In a lot of ways, I hope that Cam Talbot doesn't have to do what he did last season for the Rangers, because that would mean that Henrik Lundqvist would (for the second straight season) have a period of mediocrity. No one wants that. I'm quite sure that Cam Talbot himself doesn't want that, and I know that Rangers fans don't want that.
But Lundqvist's slow start to the 2013-14 season, along with the shelling Martin Biron suffered at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, set the stage for the kid from the University of Alabama at Huntsville that wasn't selected in the NHL Draft to become one of the best stories of the 2013-14 NHL season. Talbot's numbers in the AHL were respectable but they were nothing like what he accomplished last season playing with the big boys. It's enough to make you wonder if it something of a fluke or if he just really needed that opportunity to shine and take on the best players in the world.
So, just how good was Talbot last season?
Last season Cam Talbot had a 12-6-1 record with a .941 SV % and a 1.64 GAA. Those numbers are silly. They're elite. They're unbelievable. Some would say that they also are a relatively small sample size, and I can't really argue with that. However, the Rangers were right in the middle of the pack with their SA/G (shots allowed per game) but were the fourth best team in the league in GA/G (goals against per game) which, without digging deeper into the stats, should tell us that the Rangers had some outstanding goaltending. Cam Talbot was and is a big part of that. The only question now is whether or not he will be able to build on last season's, and if he is able to do that what will it mean for Talbot and the Rangers.
After this season is over, Cam Talbot, who is 27 years old, will be an unrestricted free agent. And with guys like Derek Stepan (RFA), Carl Hagelin (RFA), Martin St. Louis, Marc Staal, and Mats Zuccarello to sign, it's not a leap to assume that holding on Talbot might be an issue if he gets a better option from another club, especially if he gets to compete for a starting role somewhere. Obviously, the crown is not leaving Henrik Lundqvist's head anytime soon. Talbot might very well be playing his last season as a Blueshirt. However, if Talbot's play declines from last year he could very easily become affordable for the Rangers and remain in the picture as Hank's back-up (I see this as an unlikely scenario). What we can say with full certainty is that he will be asking for more than the $575,000 he is making this year. Just how much he'll want is something worth thinking about as the season gets underway.
For teams that are desperate for a goaltending help, a guy like Cam Talbot is a dream come true. As I pointed out earlier, at the end of the 2014-15 season (if the Rangers don't re-sign or trade him) Talbot will become a UFA. If you're a team that needs a goaltender the "only" thing that Talbot will cost you is money. He won't cost you assets, and as we've seen in previous seasons, the going rate for goaltenders with the potential to be starters is sky high. No matter who you are or what your role is, every contract year is a huge one for professional athletes. Cam Talbot is no different. This is a big season for Cam, I expect we are going to see the very best of him and then, probably, never see him in Rangers' blue again... unless, of course, I am wrong. Which I sincerely hope that I am.
Do you expect Cam to have another amazing season? Where do you see Talbot playing next season? How much of a cap hit is too much for the back-up goaltender to Henrik Lundqvist? Let me know what you think in the comments section.
Let's go Rangers.