If you believe the reports that are currently out there, Henrik Lundqvist might be back as soon as a week from today. Which, if true, means Prince Cam Talbot's run as New York Rangers starter might be coming to an end.
In truth this run was the best thing that could happen to both Talbot and the Rangers. For Talbot he had an opportunity to prove he can handle the reigns as a number one goaltender in the NHL, with this remarkable streak running through some of the best teams in the NHL. The end result? 13-2-3 since Lundqvist went down with his vascular injury, and a 2.19 GAA to go along with a 92.6 SV% on the year. The GAA and SV% includes the slow start he got off to this year which dipped the numbers.
On the other hand this run has been the best thing to happen to the Rangers as well. Without a first round pick this year (or next year) and with one of the two 2015 second round picks moved to Arizona for Keith Yandle, the Rangers don't exactly have a slew of options in what's widely considered to be the deepest draft in years. So this little show that Talbot is putting on has certainly been noticed by the rest of the NHL, and maybe this summer the Rangers have a little more leverage if they want to move him.
According to reports, the Rangers are heavily invested in BU's free-agent goalie Matt O'Connor, presumably to take over the backup role next year. And while Mackenzie Skapski has done a fantastic job in his two NHL starts (Adam detailed this more here) the Rangers aren't going to want him sitting on the bench as a backup next year. This little streak while Lundqvist is out is probably worrying enough in terms of stunting his development. It's never a good thing not to play a prospect, but under the circumstances it's unavoidable.
In regards to O'Connor, who knows if it will pan out. Apparently there are over 16 NHL teams who are interested in his services, and that number is probably a little light. But the fact the Rangers are even looking at a guy like O'Connor (especially with the talent they currently have in the system) adds a little more smoke to the Talbot situation.
Will the Rangers move him at the draft? And, more importantly, what value does he have?
Any dreams of Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel can end with this sentence. It's not happening. But it isn't unrealistic to assume the Rangers can move Talbot to a team looking to add a starting goaltender and find themselves in the latter half of the first round. Or maybe they make a move for a prospect. Or maybe they can only get into the second round.
Time will tell how aggressive the market for a goaltender is going to be. But with Talbot under contract next year for $1.45-million he's an attractive player both on the ice and off it (in terms of his cap hit).
I also wouldn't be shocked to see the Rangers hang on to Talbot (especially if they don't land a guy like O'Connor and don't find a cheaper backup replacement) through next year if they don't like his value. By all accounts he is a fantastic teammate, Lundqvist loves his and the two mesh well together. And as Lundqvist continues to climb into the 30's, it's very important to have a guy who can take some of the load off his shoulders so he isn't being ground into dust every year. To this point, Alain Vigneault has done a great job keeping Lundqvist fresh for the playoffs, and Talbot is a big part of that.
So will the Rangers move him? I'm sure it's something they have discussed and will continue to discuss as the season continues forward. For now the focus should be on finishing this stretch and getting Lundqvist back up to speed.
But you do have to wonder if these next few games are some of the last times you'll see Talbot on Broadway.