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Friday, March 20, 2015

Cam Talbot's Trade Value & The 2015 Goalie Market

 Why are people talking about trading Cam Talbot in the summer?

   The more impressive Talbot plays as the NY Ranger’s acting starter goalie since Henrik Lundqvist’s injury, the higher is trade value is. If a rival NHL team is looking for goaltending, the more Talbot makes a case as a legitimate NHL goalie, the more that team would be willing to give New York in a trade. With no disrespect to Talbot, nor denial of his exquisite play over the last several weeks... trading Talbot in the summer remains a very logical possibility.

   Is there a goalie controversy in New York?

   No. There is not. Talbot has had a spectacular career since breaking into the league, and has successfully performed when asked to be a starter. But Lundqvist is on the first year of a massive $8.5 million per year contract, and will not be “dethroned” by anybody anytime soon. This is another reason why Talbot June trade rumors have already become speculative here in March.

   What is Talbot’s trade value?

   It’s tough to say or measure what NYR could get for Talbot in a trade. There are a number of factors to consider when evaluating a goalie’s trade value in the off-season.

   What factors are there to consider?

      For starters:
  • How many goaltending spots/games are up-for-grabs in 2015-16?
  • How many goaltenders will be in the 2015 unrestricted free agent pool?
  • How convinced will rival General Managers be in Talbot as a (potential) franchise asset?

   How many goaltending spots are currently up for grabs in 2015-16?

   Looking over the contracts of the other 29 NHL teams, we’d predict at least 7-11 goaltending spots currently available for next season…
   - Buffalo & San Jose could be the biggest shoppers should Anders Lindback and/or Antti Niemi walk unrestricted when their contracts expire in July. Both teams have historic backups contracted 1 more year (BUF- Chad Johnson, SJS- Matt Stalock). Each franchise could be looking for 50-70 games of goaltending to fill.
   - Edmonton, with Viktor Fasth becoming an UFA, and Ben Scrivens only under contract 1 more year, could field suitors to play anywhere from 30-60 games go goaltending to fill.
  • Arizona, Calgary, Columbus, Dallas, NY Islanders, Philadelphia & Pittsburgh could also be looking for (back-up) goaltending this off-season:
   Why is it 7-11 spots “at least?”

   Looking over incoming contract gaps isn’t everything to consider. There are some goalies who are currently set to be under contract in 2015-16, but could be bought out or buried in the minors in the next 6 months.

   What goalies are the likeliest to get buried or bought out in the off-season?

  • Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets: With his below-average play, and rookie phenom Michael Hutchinson emerging as the franchise’s top-dog… The final 2 years of Pavelec’s deal could logically be bought out in June. With Winnipeg among the lowest-payroll clubs in the NHL, Talbot’s $1.45 million + Hutchinson’s $0.575 million could/would be the best bang-for-buck duo of netminding in quite some time.

  • Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild: Similar to the above, Backstrom has 1 year left on his contract and has not put up quality numbers. Minnesota, whom has youngster Darcy Kuempfer under contract, is also set to lose Devon Dubynk & Josh Harding to free agency. Nobody would be surprised at a Backstroke buyout.

  • Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes: Notice the pattern? Relatively high cap hit on the final year of a hefty contract, coupled with below-average goaltending numbers in 2014-15, Ward is also a strong candidate to be bought out. It’s highly conceivable Carolina would free up room with a buyout to shop the market for someone to split time with Antoine Khudobin. 

  • Mike Smith, Arizona Coyotes: While a 2015 buyout of Smith seems unlikely despite his disappointing 2014-15 campaign, Arizona will likely seek a back-up. If Arizona is open to the possibility of seeking a new starter in lieu of Talbot... a feasible course of action could be to acquire Talbot, and buyout Smith in 2016 before offering Talbot a new contract extension. Smith is under contract until 2019. 

  • James Reimer, Toronto Maple Leafs: Should Toronto seek to couple Jonathan Bernier with a different goalie capable of playing 25-45 games other than Reimer, unless traded, could be bought out of his final contract year. Toronto will be under enormous pressure to improve this off-season, and made the slick salary cap trade of David Clarkson-for-Nathan Horton, to free up millions of dollars in theoretical spending (should Horton remain on Long Term IR as expected). 

* = Restricted Free Agent on July 1st, 2015

   That's great... So what is Talbot’s trade value?

   We know there’s 7-11 goalie spots, with perhaps more should buyouts or AHL-burials come about. There’s only 2 or 3 bonafide #1 goaltending spots, with the rest being back-ups or fifty-fifty splitters. 

   The other side of the coin is: what is Talbot’s competition in filling these 2015-16 open spots? 

   List of Top-15 outgoing Unrestricted Free Agent goaltenders with expiring contracts on July 1, 2015:

  • D. Dubynk
  • A. Niemi
  • V. Fasth
  • A. Hammond
  • M. Neuvirth
  • K. Ramo
  • J. Gustavsson
  • J. Enroth
  • A. Lindback
  • R. Emery
  • T. Greiss
  • D. Ellis
  • C. McElhinney
  • J. Harding
  • R. Bachman

   List of current 2nd/3rd string goalies under contract who could be traded to other teams as a 1st/2nd string goalie?

  • BOS: N. Svedberg / M. Subban
  • CHI: S. Darling / A. Raanta
  • COL: R. Berra / C. Pickard
  • TBL: A. Vasilevski / K. Gudlevskis
  • WSH: J. Peters / P. Grubauer 

   So there are a lot of goalies out there to fill the 7-15 goalie spots available for next season. Again, what is Talbot’s trade value?

  • A recent comparable to a goalie (similar to Talbot) being traded straight up for value was Corey Schneider in June 2013. At the time of his trade, Schneider had similar characteristics as Talbot does now (age, statistics, similar risk with investing in goalie as franchise starter). However... Talbot will have only played roughly half the NHL minutes as Schneider, making his sample size less, thus less proof that Talbot could be a legitimate big-minute NHL goalie. Schneider had more than triple Talbot’s ’15-’16 cap hit, but double the years under contract at the time of his trade.

      The Vancouver Canucks traded Schneider’s remaining contract year before unrestricted free agency to the New Jersey Devils on June 30th, 2013 for the 1st Round (9th overall) pick of the ’13 draft.

  • The last time the NY Rangers traded a player with similar contract stature for a lone draft pick? When they traded Derek Dorsett to the Vancouver Canucks on June 27th, 2014 for their  3rd Round (85th overall) draft pick in the ’14 draft.

   If Schneider fetched a 1st round & Dorsett fetched a 3rd round, it wouldn’t be the wildest thought in the world to figure Cam Talbot’s trade value as something around a 2nd Round draft pick in the '15 draft. Talbot’s NHL career has less sample size than Schneider’s, but would certainly fetch more than Dorsett in terms of potential value to a franchise. 

  • We predict that, alone, Talbot could be traded for a 2nd round pick in the off-season
  • If an NHL club is really looking to upgrade goaltending, look for investment over the next stretch of seasons, NYR could probably throw in goaltending prospects Mackenzie Skapski, Brandon Halverson, or Igor Shestyorkin with Talbot for a 1st Round pick. Halverson & Shestyorkin both played in the latest World Juniors tournament, and Skapski recently became the lowest-drafted NHL goalie in history to record a shutout at age 20. 

   With the franchise contract protecting franchise goalie Henrik Lundqvist, coupled with New York’s strong crop of young up-and-coming goalies, it would make a lot of sense to deal Talbot and 1 or 2 prospects to teams willing to pay quality draft picks. Draft picks acquired in the summer can always be used as trade chips for the following trade deadline, especially when it comes to NHL clubs more designed to win games in the present than down the road. 

   If the NHL salary cap only increases a few million dollars in 2015-16, as suggested by the most recent reports, then the potentially cap-strapped Rangers could logically shave up to $875,000 by trading Talbot and signing a minimum-wage free agent replacement. We shouldn’t count on Skapski stepping in as a full-time 2nd string in 2015-16 as he is early on in his professional career and will likely be the AHL affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack’s starter, getting regularly tough playing time. 

Cam Talbot's last 10 games

   And while NYR General Manager Glen Sather has made some awful signings in New York, all 3 of his Cam Talbot signings have been significantly great value. If Talbot is indeed traded for a 2nd round draft pick, it will be a total gain for the franchise. Talbot was initially signed out of the NCAA (University of Alabama) after being undrafted. It was for the NHL minimum wage. Before playing his 1st NHL game, before Martin Biron's suddent retirement in 2013... Talbot was re-signed for a 1-year extension at the same cap hit as his initial contract. And earlier this year, well before Lundqvist's strained neck blood vessel injury, Talbot was signed to another 1-year extension, this time $1.45 million. 

  Of course there's still the chance he is not traded, and kept for the 2015-16 NYR campaign. If not sought to be a starter elsewhere, while in NY Talbot has demonstrated to be perhaps the premier NHL backup goaltender in the league.

   In summer of 2009, the NY Rangers traded a 5th round pick to Pittsburgh Penguins for NCAA (University of Alaska) goalie 23-year-old Chad Johnson. Safe to say, if traded, Cam Talbot would fetch more than that.


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