If the Senators aren’t closing their rebuild window this offseason, it’s not for a lack of effort. The Senators continued what’s already been an aggressive, impressive series of trades by acquiring Cam Talbot from the Wild for goalie Filip Gustavsson.
(Apparently, the Wild decided to do [bleep], after all.)
Senators receive: Cam Talbot (35 years old, $3.6667 million cap hit through 2022-23).
Wild receive: Fellow goalie Filip Gustavsson (24, cap hit about about $788K through 2022-23, pending RFA with salary arbitration rights).
Talbot trade the latest sign Senators are pushing hard to get out of rebuild mode
By no means is a Cam Talbot trade the biggest sign that the Senators are trying to slam their rebuild window shut.
Obviously, the biggest thrust was a different trade. While it comes with some risks (albeit risks that could be mitigated*), the Alex DeBrincat trade looks like a huge coup for the Senators.
Add their goalie decisions, and it’s another push to leave the basement. After all, they already invested in Anton Forsberg, 29, for $2.75M per year for three years. That’s a combined $6.417M on Talbot – Forsberg.
* – If DeBrincat wanted out/the Senators don’t quite leave that rebound phase, the Senators could recoup some of their assets (or more) at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline.
Weegar, more additions for the Senators in free agency?
Now, you could wonder about too-much, too-soon. There are also questions about how many pieces will actually remain in the puzzle.
- Alex DeBrincat is a bargain now at $6.4M. Even as a 24-year-old pending RFA, he’s due for a massive contract either starting in 2023-24 or 2024-25.
- It’s probably better, considering Talbot’s age (35), but he’s also entering a contract year.
With MacKenzie Weegar, the Senators could trade for another fascinating upgrade who also happens to be approaching a contract year.
Like DeBrincat, Weegar’s a great player — in some cases, vastly underrated — on a bargain deal. In 2022-23, Weegar only carries a $3.25M cap hit.
For all of these current improvements, the Senators’ stacked offensive lines and more-stable-looking goaltending looks incomplete without defense. Weegar’s a right-handed defenseman who could bring a lot to the table, if the Senators indeed went after him. (Elliotte Friedman ranks among those who report that the Senators have interest in a Weegar trade.)
[NHL free agency tracker 2022: Full list of offseason signings]
There’s a lot to like with all of these moves.
That said, it’s worth at least taking a moment to ponder unclear spending for the Senators.
- Again, there’s DeBrincat, and there would be Weegar if the Senators trade for the defenseman.
- Tim Stützle’s rookie contract ends after 2022-23. If DeBrincat and Weegar continued a tradition of Senators players making $8M+ (with DeBrincat in particular, possibly quite a bit more), would Stützle be happy to take far less than those two might, and what Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot already make? Could get messy.
- There are also a few in-house items to cover, like a new deal for RFA Josh Norris.
So … there are some areas to stumble. However, if you want to improve, you often have to take some risks, and maybe make some messes.
The Senators are definitely going for it, and in ways that actually make sense. You know, unlike that Matt Murray contract they just wiggled out of.
Wild do ‘stuff,’ like save salary cap space
The Cam Talbot trade saves the Wild close to $3M in salary cap space. If things work out, the Wild also opened up a decent-looking timeline for goalies.
- Marc-Andre Fleury, 37, is under contract for two seasons at a $3.5M cap hit. The Wild have to hope he ages well.
- Filip Gustavsson, 24, has some potential. He’s also, again, cheap. Depending upon how he performs, Gustavsson could be somewhere between a nice, cheap stopgap or someone closer to a platoon mate for Fleury.
Gustavsson was a Pens' second-round pick and is reunited with Guerin. Has a lot of promise in his future, Guerin says, and "he'll flourish and a learn a lot" paired with Fleury
— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) July 12, 2022
While you can debate the potential about one versus the other, you can broadly argue that Filip Gustavsson fills the organizational void (or some of it) after the Wild traded Kaapo Kähkönen.
It’s plausible that Kaapo Kähkönen was viewed as a bridge between Talbot/Fleury and intriguing goalie prospect Jesper Wallstedt. Even with the promise Wallstedt projects, you don’t want to rush a 19-year-old goalie if you don’t have to.
Ideally, Gustavsson buys Wallstedt and the Wild time, while also being a solid option in net.
Even if that doesn’t work out, the Wild need to make every penny count, and the Cam Talbot trade opens up precious salary cap space. Overall, it’s a very reasonable trade for both teams, and an interesting indication of their directions heading into 2022 NHL Free Agency.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.