Brian Campbell is at the very least unhappy in Florida. It’s tough to blame him, he’s 35 years old and the Panthers are a country mile from being a contender. He’s in the twilight of his career and appears to want a shot at a winner. Can’t blame him for that. Where do the Rangers fit in all of this? Well, they probably don’t. But a strong argument can be made that they should.
I can hear the cries now: “But Campbell isn’t a right handed shot, you dolt”. True, but hear me out. Over the past three years, Campbell has the 12th most power play points per 60 minutes amongst defensemen. Campbell’s 51 points over that span are three less than John Moore, Marc Staal, Raphael Diaz, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, and Anton Stralman combined. Yes, combined. In fact, Diaz leads that group with 15 points. Right handed or left handed, the Rangers need a frickin’ guy on the power play who can produce, period.
In addition to being a bona fide power play asset, Campbell is solid possession player. In his three years on mostly crappy Panthers teams, Campbell was a 51.6% possession player in close situations, compared to the team’s overall share of 49.7%. It’s worth noting that Campbell maintained positive possession despite playing the most minutes against the oppositions best players on mostly bad teams.
It wasn’t all positive though. In the past three years during even strength close situations, the Panthers only scored 40% of the time. But considering his strong possession numbers, I think we can chalk up being outscored to the Panthers 91.4% save percentage over that span, which was good for 29th in the NHL.
For the hell of it, let’s see how Campbell’s even strength usage compares to some of the big names in the power play scoring chart above:
Okay, so if you’re observant, you got me. I included Marc Staal in this comparison. I’ve mentioned before that I could see the Rangers shopping Staal. He has one year left on his deal and he appears to have been carried along by the strong play of Stralman. While he still has ‘name value’, the Rangers would be wise to try and move him. Would the Panthers want Staal? Maybe. He probably wouldn’t re-sign in Florida, but he could theoretically fill Campbell’s minutes at even strength. The Panthers could replace Campbell’s power play minutes by increasing Dimitri Kulikov’s share of the power play time. Plus, if Campbell really is unhappy and wants out, why keep him around a young locker room?
The Panthers are in a quasi win soon mode. They just acquired Roberto Luongo and have already established their young core, though they need a few more years of seasoning. If the Panthers have a shot at the playoffs, they could keep Staal for the run. If not, they could always flip him at the deadline, which is what would likely happen. Players like Staal carry a premium that time of year. The same can be said for Campbell, but his cap hit is more problematic at the trade deadline than it is in the summer.
Speaking of Campbell’s cap hit, it’s gigantic. $7.1M and change is a ticket the Rangers could never fit. In fact, they would need the trade to be as close to cap neutral as possible. So this theoretical deal would require the Panthers to eat half the cap hit, which I doubt they would be willing to do.
I find it hard to argue that the Rangers wouldn’t be better suited with Campbell on the second pair than Staal. Okay, I’m pretty sure you can’t argue against that. I’m sure the Rangers would have to include another piece to get the deal done. But whether right handed or left handed, the Rangers need a defenseman on the power play who is capable of putting up points. It’s their achilles heel. Maybe Florida will play ball? My restless mind hopes so.