Barely a week after the Minnesota Wild re-signed Marc-André Fleury to a team-friendly two-year contract, they decided to trade away Cam Talbot. Up until the trade, it was believed Talbot and Fleury would share the net almost equally but plans obviously changed. Even general manager Bill Guerin was under the impression he was going to have two veteran goalies going into this next season, but ultimately he changed his mind.
The Wild made sure to cover the hole Talbot was going to leave by trading him to the Ottawa Senators and receiving goaltender Filip Gustavsson. He’s only been in the league two years but, after trading Talbot, they needed a backup. Now, the pressure will be on Fleury to take most of the starts with an unproven goalie behind him.
Fleury Becomes the Starter
Obviously with Talbot gone, that bumps Fleury up to the starting position. Whether or not he is ready for this, he has no choice, as Gustavsson is not experienced enough to take the Wild’s starting position. Plus, he’ll be on a new team which means there will be an adjustment period. Fleury’s been in the starting position before but as unfortunate as it is, he’s getting older, and trying to play every game can be tiring on a 37-year-old’s body.
Fleury had a decent nine games with the Wild during the regular season this past year, but the playoffs were somewhat of a bust. Now he’ll be expected to carry the team throughout the season and find that next level to get through the postseason.
Fleury is used to the pressure from being a starter for nearly 11 seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins where he won three Stanley Cups and then he moved on to the Vegas Golden Knights where he was also the starter for four seasons. After that, he split last season with the Chicago Blackhawks and Wild. With him back in the number-one role, he’ll have to find a way to dig deep for the next two seasons and rise to the occasion of being a starter once again.
What Gustavsson Brings
Gustavsson is a 24-year-old from Skellefteå, Sweden who’s spent the past two seasons with the Senators. He had a decent first season, he played in nine games and had a record of 5-1-2 with a save percentage (SV%) of .933 and a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.16. The next season they decided to give him a little more time in the net, as he played in 18 games and had a record of 5-12-1 with a .892 SV% and a 3.55 GAA.
After watching some highlights of Gustavsson, the Wild are getting a goalie that uses his 6-foot-2, 184-pound frame to extend all the way across the net. His leg reach is quite impressive as he gets his foot in the way of the puck just in time. He’s also shown that he is capable of stopping breakaways and reading the play as it unfolds. He’s still young and hasn’t played a lot of games, so it’s expected he’ll struggle a bit at the beginning.
Gustavsson has looked good at times in the NHL, but the key will be to play confidently and find consistency as the Wild’s new backup. Fleury will not be able to be in the net every single night and Gustavsson will be counted on to pick up on those nights that Fleury can’t.
Fleury & Gustavsson Rotation
It’s a topic that’ll be discussed numerous times before the season begins, but chances are it won’t be finalized until during the season. Even then, it will change depending on the situation. To begin, Marc-André Fleury has to be the starter, as he’ll play as many games as possible while they slowly insert Gustavsson into the rotation. It’ll probably start out as 75 percent Fleury, 25 percent Gustavsson. If Gustavsson can prove himself, maybe they’ll up the games as the season goes on.
It’d be a bit much to do a 50/50 rotation like they’d planned with Talbot and Fleury, especially since Gustavsson’s only played 27 games in the NHL. If they make it to the playoffs, it’ll most likely be Fleury starting all the games. However, if things go like they did this past season, they may pull him earlier and give Gustavsson a chance.
Wild Will Miss Talbot
It’ll be an adjustment period without Talbot. He may have only spent two seasons with the Wild, but he found his way into the hearts of the fans, as he worked hard and earned the starting spot. While he struggled, he kept pushing to do better. Fleury’s gotten used to having different goaltending partners after the last few seasons, but the rest of the team will have to get used to another starting goalie and teammate.
Hopefully, Talbot does well with the Senators on his new venture and the same goes for Gustavsson with the Wild. They will both need solid goaltending as the scorers keep getting stronger and stronger in front of them. The Wild have to do better than they did this past season or the team will likely have to make more moves in order to find that elusive Stanley Cup-winning team.