After stressing the importance of finding a No. 1 goaltender all offseason, Wild general manager Bill Guerin has finally found his man.
On Friday afternoon, Oct. 9, a couple of hours after NHL free agency opened, the Wild officially signed 33-year-old Cam Talbot to a three-year, $11 million contract.
This was far and away the top priority for Guerin going into next season. Asked earlier this week what the Wild needed heading into free agency, Guerin bluntly replied, “Goalie.”
That’s exactly what Talbot is. And a good one at that.
He posted a 12-10-1 record for the Calgary Flames last season with a 2.80 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. He took his play to another level in the NHL bubble during the playoffs with a 5-4-0 record, a 2.42 GAA, and a .924 save percentage.
“Cam Talbot is our No. 1 goalie,” Guerin said. “That’s why he came here.”
It was a nerve-wracking day for Talbot with so many standout goaltenders available on the open market. He was competing for a contract against the likes of Stanley Cup champion Braden Holtby, veteran household name Henrik Lundqvist, and breakout star Jacob Markstrom, to name a few.
“You know that there might be guys left without a seat at this point,” Talbot said. “We were just hoping for an opportunity from somebody and when Bill called it seemed like the perfect fit. It was kind of a no-brainer to take him up on and come to this agreement once we got the call from him, it was just like, ‘Where do we sign?'”
It was rewarding moment for Talbot to say the least. He essentially on himself during the 2019-20 season, signing a one-year, $2.75 million contract with the Flames on the heels of a dreadful 2018-19 season with the Edmonton Oilers.
“I knew that people had kind of written me off,” Talbot said. “I wasn’t done yet. And I knew that I could still play at a high level. It’s very rewarding that I was able to prove that and get this opportunity.”
He will step in immediately as the starting goaltender for the Wild, with veteran Alex Stalock and rookie Kaapo Kahkonen battling for playing time behind him.
This move was a few months in the making after Guerin very publicly expressed his discontent with last season’s tandem of Stalock and longtime starter Devan Dubnyk.
“I was disappointed,” Guerin said at the time. “It needs to be better. That’s just the way it is. If I told you anything different I’d be lying. It was not a strong point for us.”
The writing was on the wall at that point, and Guerin finally found a suitor this week, trading Dubnyk to the San Jose Sharks on Monday for a late draft pick in a move that was widely regarded as a salary dump.
That made acquiring a No. 1 goaltender even more important, and Guerin finally got it done by signing Talbot.
“I like playing for guys that are straight shooters,” Talbot said. “If I’m not playing well, I want someone to tell me, and I’m going to do whatever I can to make myself better and to be better for the team. You want to play for a guy like that. I wasn’t aware of what he said at the end of last year. I didn’t see that stuff. Hopefully he doesn’t have to have any kind of those conversations with me.”