Updated: Yes, he has left the organization.
Many of you asked why Jack Walker wasn't in camp. Lou said #Leafs did not give him a qualifying offer, so he's a free agent now.— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) July 12, 2017
Redditor ImHuge had a very interesting post on r/Leafs last night and I think it’s worth sharing with all the non-reddit users out there.
Toronto Maple Leafs 2016 draft pick Jack Walker (2016, 152nd overall) wasn’t invited to development camp in Toronto — I feel dumb for having missed that one — but he is attending the Minnesota Wild development camp that is happening right now.
So, what’s Walkers deal? Why isn’t he at Leafs camp? Korostelev’s rights expired and he was invited to camp (though he isn’t there because of travel issues). Is Walker done in the organization a year before his rights expire? He was injured at the end of the WHL season so not having him on the development camp roster could have been excused that way.
IMHuge did the heavy lifting of digging through the CBA, and found two sections that apply:
First, the conditions that a player can be invited to a camp:
15.10 Conditioning Camp.
(a) In each off-season, a Club may hold one conditioning camp (a "Conditioning Camp") for the Players set forth in Section 15.10(b) below, provided that such Conditioning Camp be limited to the months of June and July only and may not last longer than seven (7) days, and provided further that such Club shall advise the NHL and NHLPA of the time, duration, and location of its Conditioning Camp at least two (2) weeks in advance, in accordance with Exhibit 3.
(b) Participation in Conditioning Camps will be limited to the following:
(i) Unsigned Draft Choices;
(ii) Any Player in the Entry Level System with less than 120 NHL Games played (but who did not play in excess of 70 NHL Games in the preceding Regular Season);
(iii) Draft-related Unrestricted Free Agents;
(iv) Players who were eligible for selection in the preceding Entry Draft but were undrafted; and
(v) Any Player who is not in the Entry Level System, who finished the preceding season disabled, and who submits a written request to the Club, with a copy to the NHL and the NHLPA, to participate in his Club's Conditioning Camp.
Jack Walker was none of those things as far as I knew. He wasn’t an undrafted free agent, he wasn’t a Wild draft pick, he isn’t up for redrafting, so why is he there?
The next section may explain it:
8.6 Reserve List-Exclusive Rights.
(a) Commencing with the 2013 Entry Draft, a Player selected by a Club in the Entry Draft shall be registered on the Reserve List of the selecting Club as an "Unsigned Draft Choice."
(ii) Subject to the provisions of subsection (iii) below and Sections (b), (c) and (d) below, if, on or before June 1 of the calendar year next succeeding the Entry Draft, the claiming Club makes a Bona Fide Offer (as defined below) to its claimed Player of an SPC, the Club shall retain the exclusive right of negotiation for the services of such Player up to and including the second June 1 following the date of his selection.
(e) A "Bona Fide Offer" is an offer of an SPC which is for a period corresponding to the Player's age as required under Section 9.1(b) of this Agreement, is to commence at the start of the next League Year, offers at least the Minimum Paragraph 1 Salary as set forth in Section 11.12 of this Agreement for each League Year covered by such offer and remains open to the Player for at least thirty (30) days after receipt of the offer by the Player. A Bona Fide Offer may be conditioned upon acceptance by the Player within thirty (30) days and carries no right to salary arbitration.\
The first thing we could guess is that the Leafs gave Walker permission to attend the Wild camp to help his recovery from his injury so he wouldn’t have to travel. An odd choice, but there’s a chance that could be it.
However, if Walker is at Wild camp, it’s likely that the Maple Leafs didn’t make an offer to Walker, giving him UFA status. If the Maple Leafs had made him an offer, he would still be in their system, however with the team being up against the SPC limit (49 SPCs will be used once Connor Brown is signed), perhaps they declined to give him that offer to try and get him on an AHL contract. Once they declined to offer him an NHL deal, he decided he would explore his options. The Marlies are pretty full, and perhaps he didn’t want to be a part of the Leafs organization, and he moved on.
So why would the Maple Leafs let him go? Here are his stats for his CHL career:
Walker took a step back in his overage year with Victoria, scoring 12 less points than previous years. His development there was a little wacky, he played both forward and defender for the Royals. Overall his numbers in his final two years with Victoria were good, but not Adam Brooks outstanding. There are a couple other prospects we can look at to read more into his situation.
Nikita Korostelev needed a contract this June or he’d be back into the draft. He was let go and went undrafted. Then he was invited to Maple Leafs camp (he didn’t attend due to travel issues after playing in the Anaheim Ducks camp). The Maple Leafs still saw potential in him and extended the offer anyway. He scored 8 fewer points than Walker this past season.
However, Korostelev can fall back to the Peterborough Petes of the OHL as an overager next season, and Walker has aged out of the Western Hockey League, having played five full seasons with the Royals and is a ‘96 birth year (‘97’s are overagers next season). He has nowhere to go at the moment.
JJ Piccinich was another player in his position heading into the summer. The London Knights captain also aged out of the Ontario Hockey League and had no NHL deal. The Maple Leafs still held his rights, so they offered him a 2 year AHL contract, which he accepted.
Why Piccinich? Why not Walker? JJ scored the same amount of points as Walker, albeit in fewer games (66 vs 72). Was it familiarity with the player, JJ having been in the Leafs org for two years, played for Mark Hunters OHL team? This issue brings up a lot more questions than answers we’re going to get. For now, all we know is Jack Walker is at the Minnesota Wild development camp, and not the Maple Leafs.
We’ve reached out to the Maple Leafs on this issue (heh) but I wouldn’t expect an answer back, those attending development camp are having a time getting anything out of the team, so me sitting at a desk down the road from the ACC, I shouldn’t expect more than they’re getting.