Here we are, yet again, with a goalie conundrum on the near horizon. Cam Talbot with his newly minted Deadpool mask is our de facto #1 goalie (or at least our 1A goalie) for the moment, and the way I see it we have 3 options regarding him and only a short period of time to decide which action to take.
First let’s cover the facts;
Talbot will be 36 in July, and considering the team’s unwillingness to keep Craig Anderson into his late 30’s and early 40’s it seems highly unlikely that the Sens would want to sign him for more than 2 years. His current contract pays him $3.66M and its hard to imagine he would take a huge discount on his next contract. As previously mentioned, he’s painted his new mask with a Deadpool theme and has made public statements that he likes the Ottawa area and would like to stick with the Sens organization.
While that’s rosy and heartwarming, Talbot had a contentious departure from Minnesota that centered around his unwillingness to play second fiddle to Marc-André Fleury. Who’s to say if Forsberg outplays Talbot and supplants him as the #1 that history won’t repeat itself. The Senators traded former 2nd round pick Filip Gustavsson to acquire Talbot after investing several years developing Gus. Talbot was coming off an All-Star appearance last season with a considerably better defense. I must admit, at the time of the trade I was skeptical, and my skepticism continues as I watch Gus generate some very respectable numbers as Fleury’s backup, albeit with a better defense. Although the sample size is small, those numbers Gus is posting are as good or better than any numbers Talbot ever generated with the Wild. Talbot, on the other hand, has had mixed results with the Senators. We all remember his lights-out performance against the Bruins in late-December, but that performance has faded in our memories with a couple of stinkers that followed. Forsberg hasn’t looked much different, mixing great performances with bad ones, and posting similar numbers. The big difference is Forsberg is 5 years younger and has 2 years remaining on his contract after this one with an AAV of $2.75M
So what to do?
Option 1: Sign Talbot to an extension before the deadline. This is probably the favorite option among Sens Nation, but carries considerable risk and eats up valuable cap space that we might need for Debrincat and Pinto among others. This might also block our goalie of the future "the Great Dane" Mads Sogaard from ascending the ranks. If he isn’t already, Talbot is bound to start declining sooner rather than later. Is that the guy we want blocking Sogaard?
Option 2: Walk him into free agency and roll the dice. For the very optimistic (or slightly delusional) fans who think we’re still in the playoff hunt, this is actually a viable option. In my opinion this is the absolute worst option as some GM will likely overpay Talbot in free-agency and we will lose him (and Gus) for nothing. The only upside to this option is that maybe he goes unsigned deep into the summer and we can sign him for a year or two at a big discount. The counter argument to that is Talbot might be scorned by the Sens not re-signing him sooner and he refuses to return purely on principle. His track record in Minnesota suggests he might be a bit thin-skinned.
Option 3: We trade him before the deadline and recoup an asset. To me, this is our best option. It keeps all the doors open while hopefully getting a decent asset in return. I think some desperate GM with a goalie injury will give up a 2nd or a 3rd round pick or a mid-level prospect to make it happen. The catch-22 here is that the better Talbot is performing leading up to the deadline, the more fans and management will want to sign him rather than trade him. If he’s playing poorly, or worse yet injured, as we approach the deadline, his value will be diminished and the trade return will be underwhelming. In a perfect world he then signs as a free agent for pennies on the dollar July 1st… yeah right.
Let’s face it, outside of a Hamburglar-style winning streak, the Sens are almost certainly going to miss the playoffs. The upcoming home and home series with the Penguins will really be do or die time, as Pittsburgh is likely the team that needs to miss the playoffs if the Sens can somehow squeak in. IF the Senators can string together some wins before then and beat the Penguins in both games then our slim playoff hopes are still alive. If they continue to struggle in mediocrity and are still hovering around .500 after playing Pittsburgh it’s time to give up on "playing meaningful games in March" and start planning for next year. Winning a lottery position isn’t completely far-fetched and this is a very good draft. Imagine if the sens FINALLY win a lottery spot and Bedard or Fantilli joins our ranks. Even if we don’t win a lottery position there’s lots of talent in the top-10.
It might be painful, and very unpopular, but it’s nearly time to throw in the towel on this season, and trading Cam Talbot is that proverbial towel. I can’t help but worry that Talbot might get injured and we will lose him for nothing (memories of Stepan) so make it happen Pierre, and soon!