Cam Talbot was a class act and publicly said all the right things during his two seasons in Minnesota. But words mean nothing if a player’s actions say something else and nobody was more aware of this than Bill Guerin. The Wild general manager has spent much of his almost three-year tenure jettisoning players who often said the right things to the media, but then quickly attempted to serve their own agenda when the cameras and microphones went away.
So it came as no surprise on Tuesday when Guerin shipped Talbot to Ottawa for 24-year-old goalie Filip Gustavsson on the eve of NHL free agency. The trade does free up valuable space for the cap-strapped Wild — Minnesota went from having cap room of $1.4 million to $4.3 million — but, more importantly, it sends a message that Guerin was serious late in the regular season when he declared, “There’s no room for petty bulls—,” after acquiring Marc-Andre Fleury from Chicago.
Talbot must not have gotten the message because he specialized in petty B.S. once the spring arrived. Fleury, a three-time Stanley Cup champion, started five of the six games in the Wild’s first-round playoff loss against St. Louis and Talbot’s wife, Kelly, basically made it clear the couple and their kids would be elsewhere next season.
When Fleury agreed to a two-year extension last week, reports quickly circulated that Talbot wasn’t thrilled and on Friday, Talbot’s agent, George Bazos, talked to Guerin and then told TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, “Bill has a lot to think about.” Guerin’s response: “I don’t have s— to do. Cam Talbot’s under contract.”
That contract, which has one year and $3 million remaining on it, now will be property of the Ottawa Senators. The Sens haven’t made the playoffs the past five seasons. Talbot, 35, will begin his 10th NHL season with his sixth NHL team. Although there is no doubt Talbot would have played plenty in the regular season, if paired with the 37-year-old Fleury, his clear dissatisfaction with no longer being the main guy in Minnesota, means he will get to play a bigger role on a worse team.
This move is refreshing for any Wild follower who watched the me first attitude that became so commonplace when Chuck Fletcher was general manager. Guerin didn’t buy out Zach Parise and Ryan Suter last summer because he relished the opportunity to spend three years in salary cap hell, he did it because he knew how badly the locker room needed to change and only jettisoning periphery players wasn’t going to be the answer.
Guerin wasn’t going to put up with Talbot’s complaints or demands — Michael Russo of the Athletic reported Talbot really wanted a raise through a contract extension — and he certainly wasn’t going to do it for a journeyman goalie who failed to understand his value. Not to mention, the Wild’s future in goal is focused on one guy, 2021 first-round pick Jesper Walstedt, and Talbot almost certainly wouldn’t have been brought back after this season.
In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday evening, Guerin delivered the below quote (thanks, Jessi Pierce) in making it clear that if you didn’t want to be a team player in Minnesota, you wouldn’t be here.
Guerin said Talbot and he discussed a trade but Cam did not demand one.
Big picture (not just related to Cam):"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."
— Jessi Pierce (@jessi_pierce) July 12, 2022
Gustavsson now will be part of that team and serve as Fleury’s backup. Odds are he won’t complain about being in that role. As for Guerin, he dispatched a headache before allowing it to become a problem.