From: Las Vegas
For the first time since Jan. 2015, the Wild have a new goalie from the outside expected to take over the No. 1 reins.
After researching the trade route for some time, general manager Bill Guerin on Friday dipped his toes in free agency and signed former Calgary Flames goalie Cam Talbot to a three-year, $11 million deal. That’s a $3.67 million cap hit.
The 6-foot-4 Talbot, 33, has been streaky in his career but has really had one bad year in his career and one stupendous one.
In 2016-17 for the Edmonton Oilers, Talbot, undrafted and a former product of University of Alabama-Huntsville, led the NHL with 73 starts, 42 wins and had a 2.39 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. He finished fourth in Vezina Trophy voting.
“Big goalie with a good skill set,” former Wild goalie and current TSN analyst Jamie McLennan told The Athletic. “If you look at his outlier year where he stunk in Edmonton, he’s been a good goalie. He’s a good leader. He is good in the room. He’s in great shape. He’s liked by his teammates.
“Has a good butterfly, good glove hand, really good crease management, will get in trouble sometimes with rebounds. He will give up a bad goal sometimes and he struggles with recovering in a game. Has a bit of a tough time putting it behind him. But I think he has a chance to be real good for Minny.”
After that terrible 2018-19 with the Oilers that McLennan alluded to in which Talbot went 10-15-3 with a 3.36 goals-against average and .893 save percentage and was ultimately dealt to the Flyers, Talbot signed a one-year deal in Calgary and got back to the Talbot that he has been in the past.
He went 12-10-1 with a 2.63 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in the regular season and 5-4 in the playoffs with a 2.42 goals-against average and .924 save percentage on a quality defensive team.
If you remove the 2018-19 season from Talbot’s resume, he has a .918 save percentage in 279 career games.
That’s probably what Guerin is banking on.
In 314 career games with the New York Rangers, Oilers, Flyers and Flames, Talbot is 150-122-25 with a 2.61 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and 22 shutouts.
And as Wild fans know, goalies typically excel in Minnesota and should have the past few years.
As of now, their top-six defensemen remain intact and last season, according to Evolving-hockey.com, the Wild ranked first in the NHL with 2.39 expected goals against per hour. However, Devan Dubnyk, traded Monday to San Jose, ranked last in the NHL at minus-27.5 goals saved above expected. That’s a metric that is the difference between the amount of expected goals a goaltender faces and the amount of actual goals they surrender.
According to The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn, Talbot had a minus-0.3 goals saved above expected in 2019-20.
According to Naturalstattrick.com, the Wild gave up the fewest high-danger shots in the NHL at 8.6 against per 60 minutes. This is why former goalie Marty Biron said on TSN that coming to Minnesota is a “home run” for Talbot.
But the Wild combined for the third-worst save percentage (.897) in the NHL and for goaltenders who played more than 29 games, Dubnyk ranked 46th with an .890 overall save percentage, 45th with an .899 even-strength save percentage and 38th with an .844 save percentage against opposing power plays.
Talbot will likely be tagged up with Alex Stalock, who had 20 wins last season, with Kaapo Kahkonen starting in Iowa with Hunter Jones.
The Wild will only be able to protect one goalie in next year’s expansion draft between Kahkonen, Talbot and Stalock. Jones will be exempt.
Guerin had been pursuing Marc-Andre Fleury in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights. But Fleury, who ranks fifth all-time in regular-season victories, has a $7 million cap hit the next two years. It’s believed Fleury had Minnesota listed on his modified no-trade clause but would have considered lifting it if a trade had been worked out. But Vegas needed a third party to first take Fleury, retain some money and then dish him to Minnesota. As of now, the Golden Knights haven’t found that team, and Guerin couldn’t afford to wait as teams begin to sign free agents.
The Wild now have $4.8 million in cap space before re-signing restricted free agent Jordan Greenway. They’re expected to be done signing NHL players via free agency Friday.
The Wild also signed forward Joseph Cramarossa and defenseman Dakota Mermis to two-way contracts to provide depth and play in Iowa.
Cramarossa, 27, pretty much a minor-league lifer, plays center and left wing. Guerin knows him from his time in Pittsburgh; Cramarossa spent parts of the past three seasons with the Penguins’ farm club in Wilkes-Barre.
He has 59 games of NHL experience with the Anaheim Ducks and Vancouver Canucks. He has played 336 AHL games in seven seasons for five teams. He has scored 37 goals, 84 points and has amassed 511 penalty minutes in the AHL.
Mermis, 26, who played 19 games at University of Denver before heading to the London Knights of the OHL, has 13 goals, 87 points and 250 penalty minutes in 304 AHL games for three teams over five seasons. He has played 20 NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes and New Jersey Devils.