Just minutes after the Minnesota Wild opened their pockets and signed goaltender Cam Talbot to a three-year, $11-million contract, there were questions raised about the role that the newest member of this team would play.
After six years and 328 appearances, Devan Dubnyk’s career in Minnesota finished when GM Bill Guerin traded their former starter to the San Jose Sharks last week. This opened up the starter position. And while fans and media alike wondered, throwing out names of upcoming unrestricted free agents or goaltenders that might be on the trade block, the Wild made their decision within the first hour of free agency opening up on Friday, signing the former Calgary Flames netminder.
Luckily for us, we’re not left to curiously guess at what head coach Dean Evason is thinking in terms of tandem for next season, with Talbot and Alex Stalock set to become the two Wild goaltenders.
Guerin: "Cam Talbot is our No. 1 goalie."— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) October 9, 2020
There it is. Plain and simple, as if it were written on a giant billboard in black and white. Talbot will be the starter for the Wild for next season.
Of course we’ll see how he performs in that role, but considering what he did for the Flames during his 2019-20 campaign, he more than earned a chance to take the reins yet again.
Prior to Calgary, Talbot was the starter for the bottom-of-the-barrel Edmonton Oilers from 2015 to 2018. Although he was Connor McDavid’s teammate, that team gave him no favors in between the pipes, as he made the most appearances by an NHL goaltender in both the 2016-17 and the 2017-18 seasons. Despite the former earning him fourth place in Vezina Trophy voting, that level of play was unsustainable and led him downhill into a snowball effect.
A trade to the Philadelphia Flyers in the final year of his contract with the Oilers, and an unfortunate four appearances for his new team — posting a .881 save percentage — led him straight to free agency, where his value was at an all-time low.
Signed by the Flames to a one-year deal and as a pseudo secondary to David Rittich, Talbot was able to bounce back in a big way. Through 26 appearances — 22 of those being starts — the 33-year-old was able to have a .919 save percentage in all situations and a .925 save percentage at 5-on-5. That mark while all things are even was the same as the goalie that replaced Talbot, the newly-signed Jacob Markstrom during his campaign that earned him an All-Star selection and Hart Trophy votes.
Talbot’s potential as a full-time starter in the NHL was rejuvenated during his tenure with the Flames. Despite going into last season unsure of his role, he more than earned his new opportunity while Rittich was out with an injury during the postseason.
Through 10 playoff games, the newest member of the Wild posted a .924 save percentage, despite getting shelled every game as the Flames gave up an average of 31.4 shots on goal through the 2019 playoffs.
If — and it’s a massive if — Talbot is able to repeat his performance from last season, the Wild have secured a top goaltender in the league that is no doubt a starter that can steal some games.
The three-year commitment is less than any of his comparable from last season got — Markstrom receiving a six-year deal with the Flames and Matt Murray, a four years with the Ottawa Senators. With that in mind, it seemed like the smartest move that Guerin and the rest of the Wild’s management could make with the opportunity and assets they have.
Talbot will be in between the pipes when the 2020-21 begins, whenever that is.