Wild Must Trade Cam Talbot This Offseason

The Minnesota Wild have many crucial decisions to make this offseason after a disappointing first-round loss to the St. Louis Blues. With any team that fails to reach its goals, change is inevitable, as we could be seeing plenty of that this summer in the state of hockey.

While most eyes might be on what to do with restricted free agent Kevin Fiala, there could be a tough decision needing to be made with goaltender Cam Talbot. After the events of this past season, the time feels like now to move on from the netminder before it’s too late.

Talbot’s Place Within the Organization

Since signing a three-year contract with the Wild prior to the 2020-21 season, Talbot has been excellent, posting a .911 or higher save percentage (SV%) in his first two seasons. He elevated his game in the 2020-21 playoffs, where he had a .924 SV% in seven games.

However, a minor slump during the 2021-22 season had Bill Guerin and the rest of management questioning if Talbot could get the job done in a crucial playoff for the team. So, they decided to acquire future Hall of Famer Marc-Andre Fleury at the trade deadline for insurance.

Cam Talbot Minnesota Wild
Cam Talbot, Minnesota Wild (Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Dean Evason wouldn’t publicly say it at the time, but it’s obvious Fleury wasn’t brought in to be a backup. He was often given the net in the final weeks of the season and started the first five games of the playoffs before throwing Talbot in for game six, where the Blues eliminated the Wild.

Related: Wild Must Re-sign Fleury This offseason

Talbot has performed well enough in his two years with the Wild to be the starting goaltender, and management essentially showed him that they don’t truly believe he can win this team a Stanley Cup. Whether or not Fleury returns is irrelevant, the Wild made a tough choice with their goaltending situation, and it’s likely best the two sides part ways this offseason.

Wild’s Cap Situation

Due to the buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the Wild will have no choice but to save every penny they can against the salary cap this season. The core players such as Kirill Kaprizov, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jonas Brodin, and captain Jared Spurgeon won’t be moved, as they are all in their prime and have long-term deals still in place.

Those moves would be hurting the team far too significantly, and every season Kaprizov is under contract is a year where the Wild must do everything they can to be competitive. However, could moving a goaltender with just a tad north of a $3.6 million cap hit be helpful? It is certainly a possibility that is worth exploring.

Goaltenders are interesting because some goaltenders vastly underperform their contracts every season, while others who make maybe just one or two million surprise everyone and emerge as a solid starter option.

Of course, if the Wild do find a way to resign Fleury, Talbot will undoubtedly need to be moved. They can’t commit upwards of six, seven, or eight million in cap dollars towards their goaltending tandem. It’s just not a luxury that this team can afford; it will have to be a starter and a low-cost backup.

Cam Talbot Minnesota Wild
Cam Talbot, Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

For a team like the Wild, who are tight against the cap, it could be beneficial to move Talbot for cap space and try to sign a goaltender on the market for cheap. Hopefully, he could still provide stable goaltending behind a defence that allowed 31.3 shots against per game, which was tied for sixth-best in the NHL.

Talbot’s Trade Value

This might be the biggest reason why the Wild need to move on from Talbot before the season begins. With the cap hit he has and the impressive numbers he has put up within the regular season and the playoffs over the past two seasons, he will be someone that teams will have considerable interest in acquiring.

It might have to wait until the draft and the first week of free agency is open to see which teams didn’t get what they wanted in the goaltender market. Therefore, the Wild could be dealing with desperate teams who need a goaltender heading into the 2022-23 season, and that’s when they would maximize their return.

Getting players with cheap salaries signed for a couple of seasons is difficult, but that’s exactly what the Wild should be looking for in return. Brandon Hagel, on the surface, might not have been worth the two first-round picks the Tampa Bay Lightning traded to acquire him, but his low cap hit until the conclusion of the 2023-24 season is what made him so valuable.

That’s a rare occurrence, as players that are good with that contract aren’t often available. But there are still quality players that don’t cost much against the cap to be had, and Talbot could help bring a player or two like that to the State of Hockey.

Cam Talbot Minnesota Wild
Cam Talbot, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Unfortunately for Talbot, who seems to really enjoy playing for the Wild, the writing on the wall seemed to be there the moment they acquired Fleury. The Wild can’t risk losing players for nothing, and Talbot could walk straight to free agency next summer.

Therefore, the time to trade Talbot is now. He’s a good goaltender on a reasonable cap hit with one year remaining. The Wild need the cap space and could get a helpful return for him. The Wild simple shouldn’t have him on their roster for the opening night of the 2022-23 season.

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