ST. PAUL, Minnesota — The Minnesota Wild filled their net with a three-time Stanley Cup winner at the trade deadline, bringing in Marc-Andre Fleury to form an accomplished goaltending tandem with All-Star Cam Talbot during of the best regular season in franchise history.
The Wild would prefer to keep the pair in place, general manager Bill Guerin said Tuesday, despite their lack of salary cap space and the recent reminder that such enviable depth doesn’t usually mean as much during the playoffs.
“There is no controversy. There is no drama. We love both goalies. We like both,” Guerin said. “We want them both back, and we believe we can succeed with them.”
Fleury with his clutch time credentials secured the net for the first five games of the first-round series against St. Louis. Once the Wild decided it was time to turn to Talbot, it was too late. The Blues finished the Wild in six games.
“Obviously I was disappointed that I couldn’t play more in the playoffs, but who isn’t? We’re competitors. You want to play,” Talbot said. “But the coaches had a decision to make, and I don’t think there was a bad decision. Obviously you trade for a guy like that with his pedigree and his past, why don’t you start the game 1?”
Talbot has gone 13-0-3 in his last 16 starts before the playoffs. He allowed four goals in Game 6. With one year remaining on his contract, Talbot said he planned to return for 2022-23 and expressed no lingering ill will at the prospect of being mostly left out of the playoffs.
“Because it’s not about me. It’s about the other 23, 24 guys in this room,” Talbot said.
Fleury, 37, was 9-2 with a 2.74 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in 11 regular-season starts. He arrived in the trade with Chicago that will cost the Wild a second-round draft pick. In the playoffs, he allowed 15 goals in five games.
Fleury’s contract was capped nearly double Talbot’s this season, but he will be a free agent in July. Being away from his family after the sudden change of teams was emotionally draining, but he raved about the chemistry within the team, the culture of the organization and the support around town.
“It was good to experience that,” Fleury said.
The Wild have 2021 first-round pick Jesper Wallstedt waiting behind them. The 19-year-old Swede signed his entry-level contract this season and is likely tied to a developmental season in the AHL in Iowa.
But there’s no reason the Wild shouldn’t be pushing for a deep run in the playoffs again, despite the dead weight of buyouts from former franchise players Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. They will each cost more than $6.3 million over the Wild’s cap next season.
“We’ll take care of it. I think we’ll be just as good next year. I’m doing it,” Guerin said. “Would we have liked to have that ceiling space? Of course we would. But we knew exactly what we were doing.”
Although both goaltenders aren’t back, the Wild will struggle to keep left wing Kevin Fiala, who will be a restricted free agent after a career-high 33 goals. He was scoreless in the playoffs.
“It’s such a shame to come out like this,” Fiala said.
Maybe for good, despite 85 points in 82 games at age 25.
“We would like Kevin to come back,” Guerin said. “I don’t know if it will be possible.”