After two straight seasons of finishing in the bottom five of the league when it comes to even-strength save percentage, the Oilers acquired Cam Talbot from the New York Rangers and Anders Nilsson from the Chicago Blackhawks this past summer. The two have done okay, with each have strong performances sporadically. But the team sits second last in the league when it comes team save percentage at even-strength. At first glance, the two goalies look comparable, each starting 22 games and each carrying a below average adjusted save percentage, which factors in shot location (Source: War on Ice). Among the 30 goalies who have played at least 1,000 minutes this season, these two rank near the bottom, with Talbot ranking dead last using this metric. Please note that I chose Adjusted Save % as it factors in team effects (Source).
|Record||Adjusted Save% (Even-strength)|
Looking into the adjusted save percentage month by month (along with the number of games in parentheses), we see that Talbot has improved, while Nilsson has tailed off a bit. Keep in mind, adjusted save percentage ranged from 89.52 to 94.11 last season among goalies that played over 1,000 minutes, which is about 22 games.
|C. Talbot||89.3 (9)||83.5 (3)||91.7 (11)|
|A. Nilsson||91.3 (3)||90.7 (10)||90.7 (10)|
The Oilers are in a bit of a predicament here. Talbot has played well as of late, and does appear to have finally locked down the starting position. Now that it's past January 1st, the Oilers have to make a decision probably before the trade deadline on February 29th, as Talbot will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Based on his performance this season and how he's done in season's prior, I would suggest that the Oilers sign him. His first stretch of games were poor, similar to his first stretch of games in New York as a starter. But since December, he's been playing much more consistently and kept the Oilers in games despite the team getting heavily outshot and outchanced.
In my opinion, goalies should not be a heavy investment as the difference in skill between those that fall outside of the "elite" category are minimal. While it'd be nice to have a Carey Price or Braden Holtby in goal, those are difficult assets to find. Talbot is a player that has a good track record having spent ample time in the minors and compares very well to those in his age group. He was a big reason for the Rangers success last season, and is worth the investment to stay on with the Oilers.
The next question is, how much are you will to invest in a 28-year old goalie with 75 NHL starts? Understanding full well that every negotation has its own context and backstory, I looked for goalies whose performance and contract situations were similar to Talbot's. The two most recent cases were Corey Schneider's contract with the Canucks and Martin Jones' contract with the Sharks.
The Canucks wisely locked up Corey Schneider to a three year, $12 million contract in June of 2012 as the promising young keeper was headed into restricted free agency. Heading into the contract, here's how Schneider was performing.
Again, the Canucks were in a different situation as they had Roberto Luongo on the way out and Schneider taking on the starter role.
The Sharks, who were in the same situation as the Oilers this past summer, acquired Martin Jones from the Bruins for a first round pick and a prospect and then signed him to a 3 year, $9 million contract before he hit restricted free agency. Here's how Jones was doing before he got the contract.
This one is similar to Talbot's situation as both goalies were playing behind established starters, but were deemed to have potential. The Sharks did pay a bit of a hefty price, but they weren't going to be able to acquire Jones directly from the Kings.
Using these two contracts as a loose baseline, and factoring in the investment the Oilers have already made in the player, I would suspect that Talbot will be offered somewhere around $3.5 million per season for at least three seasons. An extra year to make it a 4 year, $14 million deal might entice Talbot to sign, but it's hard to say.
If Talbot does elect to test the market, I would suspect that the other 29 teams would perceive him as a good backup with the potential to be a starter and reimburse him accordingly. That wouldn't bode well for him, as Michal Neuvirth, Jhonas Enroth and Anders Lindback, all of which have had decent stretches in their careers, accepted short-term contract with low salaries to stay in the NHL this past summer.
Michal Neuvirth (2 year, $3.35 million with Philadelphia)
Jhonas Enroth (1 year, $1.35 million with Los Angeles)
Anders Lindback (1 year, $875k with Arizona)
I'm confident that Talbot will have a career in the NHL, but I don't think he would be able to squeeze nearly as much out of the other teams as he would from the Oilers. The best chance for Talbot to get a long-term contract is with the Oilers and I fully expect something to get done before the trade deadline.