cheaper deal, $3.5M AAV less, and is signed for less duration.
Ville Husso was acquired from the St. Louis Blues by trade for the 73rd overall pick in the 2022 draft, Aleksanteri Kaskimaki. For context, the Oilers would not have been able to match the cost paid, as the draft pick was used to acquire Duncan Keith the previous summer, along with prospect Caleb Jones. Husso was extended for three years after being traded at $4.5M AAV. Although Husso has posted better conventional statistics than Campbell and the league average, the underlying metrics are unfavorable, specifically GSAX. Husso has posted the second-worst negative GSAX among the goaltending options other than Campbell, implying more pucks are finding the back of the net than his talent underscores. However, unlike Campbell, Husso has posted a much better GSAA and slightly greater HDSV%. Husso’s performance has also been at a comparable shot rate to Campbell, with the Detroit Red Wings marginally allowing more shots per game than the Oilers. However, the Red Wings have been far better at limiting HDSCA.
Tandem goalie options
The tandem starter tier represents goalies that operate more as a 1A/1B operation, generally splitting games 60%/40% or 55%/45%. For example, this typically includes goalie tandems of the Boston Bruins or New York Islanders, and is what the Oilers expected of Skinner and Campbell.
Ilya Samsonov, signed to a deal similar to Martin Jones, has also beaten Campbell in most metrics, although in a smaller sample size. Samsonov has played close to the same amount of games as Campbell, receives almost the same number of HDSCA against per game, and has performed better on a contract at a more significant value rate. Samsonov’s conventional statistics highlight a goalie posting above-average SV% and GAA, but receiving roughly four fewer shots per game. However, Samsonov shines compared to Campbell in HDSV%. Samsonov is also near or at the top of many statistical categories among newly acquired netminders, including GSAA, GSAX, SV%, and GAA. This implies goalies on one-year deals provide more value on their respective contracts than higher-value deals.
Like Ville Husso, Vitek Vanecek was another goalie obtained by trade and extended by his newly acquired team, the New Jersey Devils. Within the 2022–23 season, Vanecek has stolen the net from the previous 1A goalie, Mackenzie Blackwood, and has run with the opportunity, helping the Devils sustain their current 13-game win streak. Among the newly acquired goalies, Vanecek is facing both the fewest shots per game, and the Devils are also suppressing HDSCA at the best rate among teams with a new netminder. Additionally, Vanecek’s metrics exceed Campbell’s in most categories except for HDSV%, where Vanecek ranks the lowest among newly acquired netminders. Leading to the inference that the Devils may soon regress negatively and begin to lose due to greater shot chances allowed, especially if the shots come from high-danger areas.
Overall how does Campbell compare?
Compared to the goalies mentioned above that changed teams during the 2022 off-season, Campbell’s performance has not exhibited favourably compared to the value and length of his current contract. Not only did Campbell receive the second-highest contract by AAV, but he also obtained the longest term alongside Kuemper. But the lackluster suppression of HDSCA per game by the Oilers has not contributed favourably to Campbell’s second-worst HDSV% ranking, possibly contributing to his inflated GSAA, GSAX, SV%, and GAA conventional metrics.
Campbell has been inconsistent this season and for his career, and his statistics may yet begin to trend toward career and league norms. But this article’s implications regarding Kuemper and Campbell’s play to date should be a warning to NHL teams handing out long-term, expensive goalie contracts. To date, it can be concluded in a small sample size that Martin Jones and Ilya Samsonov are both having resurgent seasons on cheaper one-year deals. Similarly, shorter bridge deals doled out to younger goalies obtained by trade may prove more worthwhile for management systems to favor shorter, value-friendly contracts that can sustain league norm play.
Ultimately, although the games played are minimal, Holland may be reflecting and regretting the contract given to Campbell as other needs (i.e., replacing Evander Kane) have surfaced where financial liquidity would be an asset, and shorter, cheaper deals have proven more worthwhile in the 2022–23 season. Because, as Campbell’s season is a strong indicator, goalies year to year play varies and may not reflect future contributions and value.
All stats courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com and MoneyPuck.com
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire