Winning in Toronto ‘would mean everything’ to Leafs’ Jack Campbell

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Whether the Maple Leafs re-sign Jack Campbell is not Auston Matthews’ question.

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Still, if the superstar center were to return to the Leafs’ crease in the season-opening faceoff in 2022-23 and see Campbell guard the net for Toronto, Matthews would be grateful.

Of the Leafs’ handful of unrestricted free agents this offseason, Campbell’s retention is the most crucial.

Campbell showed he is capable of being a No. 1 keeper and managed to put some struggles behind him to finish strong.

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“He shows up in every game, no matter what,” Matthews said Tuesday. “He wants to be in there, he wants to compete. Throughout a season, you’re always going to have ups and downs, and I thought the way he came out of those little dips was awesome. He had a very good last part of the season for us and played well in the playoffs.

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“We all love soup. A happy guy always makes everyone feel welcome and happy. It was really impressive to see him grow in this role (n°1) and take it by the horns.

Captain John Tavares said: “When I talk about the culture of the team, the work ethic, the commitment, there is no one who buys and wants to be as good and do everything as he can more than Jack.”

How does Campbell feel about his hockey future? Since acquiring the Los Angeles Kings in February 2020, the native of Port Huron, Michigan has fallen in love with Toronto.

“I haven’t had time to think about it, I know it sounds funny,” Campbell said. “Winning here means everything to me. I love the city of Toronto, I love the fans, the support, my teammates are amazing, the coaching staff.

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Would Campbell consider less money than he could get elsewhere? He is expected to get a significant boost from his US$1.65 million AAV over the past two seasons.

“I’m still dissecting the playoffs,” Campbell said. “As much as I love the city and do everything I can to stay here, that’s up to (agent) Kurt (Overhardt) and Kyle (Dubas) to discuss.

“The resources that the organization gives us to make us the best player and the best person possible is incredible and there is no excuse not to improve this summer. That’s where my mind is. . »

Said Dubas of the contract talks: “(assistant general manager) Brandon (Pridham) will get down to business speaking with (the Leafs free agent) reps, to get an idea of ​​the expectations, we’ll start looking at the market and then make our decisions from there.

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STUNNING SPEZZA

The dismay at losing Game 7 to Tampa Bay on Saturday was evident with every player who met the media on Tuesday, but none more so than veteran Jason Spezza, who spoke in a low voice and lacked his usual jovial candor. .

Not only was this another missed opportunity for the 38-year-old to win the Stanley Cup, but it’s still unclear if Spezza will get another chance as a player.

“It’s incredibly abrupt and difficult to end a season that we thought we’d be playing for a lot longer,” Spezza said. “You know one of the two teams is going to lose the series, but we didn’t expect it to be us.

“It’s tough. It’s tough. It stings. There’s a lot of work to do to get in a position to make the playoffs and play in a series. The group has lofty goals and when it’s over in the first round like that, it’s shocking.

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“There is no straight line to the top. If there were, everyone would try to do it. I’m very proud of the hard core guys who have been here. They challenge themselves and adhere to what is taught. I really believed that the team was going to break through.

Does Spezza want to continue playing?

“I love the game,” Spezza said. “I’ve always maintained that if I can give importance to the group, if I’m a contributor every night, then I want to play. There are conversations to be had with me, the management and the coaches, but that’s is the only place I would play.

“I had to reconfigure myself as a player to survive, and I’m not the player I was anymore. I tried to contribute with everything I had every night. I think sometimes I really liked my game. Sometimes I was frustrated with the state of my game.”

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Spezza is unsure how he will reset in the coming weeks.

“I don’t know,” Spezza said. “I’m a little lost right now, to be honest.”

LOOSE LEAF

What caused Matthews to miss three games in April? “Little groin, a little knee too,” Matthews said. “Nothing serious, just the bumps and bruises along the way. Come playoff time, everyone is going through something and you just have to fight. … Toronto native Mark Giordano didn’t say so explicitly, but the free agent defenseman would like to return to the Leafs. “Everyone knows I’m from Toronto, I love this place,” Giordano said. “I don’t think it’s a secret, I enjoyed my stay here. I feel pretty good about my game. The way (the best Leafs players) fought and competed, I think these guys can push this team over the line. … Jake Muzzin said he had “another upper body injury,” believed to be a shoulder problem, that kept him out of six of the last seven games heading into the playoffs. “But I feel good now,” Muzzin said.

tkoshan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/koshtorontosun

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