Speculation: Chris Campoli?

One of the interesting sidelines during a season is which teams have scouts in which press boxes. This year, for the Blue Jackets, the most frequent visitors have been the Ottawa Senators, who have had a scout in attendance at five of the last six Columbus home games, and recently had their director of player personnel appear at Nationwide arena. It suggests that while GM Scott Howson says nothing is "close" on the trade front, the two teams certainly seem to be having quite a bit of discussion.

Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, the same guy who once gave us the theory that Evgeni Malkin would be a Los Angeles King by the 2009 trade deadline, suggested this weekend that Columbus' interest in a possible deal with the Sens could be D-man Chris Campoli.

A 2004 draft pick of the New York Islanders, Campoli played on long island for three and a half seasons before being traded at the deadline to Ottawa with Mike Comrie in exchange for Dean McAmmond. (Jackets fans may also remember him from the infamous 'double OT winner' game against the Islanders that essentially ended Freddy Norrena's NHL career, and lead to the rise of Steve Mason. Campoli put the puck through the net once, which no-one except the Islander d-man realized, then saw play continuing, so he caught his own rebound and scored past Norrena again.) After posting a 34 point rookie season, his production dropped to roughly half that for the next two years, but he seemed to be putting it together again in 2008-2009, scoring six times and adding 11 assists in 51 games with the Island.

Campoli seemed to respond well to the trade, grabbing another five goals and eight assists in the regular season, and two more assists in six post-season games, but his offensive production has dropped back down again to a relatively average level afterwards - though this year it could be argued that he's slid down the depth chart because of the acquisition of Sergei Gonchar

Campoli would be an RFA next year, and is currently signed at 1.4 million - just a bit less than Anton Stralman. It would also mean that the team could potentially take Campoli for this year and then make the decision to extend, arbitrate, or free up a roster spot for one of the younger players currently honing their game in Springfield.

If this were 2009, I'd say that this would be a great move - his offensive numbers (11G, 19A in 76 games) might be just what Columbus' blue line needs to spark more offense from the back end. Unfortunately, since then he's been a lot less exciting offensively, turning in 18 points last season (4G, 14A), and so far only 5 points this season (1G, 4A). 

The biggest asset I could see for Columbus is his mobility - Campoli's a very fast, skilled skater, and he has the ability to skate the puck out of trouble, which is something that we generally lack outside of Kris Russell. On the other hand, he's made a lot of defensive mistakes - though his worst season (-16), was partially due to playing on a truly terrible Islanders squad (who would claim the #1 draft pick and John Tavares by being tank-tacularly bad), his best season was still a -1, and he was a -3 in his first full season with the Sens.

To get a better feel for the blueliner, I decided to reach out to Peter Raaymakers, of our fellow SBNation blog Silver Seven. I thought his response was interesting:

When the Senators brought Chris Campoli in to the fold, they did so in the hope he'd be just what it seems the Jackets are looking for: A mobile, offensive, powerplay-quarterbacking defenceman. But Campoli hasn't really turned out to fit that bill. It would seem his very impressive, 34-point rookie season may be a little unrepresentative for him; the Senators were forced to acquire Sergei Gonchar to fill that role while waiting for Erik Karlsson to step up and do it with regularity.


Even if he's not a mobile powerplay quarterback, though, Campoli has been a solid defender for us. He's had to fall back into the fifth spot on our depth chart, and has become more defensively solid than offensively dynamic, but he does what's asked of him. Even on Ottawa's iffy blueline, though, Campoli is behind Karlsson, Gonchar, and Filip Kuba in terms of offensive defencemen.

But maybe given what's happened to Antoine Vermette since he joined Columbus, your team will be able to harness the actual potential of Campoli. Vermette was never seen as a realistic top-line centreman here, just like Campoli isn't seen as a realistic top-tier offensive defenceman, but maybe there's something people in Ottawa--coaches and fans alike--just haven't seen yet.

Is he the answer? I'm a bit skeptical at this point, but Peter does make a good point that we've taken a sow's ear from Ottawa before, and turned it into a silk purse. So, what do you think?

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