WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 28: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals is checked into the boards by Gregory Campbell #11 of the Boston Bruins at Verizon Center on September 28 2010 in Washington DC. Campbell received a boarding penalty on the play (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Dale Tallon has completed an unprecedented string of player acquisitions this off-season, bringing in seven free agents for the NHL roster and trading for three more. Some additional prospect and minor-league signings brings the potential for over half of this season's Panthers roster to be composed of players new to the team. To accomplish this, Tallon first needed to engage in a sometimes painful process of breaking down the Panthers roster he inherited from former General Managers Randy Sexton and Jacques Martin. This series will look at the players the Panthers let go between Tallon's hire and the end of the 2010-2011 season.
In part one we looked at Nathan Horton. In part two we'll examine the other part of the trade that sent Horton to the Bruins for Dennis Wideman and some draft picks, Gregory Campbell. Campbell was no mere throw-in on the part of the Panthers. Campbell was a big part of the Panthers' defense. As the third line center, Campbell was part of several checking lines over the course of the last three season. He was also one of the best Panthers' penalty killers and was the one of the top two forwards on the ice on the penalty kill for his last three seasons with the Panthers. In addition, he has the reputation of being a great teammate on and off the ice.
He played a similar, though reduced role for the Bruins. Campbell was the fourth line center and was on the second penalty killing unit. He was fourth on the team in forwards for average ice time on the penalty kill. However, as the fourth line center on a Bruins team where the coach trusts his fourth line to be defensively responsible, he only saw his average ice reduced by 1-2 minutes on average, a full 3-4 minutes more than most members of the fourth line on Pete DeBoer's Panthers teams or 2 more than Jacques Martin's Panthers.
After a down year for the Panthers that saw him miss 22 games due to injuries, Campbell responded to the trade and slightly reduced ice time by almost matching his best season, 2008-2009. In three more games, but with 2 minutes less ice time per game, he matched his best goals total, 13 and got 3 fewer than his best assist numbers, with 16. He took fewer shots than most seasons, but had the best shooting percentage of his career. Even with a lower shooting percentage, he should be able to chip in around 10 goals a year, which is more than respectable for a fourth line player.
The Panthers lost an important utility player in Campbell, but weren't the worse for it last season. Campbell's role was filled more than capably by veteran Marty Reasoner, who both centered the third line and was the top Panthers penalty killing forward. Reasoner scored 14 goals, good enough for fourth on the team. By contrast, Campbell's 13 goals tied him for eighth place with David Krejci, which should go a long way towards explaining why both teams finished the season the way they did.
While the Panthers didn't miss Campbell this year, Reasoner has left for the Islanders and it is as yet unknown who will fill his shoes. Both Mike Santorelli and Scott Timmins saw some time on the penalty kill last year as did new Panther Sean Bergenheim. The Panthers are deeper down the middle than they have been for quite some time and it's a toss up between Santorelli and Marcel Goc for the third line center role and either should be able to replace Campbell's 5-10 goals a year. Goc scored 9 and 12 in his last two seasons with Nashville and Santorelli had 20 last season for the Panthers. As such, it is Campbell's penalty killing that will likely be missed most, but Gord Murphy's work last year indicates that the Panthers have the ability to develop new penalty killing forwards to replace Campbell and they will not have lost out by sending Campbell to Boston.