Now that all the hemming and hawing over Henrik Lundqvist’s contract situation has been completed, Cam Talbot’s future has been an oft-discussed topic. Whatever you may think about the specific details of the contract, Hank is going to be manning the pipes at the Garden until 2020-2021.
This brings us back to Talbot. His emergence this season as a viable NHL goaltender have prompted quite a few fans to jump to conclusions about his long-term future in the Rangers organization and his potential trade value and contract status. Just to get the facts out of the way, Talbot is under contract for this season and next at a very reasonable $562,000 cap hit. As Dave pointed out in his fantastic analysis of Hank’s contract, the discount between Marty Biron’s salary and Talbot’s hedge quite a bit of the raise that Hank received in the context of overall goaltending cost.
After next season, because of his age, Talbot will be eligible for Unrestricted Free Agency. Generally speaking, when a player makes his NHL debut, there are usually several cost controlled years at the team’s disposal, either through the ELC or RFA status. Because goalies are more often than not, late bloomers, the Rangers don’t have this luxury with Talbot.
Getting a firm read on Talbot’s future value is very tricky at this juncture, because, well, he’s played 8 (!) NHL games. His numbers have been fantastic and he has made tangible steps in adjusting his game to the highest level. However, how many teams out there do you think would be willing to give him a 3 or 4 year deal north of $2.5 million per year?
This is where the calculus gets even more difficult, because what is his trade value in the alternative? How many GM’s are rushing to maximize the Rangers’ unproven asset? What are other teams’ long-term assessment of his ability? Is he a starter, a platoon or a true backup? All of this information is currently anyone’s guess.
The Rangers’ could take a stab at extending him for an extra year or two on the cheap(ish) to give themselves a little more flexibility with the backup position, promising Talbot 20-25 starts a season to keep their newly wrapped Christmas gift healthy for the duration of his deal. Or, they could take it year to year and see how he continues to develop and risk market rates after next season.
Many will say “if you’re not going to sign him beyond next season, then we need to trade him”. This is an understandable position, but we are talking about an asset with serious valuation issues. Some scout for a Western Conference team might look at him and think he’s the next Miikka Kiprusoff. Another one might think he’s no better than AHL depth. It’s really a moving target.
In my humble opinion, the earliest this situation really needs to be assessed is in the off-season. By then, Talbot will have a better idea of how he feels about playing backup to one of the league’s premier workhorses. The organization will have the opportunity to evaluated his game further, both for possible trades and possible extensions. As of right now, though, we have the luxury of a capable backup for Hank, and keeping him healthy, effective and well-rested is the most important thing right now. Talbot’s situation will work itself out when the time comes.