Minnesota Wild trades Cam Talbot to the Ottawa Senators for Filip Gustavsson

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“Nobody puts Baby in the corner”, was an infamous movie line from the film Dirty Dancing. One could argue, the line could’ve been used to describe how the Minnesota Wild handled Cam Talbot at beginning of the 2022 NHL Playoffs. At least if you asked his wife who aired her frustration over Twitter.

Whether as an organization or as a coaching decision, the move created a rift. Publicly, Talbot admitted he was ‘pissed off’ by the decision but he accepted it. Privately, rumors swirled he was still upset even after Minnesota found itself bounced from the playoffs.

Talbot went 13-0-3 in his last 16 starts prior to the start of the 2022 NHL Playoffs. He hadn’t lost a game in regulation since March 1st, but the team still opted to start Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 1 against the Saint Louis Blues.

It wasn’t until Game 6, with the team’s playoff hopes on the ropes did they put Talbot between the pipes. The former Alabama-Huntsville Charger looked rusty as he gave up a goal in the 1st period and three more in the 2nd en route to a 5-1 loss that bounced the team from the series.

With one year remaining on his contract, many wondered if we had seen the last of Talbot in a Wild uniform.

Fast forward to last week at the draft where the Wild re-signed Fleury to a 2-year deal worth $3.5 million per season (with a full no movement clause). Upon feeling ambushed by the news of Fleury’s signing, Talbot’s agent George Bazos confronted Wild General Manager Bill Guerin and the exchange did not go well.

When told by Talbot’s agent that he had ‘lots to think about’ in regards to his unhappy goaltender, Guerin was firm and unequivocal, “I don’t have to do shit. He’s under contract.” As terse as Guerin’s response was, some Wild fans were tickled by his bluntness.

Guerin continued by saying that he wanted Talbot and Fleury to be a solid goaltending tandem going into the 2022-23 season but it was clear to many this might not be a salvageable relationship. On Tuesday, the team parted ways with Talbot by trading him to the Ottawa Senators for goaltender Filip Gustavsson after saying he had ‘a change of heart.’

Minnesota Wild trades Cam Talbot to the Ottawa Senators for Filip Gustavsson

Gustavsson, the 24-year old, Skelleftea, Sweden-native went 5-12-1 with a 3.55 goals against average with the Senators last season. Given the relative experience of Gustavsson, I think its safe to assume he will be a backup to Fleury. He will be an restricted free agent at the end of next season.

Is he good enough to give Minnesota quality goaltending for 25-30 starts next season? He will have to be as I don’t think the plan was to give a 37-year old Fleury 65+ starts this upcoming season. It should be noted that the last time Fleury started 65 games (and he only did so once) was back during the 2009-10 season.

Whether it was simply about moving out an unhappy goaltender and hoping to have less ‘drama’ going into the season or to provide some more cap space. Either way, the trade accomplished both goals. Gustavsson is in the last year of his contract at an affordable $787,500 compared to Talbot’s $3.66 million cap hit. Effectively, it was a salary dump.

After the twin buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter last year, the team has been left little room to maneuver to round its last few roster spots. Now the team has $4.29 million in cap space according to CapFriendly.

Moving Talbot likely affords the team the room to add Marco Rossi and Calen Addison who are still playing on their entry level deals of $863,000 and $795,000 respectively and still have space to add another forward for the 4th line as well as having the room for call ups to address injuries, etc.

Will that roster spot be filled via free agency or will it be another internal promotion of players like Mitchell Chaffee, Mason Shaw or Adam Beckman?

Admittedly, I have mixed thoughts about the trade and the whole situation leading up to it. Clearly Guerin has more faith or belief in Fleury’s ability to make the Wild a winner than Talbot.

In comments made to the media at the conclusion of post-season meetings Fleury’s Stanley Cup winning pedigree was brought up as a major reason he got the start in the post-season and not the goaltender who won 31 games for the club last year alone.

To a certain extent, I understand that Guerin has more personal familiarity with Fleury having been a teammate of his. Yet, if its all about %*cking winning then why move him? Does he really expect Wild fans to believe Gustavsson will be better than Talbot as Fleury’s partner?

Both goaltenders were effective while trading starts after Fleury was acquired after the deadline. The natural 50/50 competition seemed to get the most out of each player.

Still, I hate the optics of this move. We trade away an All Star goaltender who had 31 wins last season and hadn’t lost a game in regulation in the last two months of the regular season for a 24-year old goaltender who gave up 3.5 goals per game.

It was portrayed by some as a win that the Wild didn’t retain any of Talbot’s salary in the deal, but we just gifted the Senators a goaltender who had 31 wins last year for a goaltender who had just five. Some hope that Gustavsson will perform better by having a better defense corps in front of him, but I think I just heard the Wild penalty kill say ‘hold my beer.’

Emotions can lead people to say things out loud they would be well-advised not to share publicly, but they can also guide people to be sentimental and hold onto things that may not work anymore.

I kind of felt the same way when it was announced that the team had given Alex Goligoski a 2-year extension at $2 million per season which included a full no move clause for the 36-year old defenseman. Michael Russo of the Athletic reported there was a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that if the Wild were to sign him to a $5 million pact last year that he’d sign more cheaply for a few more seasons.

Goligoski played ok last season, but at times he looked fatigued and turnover prone but why was that ‘gentleman’s agreement’ honored while Talbot was treated like yesterday’s news? Some felt it was important for Guerin to honor that agreement for fear it would damage his credibility with future free agents.

Where do you think that credibility is now after trashing his 2nd leading scorer by saying he only had “3 good months” and implying his goaltender was being ungrateful and discarding him like a used band-aid? Unless you’re a former teammate of Guerin’s, you might be a bit hesitant to sign in Minnesota.

What had Marc-Andre Fleury done so well in his limited with the Wild for them go out of their way to keep him in the fold? Was that based on performance or on Guerin’s personal friendship with the player? It was reported that Talbot did not request a trade and after a weekend of reflection he decided he had to move him.

After the trade was made Guerin was quoted by Jessi Pierce saying, “If you don’t wanna be here, no problem. Yeah, I can’t stress that enough. We are putting the team ahead of anybody’s individual wants, needs. It’s all about the team.”

Really? Maybe the quote should read, ‘we are putting the team head of anybody’s wants other than mine of course’ for accuracy sake.

Much has been made of changing the culture of the Minnesota Wild, of ending the ‘country club’ that was in place while highly paid veterans like Parise, Suter, Devan Dubnyk and Mikko Koivu were with the club. Without question, Guerin took steps to dismantle that notion that the inmates were running the asylum the last few seasons.

The organization has gone out of its way to promote the narrative that the current Wild locker room is more welcoming and inclusive than what it used to be.

Has that been replaced by Guerin placing his personal friendships to make sure former teammates are taken care of? I am sure he would scoff at that notion, but he had to have known re-signing Fleury would likely irk Talbot.

Professional sports love to remind fans ‘it’s just a business’ but is that what is happening here? Or is it obvious favoritism, where personal friendships are more important than actual on-ice performance?

It certainly made it easier to justify trading Talbot and attempt to portray him as the ungrateful party.

How would you feel if you had carried the majority of the goaltending load and was playing well down the stretch only to be told to take a seat even though that player wasn’t performing significantly better than you are? If Talbot was going through a rut and looking suspect it would be easy to dismiss it as sour grapes, but that wasn’t the case here.

I think its unfair to say Talbot had no right to be upset. Guerin got pretty worked up with KFAN‘s Dan Barriero when asked who his sources were for his information. He felt that those who talked about the possibility of Dumba being traded were ill-informed and felt that kind of speculation was unfair.

But after saying to the media last week Thursday that he wanted to make sure that things were ‘ok’ with Cam Talbot after the Wild reached their contract extension with Fleury, clearly that wasn’t the case.

What is good for the goose is good for the gander, if its ok for Guerin to get ‘pissed off’ at speculation when he’s a guest on a radio show or giving an interview, then it should be just as ok for Talbot to admit he’s unhappy with what transpired without trying to assassinate his character in the process.

Or is Guerin trying to tell us that only players who only say good things about the organization are permitted to stick around?

Wild fans have every right to take what Guerin says with a grain of salt.

Ok, rant over.

In other goaltending-related news, Minnesota also re-signed Zane McIntyre to a 1-year, two way contract. McIntyre, the Thief River Falls-native was the default starter for the Iowa Wild and had a respectable 19-14-3 with a .920 save percentage.

Will he get a chance to compete for the backup role with Gustavsson or is he guaranteed to be Iowa bound to mentor Jesper Wallstedt who will be making his North American debut?

NHL free agency begins in less than 24 hours, but already the Wild are giving its fans plenty to talk about.

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