Considering the viability of the Oilers buying out Jack Campbell

With the chances of the Oilers trading Jack Campbell looking like a tough proposition, they must seriously consider the prospect of buying out his contract.
Edmonton Oilers v Philadelphia Flyers
Edmonton Oilers v Philadelphia Flyers / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

Jack Campbell's nickname of 'Soup' has taken on a different meaning this season, i.e. he's been about as solid as soup in goal. As harsh as this may sound, it aptly describes how porous he's been between the pipes for the Oilers and their AHL affiliate, the Condors.

Campbell's first season in Edmonton was tough enough, as he had his poorest production yet in the NHL, with a .888 save percentage and 3.41 Goals Against Average (GAA) in 36 appearances. While his 21-9-4 record in 34 starts was good, this was more a product of playing for a team which led the NHL in scoring.

The hope was that the soon to be 32-year-old would improve in his second campaign with the Oilers, and the signs were certainly encouraging during the preseason. However, then the real action began and he was even worse, with a .873 save percentage and 4.50 GAA in five starts, with him going 1-4-0 in the process.

As a result, the Oilers made the tough but unavoidable decision to assign Campbell to Bakersfield once he'd cleared waivers. Once there though, any plans of rehabilitating his game and confidence soon dissipated.

Save for a couple of strong outings, the 2010 11th overall draft pick has been just as bad with the Condors. He allowed at least four goals in six of his 10 starts, including his last outing when he was pulled just after the halfway point of a 5-2 loss to the Firebirds.

What followed were unintentionally negative comments by Condors coach Colin Chaulk, about how Campbell was just letting in far too many shots he should have been saving. Regardless, he subsequently lost his starting role to Olivier Rodrigue, who has since gone on to justify the decision.

So what now for Campbell?

Of course this all now leads to the question of what the future holds for Campbell? While we won't go as far as to say he's finished, he's in a really bad spot right now with the genuine concern he may never recover.

There has never been any doubting the talent of the 2022 All-Star, but he's just been far too inconsistent and lacking a strong mental fortitude during his time in the NHL. It doesn't matter how much ability you have, if you can't produce regularly on the ice.

In an ideal world, the Oilers would now rather just be done with Campbell and move him to a willing trade partner. However, this is the issue; what team out there would be willing to take him on, given his form or lack thereof?

Making it even more difficult to move the former Maple Leaf, is his five-year, $25 million contract. It's one thing to take on a talented goalie in free fall, but even less appealing when they are an expensive proposition.

There has been some speculation of late, that the Oilers would be willing to include Philip Broberg in any potential deal for Campbell. The thinking is that Broberg would essentially be a 'sweetener' at little cost.

However, as much as Broberg has struggled up to this point, he's still the same player projected to be a top-pairing blue-liner in the long term. How much are the Oilers willing to risk losing the potential he still offers?

How about that buyout option?

With this in mind, it brings us to the Oilers having to genuinely consider the prospect of buying Campbell out. The question is, how viable is such an option?

The Port Huron, Michigan native is in the second season of a contract which has an annual cap hit of $5 million. If the Oilers decided to buy out his deal, the fallout from such a decision would impact the salary cap for the next six seasons.

Next season wouldn't be too bad with, as per Cap Friendly, a cap hit of $1.1 million. However, the following two seasons would see cap hits of $2.3 million and $2.6 million respectively, due to the front-loaded nature of the deal.

After this, the final three seasons would see the Oilers take an annual cap hit of $1.5 million. All in all, the buyout is at least something for the front office to seriously consider.

The issue is that it won't be able to help the Oilers this season, with their projected cap space a mere $65,098 as things stand. Next season is where any benefit kicks in, when the aforementioned $1.1 cap hit, combined with the salary cap set to increase by $4.2 million.

Of course, even here there is the whole issue of attempting to re-sign Leon Draisaitl, who is a free agent after next season. Assuming Draisaitl wants to stick around, his new deal will both cost more than his current salary and compromise the rest of the roster.

Then there's the following campaign, when Connor McDavid will be in his final season prior to free agency, with him similarly going to get more money. This will also tie in with the financial impact of Campbell's buyout increasing.

Of course, there is the counter that Campbell's buyout cap hits for the two seasons after next still being less than even his current buried contract penalty cap hit of $3.85 million from being in the minors. All in all, the buyout option is definitely one for the front office to seriously consider.

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The beauty in all of this is that there is no hurry at this point, with the buyout window not starting until June 15 or 48 hours after the playoffs end, whichever is later. However, it is good for Oilers fans to know it is a genuinely viable option, if the team is unable to find anyone willing to take on Campbell and his contract.