Third on the list of restricted free agents the Ottawa Senators is defenceman Chris Campoli.
#14 / Defenseman / Ottawa Senators
Jul 09, 1984
|2009 - Chris Campoli||67||4||14||18||-3||16||1||0||1||0||71||5.6|
Although he's had flashes of the offensive defenceman expected when he was acquired from the New York Islanders at the 2009 trade deadline (in exchange for a first-round pick, no less), Campoli's been something of a disappointment so far. He's just finished the final year of his second pro contract, which paid him $675k for last season. A healthy scratch for portions of the 2009-10 season, he took a pretty good while to get into a rhythm on the Senators' blue line--really coming into his own when the whole team seemed to, heading into the 11-game winning streak. His emergence as a dependable, if unspectacular, defender made Alex Picard expendable, and when Picard was traded (and with Filip Kuba's indefinite injury), Campoli had gained the confidence of his coach and the sixth D spot was his to lose.
Through the end of the regular season and the playoffs, Campoli was solid defensively. He still wasn't put up the points Bryan Murray hoped he could, but his positioning and quickness kept him in a great spot to shut down opposing forwards. Reports are out there that the Senators want to bring Campoli back, even with five defencemen (Kuba, Chris Phillips, Erik Karlsson, Matt Carkner, and Brian Lee) on one-way deals plus two solid prospects (Patrick Wiercioch and Jared Cowen) looking to make an impression.
And since Campoli's the lone Sens' RFA with arbitration rights, he and his agent are probably looking for a few comparable players to base their salary expectations on. So we're going to do the same, after the fold, with five (!) similar young defencemen.
#5 / Defenseman / Calgary Flames
Oct 03, 1983
Cap hit: $900k, one more season
Giordano's a slightly different case in that he was signed as a free agent instead of drafted, and he spent a year playing in Russia. But the similarities remain: Similar sized defenders, similar offensive numbers, and similar stages in their respective careers (although Giordano's a year older than Campoli). Giordano was brought back to Calgary from Russia with a three-year deal worth $2.675M, a cap hit of a little less than $900k per season. The seems like a good number for Campoli, at least from the team's perspective: It's a decent raise from his current salary (almost 50 percent), but it remains a pretty good contract and fits in the Senators' salary structure.
#10 / Defenseman / Columbus Blue Jackets
May 02, 1987
Cap hit: $1.3M, three more seasons
I'd wager that Russell is a more attractive player than Campoli around the league, even though he's smaller in stature and actually has worse offensive numbers than Campoli did at the same stage in his career (Russell's a few years younger than Campoli). With Russell's entry-level deal coming up at the end of this season, though, he was extended for $3.9M over the next three seasons. Maybe the reputation he developed through junior (196P in 241GP, a bunch of WHL awards, and CMJHL defenceman of the year in 2007) helped him get that contract, but you can bet Campoli's agents are looking at Russell's contract and his NHL production, and making a case for their client to get more than a million per season. The difference between Ottawa and Columbus is that Campoli isn't expected a big part of the present or future defence corps, while Russell is for the Jackets, but arbitration won't take that fact into consideration.
#48 / Defenseman / Boston Bruins
May 21, 1985
Cap hit: $1.45M, one more season
Hunwick, similar to Russell, is a young guy who cashed in on his second contract based on relatively little justification in the way of actual contributions to his NHL team. His numbers are very similar, in fact slightly worse, than Campoli's were for their respective first two NHL seasons, but after Hunwick's first year with Boston he signed a two-year extension worth $2.9M--a pretty high price tag for a guy who'd only played 66 NHL games and put up 28 points in that time. And he gives Campoli a pretty attractive comparable to base his contract demands around.
#6 / Defenseman / Dallas Stars
Oct 09, 1983
Cap hit: $2.3M, one more season
Daley doesn't put up big offensive numbers on the Stars' blue line, but he's carved out a niche for himself there. On average, he played about five minutes more per game than Campoli last season, but he was also the highest-paid defender on Dallas with a cap hit of $2.3M (crazy, right?). Campoli has significantly better offensive numbers than Daley (he averages 0.36PPG, compared to Daley's 0.24PPG), but the latter carries more responsibility defensively--while Daley plays more minutes in general, and significantly more time on the PK, Campoli had higher per-game powerplay minutes. Although he compares favourably in terms of offensive production, I don't think Campoli can sell himself as a Daley-calibre defender; they just play different games.
#58 / Defenseman / Pittsburgh Penguins
Apr 24, 1987
Cap hit: $3.5M, four more years
I'm baffled to realize that, from a statistical standpoint, Letang and Campoli are fairly accurate comparables over the first three NHL seasons they each played: Campoli had 66P in 177GP (0.37 PPG), Letang had 77P in 210GP (0.38PPG). And that fact is a little bit startling, because in March he was signed to a $14M, four-year contract. If Campoli's agents come out with contract demands on par, or even close to par, with Letang's deal I imagine Murray will simply walk out of the room, but the arbitrator will lend his ear to any argument, which could very well bring up his decision.
Conclusion: Given the league's seemingly insatiable appetite for young offensive defencemen, and the going rate they seem to be earning, Campoli could be set to make a bit more than I had originally expected. One thing that will work against him, though, will be this year's performance: 18P in only 64GP. Sure, he was scratched sometimes, and sure, he was used modestly, but he can't really argue that he earned much more ice time than he was given. His biggest contributions may have come late in the season and through the playoffs, where he developed into more of a defensive defenceman alongside Carkner; if that's the kind of contribution the Senators can expect from him moving forward, he remains valuable, but not as much as a point-producer. To make a guess, I would expect Campoli to sign a deal for around three seasons, at a cap hit of $1-1.2M per year. The Senators might be looking to give him less, and the arbitrator might very well award him more, but the Senators are lucky enough to have some pretty strong depth when it comes to young defencemen.