What We Learned: What is Cam Talbot actually worth?

New York Rangers goalie Cam Talbot watches a puck go past him during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, in Los Angeles. The Rangers won 4-3. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

(Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

The New York Rangers have made it quite clear that, due in large part to their current cap crunch, the bidding is open on backup goaltender Cam Talbot.

At first blush, it seems like acquiring Talbot would be a good move, and the rumors are flying that as many as six or seven teams have an interest in acquiring his services. Certainly, his only two seasons at the NHL level — playing as a backup/injury fill-in for Henrik Lundqvist — seem to portend that he's capable of being an NHL starter, but that comes with the caveat that we have very little information about what Talbot can actually do at the NHL level (he has only faced a little fewer than 3,350 shots) over 57 career games.

And that alone should be enough to give one pause about trading what could be a late first- or early-second round pick — it's not entirely clear what the Rangers seek in return for Talbot but that's probably in the right area — because it seems like the very definition of “buying high,” which Wall Street people would tell you is a bad idea. Especially if it means you have to take a bad contract from the Rangers, like Kevin Klein's, as well.

Add in the fact that he's basically a career minor leaguer who only became an NHL backup (albeit to the guy who's been the best goalie in the world over the last decade) two seasons ago, and there's a lot of reason to believe that Talbot wouldn't be a good investment. But those who think teams should keep their powder dry here are, I think, selling Talbot short somewhat, and also doing something that most hockey fans do all the time: Overvaluing draft picks, and undervaluing even slightly better than mediocre goaltending performance.

Starting netminders are used so often, and in such a high-leverage role, that someone who delivers you goaltending that's even a single percentage point north of the league average is probably going to be as valuable as a decent top-six forward in terms of the number of points provided to you in the standings. And the higher you get from there, the more valuable a goaltender will be, obviously.

Meanwhile, the odds that even a late first-round pick yields an NHLer capable of being in the league for a few years is minimal, and the odds that he's an impact player is even lower. Therefore, if you can get a guy who looks like he's capable of being an NHL starter for a pick beyond, say, No. 20, you have to pull the trigger on that.

Which, of course, circles back to the question of just how good Talbot is and, indeed, can be. While we may not have a lot of information about his NHL capabilities, we can certainly see how he stacks up over the course of his entire career (these numbers include playoff results as well as regular-season).

Some of these numbers seem shockingly low, of course — the .727 in the AHL in 2009-10 — stands out, but it does not account for the total number of shots he faced (in that AHL “season” he made one appearance and conceded three goals on 11 shots in 19 minutes, which isn't good, but it's also one bad period). In general, the more work he gets in a given season, the better he is. And what immediately stands out about this chart is that, over the last few years of his pro career, he's certainly been trending up — it seems that working with Benoit Allaire was beneficial to him — but also that the numbers he posted at the NHL level in the small period he's been there are the best of his career. We saw a similar phenomenon with Andrew Hammond recently, and obviously he's already started regressing (not that it stopped the Senators from extending him, because of course they did).

But given that we have all this data, we can look at him not based on about 1,600 NHL shots, but the more than 9,500 he's faced in his entire career. And in that time, he has a .917 save percentage. That sounds, y'know, about right for what a decent but not great player would do across all levels of the game. And really, .917 isn't bad at all. Ben Bishop was a .916 goalie this year, while Jonas Hiller, Jonathan Quick, and Sergei Bobrovsky all went .918. That's good company. And it's right in the wheelhouse of what he's done at just about every level he's at which he's played in the last decade.

There is, obviously, a danger inherent in this kind of thinking; goaltenders are not robots who can be relied upon to keep up performances at the NHL level just because they were good in the AHL. Past performance is usually a good indicator of future performance, even for guys as old as Talbot. He turned 28 earlier this month, which is no spring chicken in goaltending terms, since like players in general, elite goaltenders tend to peak at 25 (not that Talbot is elite) while those who have not distinguished themselves at the NHL level by that point tend to be handled with a pretty short leash; two bad seasons and they're gone. And that's certainly a risk where Talbot is concerned.

To figure out why, one need only look at one of his potential suitors: the Edmonton Oilers. You'll recall that they somewhat recently went out and traded a pick for a high-performing backup goaltender in his late 20s. Ben Scrivens was worth a third-rounder to the Oilers and Kings at that time, less than a year after Scrivens, Matt Frattin, and a second-round pick were worth Jonathan Bernier (himself a high-performing backup who was not quite so advanced in age).

Scrivens performed admirably in his first 21 games with Edmonton to close out the 2013-14 season, going .916 while facing 741 shots (that's like 35.3 per game!), but this past season was a disaster. He went .890 in 57 appearances, facing nearly as many shots as he had in his entire NHL career to that point. So great is the concern that Scrivens isn't a ready and able NHL goaltender that, hey, what do you know, the Oilers might be in the market for Talbot.

But the numbers wouldn't have predicted that this would end up being the case; in fact, what he's done over his entire career actually puts Talbot to shame:

Not really a stinker in the bunch there, apart from the .903 in 2011 (over just 12 games for an awful Leafs team). For the most part, any of those numbers looks pretty good. But so significant was the damage done by this season's failures that it basically ruined his career NHL save percentage.


Even still, those numbers tell the story of a pretty strong goaltender who more likely than not fell on hard times in one of the worst team goaltending seasons in recent memory. Let's put it this way: If this were a Scrivens problem, the four goalies Edmonton used last season who were not Ben Scrivens wouldn't have gone just .895. This was an Oilers/bad luck problem. Not a Scrivens problem.

What all this basically means is that you're taking a bit of a chance on Talbot being able to hold up his end of the bargain on a trade for what is an (unnecessarily) highly valued draft pick, yes. But the odds that he turns into Ben Scrivens and completely melts down are extremely low. Put simply, no one who has career numbers like Scrivens did across all levels suddenly becomes an .890 goalie. It just doesn't happen. Even at their worst, the darkest days of Ondrej Pavelec and Martin Brodeur's careers were not .890-for-a-whole-season bad.

For this reason, I think it's foolish for Edmonton to do the same thing they basically did a two years ago. But it does highlight how troubling snap judgments on limited data like this can be. The other teams that are rumored to be involved in Talbot-related talks — Buffalo, Dallas, San Jose, Calgary, and Florida — would probably be getting a useful goalie on a short-money deal for next season, at a relatively low cost.

And the teams that whiff on acquiring Talbot will be able to fall back on one of Robin Lehner or Eddie Lack (probably) for a slightly steeper price (probably). Based on age and pedigree though, my preference would be Lehner, Lack, then Talbot. Then you have to suss out whether that's worth it. Decisions, decisions.

But basically, it's a good time to be in the market for a potential starting goalie.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Filed under “demonstrably bad ideas:” It's Dave Nonis to Anaheim as a senior advisor. This is a great league and all, but the ability to proven incompetents to fail up has to be unprecedented in major sports. How does someone like Nonis continue to get opportunities?

Arizona Coyotes: Ya don't say.

Boston Bruins: I don't understand the point of this column. The Bruins should retain their core (which they're going to) but also manage their roster better (which they have to) and still make the playoffs (which they probably will as a low seed), but they also have to be more like Chicago (which has at least four future Hall of Famers, the oldest being Duncan Keith at 31). The Bruins are not and cannot be like Chicago. Patrice Bergeron is not Jonathan Toews, not one of their wingers is like Patrick Kane, and Zdeno Chara isn't Duncan Keith because he's going to be 39 next season (as for Dougie Hamilton, well..). The point is that Being Chicago isn't easy. The Bruins are miles from Being Chicago.

Buffalo Sabres: Tim Murray is ready for the draft. Well, you'd hope so. He has four picks in the first 51. Only one of them is a slam dunk.

Calgary Flames: The Flames did something smart this weekend, re-signing Mikael Backlund to a three-year deal at an AAV of $3.575 million. Basically exactly what he deserves. Backlund doesn't put up a ton of points but he's a big-time possession driver, and if he's going to be your No. 3 center behind Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett for the next few years, that's a very good look. The Flames have a lot of problems, but center depth isn't one of them, and won't be for some time to come.

Carolina Hurricanes: Isn't it funny how Alex Semin got a shorter leash in Carolina than Cam Ward did? Has Semin been bad? Yeah. Has he been worth $7 million against the cap to a budget team? Surely not. Has it only been two years? Yup. And yet Cam Ward has been horrible for three years, and they're talking about bringing him back for his age-31 season and probably beyond? Why, because he won a Cup a decade ago? Who cares.

Chicago: The first team to do what this article advocates — not letting sentimentality cloud judgment in roster management — is going to annihilate this league. Everyone gives awful contracts to bad players for dumb reasons all the time. When someone finally starts playing Bill Belichick or Billy Beane, and approaches their team ruthlessly, it'll be Cup City USA (or Canada, as the case may be).

Colorado Avalanche: Joe Sakic wants to lock up Ryan O'Reilly long-term. Hey, didn't he have that chance a bunch of times already? I feel like he did, but...

Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets confirm they're going to draft the “best player available” and not draft for need. This is literally what everyone should be doing all the time. Drafting for need leads to a lot of busts.

Dallas Stars: If you've always wanted Shawn Horcoff on your team, here's your big chance, baby.

Detroit Red Wings: The Wings are reluctant to give up young Anthony Mantha, who's a mega-super-awesome prospect. Meanwhile, Mikhail Grigorenko is considered a huge bust by most people in the sport and Buffalo might not bring him back. The latter is exactly five months older than Mantha, and had 36 points in 43 AHL games last year. Mantha had 33 in 62. Isn't hockey funny? And by funny I mean prejudiced against Russians.

Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers fired a bunch of amateur scouts a week before the draft. The speed with which this franchise has gotten smart and aggressive is amazing.

Florida Panthers: The Panthers aren't bringing back either Scotty Upshall or Tomas Kopecky, but man do they want every kid they can get their hands on. When you're not going to spend to the cap, this is a necessity: Good contributors at the NHL level on ELCs. Of course, you're never going to compete for a Cup that way — because really good teams have those in addition to quality veterans — but it's a start.

Los Angeles Kings: From another excellent 30 Thoughts from Elliotte Friedman -- “It doesn’t seem like there is much common ground at this point between Los Angeles and Justin Williams.” No surprise there, as far as I'm concerned. LA is in a cap crunch and Williams, an eminently useful player, wants to get paid one more time before calling it a career. An unfortunate parting of the ways here, but it was probably always going to happen.

Minnesota Wild: The agent for Mikael Granlund say his client wants a short-term deal, because maybe he'll finally improve upon his career high of eight goals in 60-something games.

Montreal Canadiens: Contract talks with Brian Flynn are ongoing. He's a decent enough depth player. Montreal needs more of those.

Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team: Hey maybe never sign Mike Ribeiro again. This goes for all NHL teams. Maybe don't. Good lord, how do you sign him in the first place if you know what these allegations are? Tough to care how productive he was last season now. Shouldn't matter. He's gotta go.

New Jersey Devils: A Lou Lamoriello move from beeeeeeyooooond the graaaaaave.

UNIONDALE, NY - APRIL 04: Tyler Ennis #63 of the Buffalo Sabres bounces off Kyle Okposo #21 of the New York Islanders during the first period at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on April 4, 2015 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NY - APRIL 04: Tyler Ennis #63 of the Buffalo Sabres bounces off Kyle Okposo #21 of the New York Islanders during the first period at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on April 4, 2015 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

New York Islanders: The Islanders could trade Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner. Well, the odds that Okposo is ever going to be seen as more valuable than right now seem slim (especially because you forget he's already 26) but that would be a shocking move.

New York Rangers: “The Rangers had it right from the start on Brad Richards. It was only the contract that made it wrong.” Well, right. But that's kind of the point.

Ottawa Senators: The Senators are hoping to get another Erik Karlsson via the draft. In other news, the Penguins are hoping to get another Sidney Crosby, the Bruins are hoping to get another Patrice Bergeron, the Ducks are hoping to get another Ryan Getzlaf, the Lightning are hoping to get another Victor Hedman, the Islanders are hoping to get another John Tavares, the Red Wings are hoping to get another Henrik Zetterberg, the Kings are hoping to get another Anze Kopitar, the Canadiens are hoping to get another PK Subban, the Canucks are hoping to get another Daniel Sedin, the Flyers are hoping to get another Claude Giroux, the Stars are hoping to get another Jamie Benn, and so on. We all want elite-level players in the draft. But the fact that they're not available is kind of what makes them elite.

Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers apparently aren't going to buy out creaky old Vinny Lecavalier for some reason.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Some men just want to watch the world burn.

San Jose Sharks: Hey imagine if Doug Wilson had been smart enough to not-acquire these awful players he's now going to let walk? Boy, if that had happened, the Sharks might not have wasted what might have been the last real chance of being competitive through Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. If only someone could have warned him against such a signing. If only someone thought that grit wasn't what San Jose needed. Hmm. Hmmmmm.

St. Louis Blues: It's possible that St. Louis will attempt to move Patrik Berglund, TJ Oshie, and David Backes. Probably not all at once, but they'll entertain offers for all of them. Oshie being one of the more overrated players in the league probably helps grease the skids here. He's good but if he's a “core player” you need to fix your core.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Why did Tampa lose the series? I think “six” reasons is really two: Steven Stamkos was horribly unlucky, and Ben Bishop tore his groin. And really, if either one of those things changes, you're looking at a completely different series. But they didn't, so oh well.

Toronto Maple Leafs: A summary of Zach Hyman's college career -- Not good, not good, okay, *plays with Dylan Larkin* What A Prospect!

Vancouver Canucks: Wouldn't you rather roll the dice on a Markstrom/Lack goaltending tandem than trade one of what appear to be two promising young goalies and keep Ryan Miller? You wouldn't? Okay, Jim Benning, but like.. y'know, why?

Washington Capitals: The Caps won't do much in free agency this year except try to lock up some of their own guys. This makes a lot of sense. Maybe also try extending Braden Holtby for a lot of years and lots of money, because that kid is awesome and... what if he gets offer-sheeted? Weird that no one is talking about that. I'd rather offer sheet a goalie of Holtby's quality than just about any forward on the market.

Winnipeg Jets: How are you going to argue that the Jets don't have good right wings? Blake Wheeler's pretty good, and if you can re-sign Drew Stafford and Michael Frolik, well, there are much worse right-wing depth situations in this league.

Gold Star Award

Shout out to everyone selected in the first-ever NWHL draft. This is a really exciting time in women's hockey.

Minus of the Weekend

Ugh. Kevin Smith will be at the NHL awards. Let's hope the jorts don't make the trip.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User “Connor McDaigle” is good at this:

To EDM:

Kopitar

To LA:

Nuge

Wow.

Signoff
That is what I said. Fondue cheddar.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is hereand his Twitter is here