The Minnesota Wild will have some decisions to make this offseason regarding their goaltending situation. They are interested in bringing back Marc-André Fleury and have youngster Jesper Wallstedt waiting in the wings. Therefore, it could be time to move on from Cam Talbot, and one team he could fit nicely on is the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Talbot had a .911 save percentage (SV%) this season and only has one year left on his deal with a cap hit of just under $3.7 million. That’s a lot of money for a team facing a problematic cap crunch, and the Wild showed that they didn’t have much confidence in him when they went and acquired Fleury at the deadline. It’s tough to imagine that didn’t sting a bit, so he could be looking for a fresh start before his contract year in 2022-23.
The Maple Leafs are in win-now mode but might lose starting goaltender Jack Campbell to free agency and seem to have no interest in bringing back Petr Mrázek. If they don’t find what they are looking for in free agency, a trade might be the route they have to take. Here are a few players the Wild should be targeting in a deal for Talbot.
After scoring 55 goals in 46 games with the Peterborough Petes in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) during the 2019-20 season, the COVID-19 shutdown and injuries have hurt Nick Robertson’s development. Arguably, if all things remained normal, he could be a full-time NHL player by now with loads of experience with the Maple Leafs.
Instead, Robertson has just 16 games of regular-season experience under his belt, registering only one goal and one assist. He will undoubtedly be given a fair shot at being a regular in the Maple Leafs’ lineup during the 2022-23 season but could be shopped around for a goaltender if the organization becomes desperate.
Robertson could have an opportunity higher up in the Wild’s lineup than on the Maple Leafs, possibly even replacing Kevin Fiala, who is likely to be moved this summer. He’s got an NHL-calibre shot and works extremely hard to chase down loose pucks and create turnovers.
With two seasons left on Robertson’s entry-level contract (ELC), he would be a perfect fit in the Wild’s forward group. However, the Maple Leafs won’t give him up easily. It would almost certainly cost the Wild more than just Talbot, but he could be obtainable in the right situation.
Every season it seems like Alexander Kerfoot’s name is brought up in trade rumours, but after a strong 2021-22 season, his value could be at its highest yet. He had 51 points while playing in all 82 games, almost all of which came at even-strength. A little more power-play time with the Wild and his point totals could climb even higher.
Kerfoot is a highly versatile middle-six forward who can play centre and on the wing. He finally didn’t have to play in a shutdown role this season thanks to David Kämpf and found some success playing with John Tavares in the top six. He’s fast, has excellent vision, and has been a reliable member of the penalty kill for a few seasons too.
With one year remaining on his deal with a $3.5 million cap hit, Kerfoot could be an attractive fit in the Wild’s middle six. He would also provide much-needed help on their penalty kill, which ranked 25th in the league at 76.1 percent.
For a long time, Pierre Engvall struggled to gain the trust of head coach Sheldon Keefe and therefore struggled to find himself as a regular in the lineup. He would often make careless mistakes with the puck and didn’t seem to have the ability to think as quickly on the ice as his teammates could.
That changed in the 2021-22 season, as Engvall finally started to reward the Maple Leafs for not giving up on him. He had 35 points in 78 games and was effective at both ends of the ice. As a pending restricted free agent (RFA), he should be due for a slight pay raise but won’t likely cost much more than $2 million a season, if that.
At 6-foot-5, 214 pounds, with a strong stride and an underrated shot, Engvall has all the physical tools to be an elite player in the NHL. He might have a lot more untapped potential than many realize, but most likely, he will top out as a solid 35-40 point bottom-six player who has the speed and skill to move up the lineup when injuries occur.
Whether he’s on the wing or at centre, Engvall is a unique combination of size, speed, and skill who just hasn’t found the success you would think he could have when you watch him play. Maybe Dean Evason could find the right recipe in his game to make him a 20-goal, 50-point player in the State of Hockey.
If the Wild make Talbot available, there will be plenty of teams interested in his talents, as he’s a proven starter on a very manageable contract. Despite Campbell being an all-star goaltender, the Maple Leafs got below .900 SV% goaltending through multiple stretches last season and could be looking for a change in the crease.
Kyle Dubas won’t be thrilled to part with any of the players mentioned above, but no contending team has any hope of winning without a solid netminder. If the Maple Leafs strike out in free agency, they could be desperate enough to give the Wild a beneficial asset in return for Talbot.
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Sports writer covering the Minnesota Wild. Graduated with a degree in sport media, also working with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.