“You see the other names on the goalie charts going into this, so you know that there might be guys left without a seat at this point,” the 33-year-old said. “So it’s very nerve-wracking, very stressful, not just on me, on my wife too. You just never know.”
This year is different for every player who became an unrestricted free agent because of the NHL salary cap remaining at $81.5 million and so many teams up against it already. But for goalies like Talbot, it was always going to be like a game of musical chairs because of a market loaded with options and the worry that the supply would be greater than the demand.
[RELATED: NHL Free Agent Tracker]
The fluidity in that market showed Friday with each goalie signing appearing to impact the next.
Talbot signed a three-year, $11 million contract ($3.67 million average annual value) with the Minnesota Wild to become their new No. 1, replacing Devan Dubnyk, who was traded to the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 5.
Last season with the Calgary Flames, Talbot was 12-10-1 with a 2.63 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in 26 games.
“Cam Talbot is our No. 1 goalie,” Wild general manager Bill Guerin said.
The Flames moved on from Talbot by signing former Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom to a six-year, $36 million contract ($6 million AAV), the biggest contract given to a goalie in this market.
The 30-year-old was fourth in voting for the Vezina Trophy as best goalie in the NHL last season after he was 23-16-4 with a 2.75 GAA, .918 save percentage and two shutouts in 43 games. Markstrom was 8-6 with a 2.85 GAA and .919 save percentage in 14 postseason games.
“It’s been a really long day and a lot of phone calls, listening to some teams,” Markstrom said. “I believe that Calgary has got something really big going and I can’t wait to be part of it.”
The Canucks do too after advancing to the Western Conference Second Round last season, but they had already decided to move on from Markstrom by the time he signed with the Flames.
Vancouver signed former Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby to a two-year, $8.6 million contract ($4.3 million AAV). The 31-year-old, who was 25-14-6 with a 3.11 GAA and an .897 save percentage in 48 games last season, is expected to split time with Thatcher Demko.
“It is not an experience that I think is that fun for anyone, the not knowing,” Holtby said. “So [I’m] excited to have it over with and going to a great team, great city.”
The Capitals knew they weren’t going to re-sign Holtby going into Friday, and they replaced him by signing Henrik Lundqvist to a one-year, $1.5 million contract.
Lundqvist was an unrestricted free agent because the New York Rangers bought out the final season of his seven-year contract. The 38-year-old, who played 15 seasons and won 459 games with the Rangers, could share the net with Ilya Samsonov in Washington.
“When I finally was in a good place and I felt so much gratitude toward the Rangers, I was ready to see beyond the next step, beyond not being a Ranger on the ice,” Lundqvist said. “As we got closer, I got more and more excited about the different options and became crystal clear what was the right thing for me, and that was Washington.”
Anton Khudobin felt the right option for him was to stay with the Dallas Stars, so he signed a three-year, $10 million contract ($3.33 million AAV).
Khudobin was 16-8-4 with a 2.22 GAA and .930 save percentage in 30 regular-season games last season. With No. 1 Ben Bishop unfit to play for almost all of the postseason, Khudobin stepped up as Dallas’ starter and was 14-10-0 with a 2.69 GAA and .917 save percentage.
General manager Jim Nill made it clear since the Stars lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final that they wanted Khudobin back. And although the 34-year-old became an unrestricted free agent, he never wanted to leave Dallas.
“I didn’t want to go just for money or years, I wanted to go to a team that have a chance to win,” Khudobin said. “So that’s it. This signing here means that we still have a chance.”
Corey Crawford also found a new team, agreeing to terms on a two-year, $7.8 million contract ($3.9 million AAV) with the New Jersey Devils.
The 35-year-old two-time Stanley Cup champion was available because the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t re-sign him, instead relying on either Malcolm Subban, Kevin Lankinen or Collin Delia to step up and be their new No. 1.
The goalie market is still fluid though, filled with options.
The Edmonton Oilers still need to address the position. They signed Anton Forsberg, a No. 3 goalie, to a one-year contract, but general manager Ken Holland said they remain in the market.
The Vegas Golden Knights also haven’t moved Marc-Andre Fleury, who has two years remaining on his contract ($7 million AAV). Vegas re-signed Robin Lehner to a five-year, $25 million contract ($5 million AAV) on Oct. 3.
The question that remains is the same one Talbot was asking himself Friday morning.
Is the demand going to meet the supply, or will there be goalies left without a crease to play in?
“With all the goalies out there and guys coming off great years, very unstable,” Talbot said of the market. “We’re very fortunate to have this opportunity [with the Wild].”