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The puck and buck stops here: Cam Talbot signing will be Wild’s only free agent splash

Cam Talbot
Calgary Flames goaltender Cam Talbot makes a save during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers, Sunday, March 1, 2020, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The Wild entered the opening day of free agency on Friday with one position targeted and a long list of potential candidates to fill it. After sorting through the available goaltenders, general manager Bill Guerin and his staff decided that veteran Cam Talbot was the right fit at the right price.

Talbot received a three-year, $11 million contract that will make him Devan Dubnyk’s replacement as the Wild’s top goalie entering next season. “Cam Talbot’s our No. 1 goalie, that’s his role,” Guerin said. “That’s why he came here. We believe that he’s very well suited for the position and for that role and he’s going to have a lot of success.”

That means that Alex Stalock or 2019-20 AHL goalie of the year Kaapo Kahkonen will battle for the backup job, assuming one of them isn’t traded before the season opens. Stalock ended last season as the Wild’s top goalie, but that was because of Dubnyk’s struggles.

The 33-year-old Talbot went 12-10-1 last season with a 2.63 goals-against average, .919 saves percentage and two shutouts in 26 games and 22 starts in his only season with Calgary. David Rittich started 48 games for the Flames.

“Just going through all the data that we have, everything suggests that Cam was a good fit for us,” Guerin said. “The years that he has had as a starter, he had a lot of success. I think there was one off year most recently, but then he’s battled his way back into what what we believe that he can be. He played great up in the bubble (in the playoffs). We got to watch him firsthand and he was one of the guys that we were targeting. When he became available, it was an easy choice for us.”

Talbot’s success in the playoff bubble in Edmonton is a primary reason he got paid by the Wild and likely why Guerin is confident he can be Minnesota’s top starter. Coming off a disappointing 2018-19 season that he started with Edmonton and ended in Philadelphia, Talbot signed a one-year, $2.75 million free agent contract with Calgary in July 2019. That gamble paid off when he took over as the Flames’ No. 1 goalie in the postseason and went 5-4 with a 2.42 GAA and .924 saves percentage as Calgary beat Winnipeg in four games before losing to Dallas in six.

“I’m just really grateful for the opportunity that not only Minnesota gave me, but Calgary gave me last year,” Talbot said. “I kind of bet on myself with that one-year deal. I knew that people had kind of written me off, but I wasn’t done yet, and I knew that I could still play at a high level. So it’s very rewarding that I was able to prove that and to get this opportunity to play in the great city, and (a) great building like Minnesota. (I’m) really looking forward to the opportunity.”

Talbot was signed as an undrafted free agent by the New York Rangers in 2010 out of the University of Alabama-Huntsville. He made his NHL debut with the Rangers in 2013-14 and was traded to Edmonton before the 2015-16 season.

Talbot’s career took off in his second season with the Oilers as he started 73 games and went 42-22-8 with a 2.39 GAA, .919 saves percentage and seven shutouts. The Oilers advanced to the second round of the playoffs before being eliminated by Anaheim in seven games. Talbot started all 13 games in the postseason and went 7-6 with a 2.48 GAA, .924 saves percentage and two shutouts.

Two years later, Talbot began to struggle and was 11-17-3 with a 3.40 GAA and .892 saves percentage in 35 games with Edmonton and Philadelphia. He was traded to the Flyers in February of that season.

“I knew that I could still (be a top goalie),” said Talbot, who is 150-122-25 with a 2.61 GAA, .915 saves percentage and 22 shutouts in 314 games played and 300 starts. “People kind of wrote me off after that last year in Edmonton, but I’d been a starting goalie for three straight years and I thought that I played very well. Internally, I knew that I never lost that ability, so it was just getting back and regaining my form.

“I was able to do that last year in Calgary. They gave me the opportunity to do so and then gave me the opportunity to play in the playoffs and show that I can be a big-time goalie when we needed it. That comes from within, believing in yourself, and they gave the opportunity to prove that to everyone else again. I’m looking forward to bringing that to Minnesota.”

Talbot began Friday on a list of free agent goalies that included Henrik Lundqvist, Braden Holtby, Corey Crawford, Anton Khudobin, Jacob Markstrom, Thomas Greiss and Jimmy Howard.

“(Coming to Minnesota) is extremely exciting, we knew that as soon as Bill called it seemed like a great fit,” Talbot said. (The Wild are) such a great defensive team and any goalie that plays behind it has always done very well. I’m looking forward to continuing that trend. Playing behind a very structured, very (good) defensive team is always a dream for a goalie, so I’m looking forward to it.”

The Wild have $4.1 million remaining in salary-cap space, according to the CapFriendly website and still must sign restricted free agent winger Jordan Greenway. “We’re pretty much done,” in free agency, Guerin said. “We’re comfortable with where we are. I think the last couple of weeks here have been very productive. We’ve been working really hard. … I thought we had a successful draft. I think we had a successful free agency, Day 1. Kind of like we were saying during the draft, we checked a lot of boxes. I like the way we stand right now.”