This summer (especially before the start of free agency and the NHL Draft) we'll be doing a segment called "Summer Questions" which is basically the biggest questions the New York Rangers are facing as they enter this summer. In many ways this summer is one of the most important summers this team has faced in a long time; with the team on the edge of continuing to contend for the Stanley Cup or drowning in a pool of their own mistakes.
The first question -- should the Rangers re-sign Martin St. Louis -- was already handed by Mike Murphy. Read that story if you haven't. Today's will focus on a different player who might have played his last game on Broadway: Cam Talbot.
After his incredible run in the middle of the year -- necessitated by a Henrik Lundqvist injury -- Talbot started drawing national attention for his work. He finished the season with a 21-9-5 record sporting a 2.21 GAA and a .926 save percentage. Those aren't numbers to scoff at, and produced them over 36 games, so it wasn't a matter of being very good for a short period of time.
The reality is, however, Talbot might continue to see even more regression from his sophomore season in the NHL.
This year 41 goalies played 30 games or more for their respective teams. Three of them posted higher save percentages than Talbot's .926. The goalies? Steve Mason (.928), Devan Dubnyk (.929) and Carey Price (.933). Henrik Lundqvist -- if you're wondering -- came in at 10th with a .922.
The average save percentage for the group was a respectable .914; which makes sense because you would have to assume most of these players are starters or (as in Talbot's case) quality backups.
The situation is similar if you look at GAA, where Talbot ranks fourth (2.21) falling behind Pekka Rinne (2.18), Devan Dubnyk (2.07) and Carey Price (1.96). The average of the group was a 2.50 GAA.
The gap between Talbot's year and the average is pretty significant.
Let's take a look at the numbers from the past two year's combined. Requiring a minimum of 57 games played (exactly what Talbot finished with) he's first in save percentage (.931) and first in GAA (2.00).
Here's the rub on those numbers, however. Talbot has only played in 57 games over the past two years, while the average goalie on this list of 40 has played 98. That's an enormous gap which proves (Captain Obvious alert) that these numbers are based off a smaller sample and need to be treated with caution.
Here's the good news, though. If a team is in the business for a starting goaltender, they're probably going to be willing to overlook the small sample size because of Talbot;s 36 games this year. That's essentially half a season, and his numbers were spectacular. It's reasonable and should be assumed Talbot is going to see further regression this year, so it would be smart of the Rangers to sell high and get what they can for him now.
There is one other factor here, too. Talbot is coming in cheap this year, entering a one-year, $1.45-million deal. If the Rangers don't move Talbot this summer he essentially has no real value remaining. He's not going to get moved at the deadline (because what Stanley Cup contender is going to re-work their goalie situation so close to the playoffs) and his only value would be to a team interested in grabbing his negotiating rights. And as we've seen this past summer, those hauls are usually around a 4th or 5th round pick.
So to boil it down, the Rangers have one opportunity to move Talbot, and it's this summer, before his extension kicks in. This way the team acquiring him will get a cheap option for a year, which gives them time to evaluate his next contract.
And now the million dollar question: What can Talbot fetch in a trade?
I think it's reasonable to assume Talbot is not going to be bringing in a 1st round pick, even at the end of the round. Some of that has to do with the team positioned there: Vancouver (23), Toronto (24), Winnipeg (25), Montreal (26), Phoenix (27), Philly (28), Anaheim (29) and Tampa Bay (30). (Note: The final few picks might move based off who wins the Stanley Cup, that's just how they look as of now.)
None of those teams need a goalie. The most popular (and logical) landing spot for Talbot seems to be Edmonton, and while Edmonton does have a second first round pick in 2015, it's at 16 which is probably out of Talbot's range.
Reasonable expectations should be a mid-to-late second round pick to go along with a solid prospect. That's more or less my expectation on what Talbot will grab on the open market. Could it be more? Yes. Could it be less? Hell yes.
I would fully understand if the market went soft on Talbot, although I could also be talked into there being something of a bidding war for him too.
Either way, I don't see any logical way he's not moved this summer.