Should Wild Trade for Marc-Andre Fleury?
Bill Guerin traded for Cam Talbot before the 2020-21 season because the Minnesota Wild needed to solidify the goalie position, given their inability to trust Devan Dubnyk in the playoffs. Unfortunately, Talbot wasn’t able to push the Wild past the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of last year’s postseason tournament and now, deep into season two, Cam isn’t even the best goalie on roster.
Whether you prefer more established goalie metrics or the advanced type, Kaapo Kahkonen is currently a better NHL goaltender than Cam Talbot. But the questions don’t have to end inside the Wild locker room. The NHL trade deadline is three weeks away and their are plenty of intriguing goalies who are up for auction, including playoff legend, Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Trade Route
Others mentioned as gettable by NHL.com are Braden Holtby (Dallas Stars), Thomas Greiss (Detroit Red Wings), Joonas Korpisalo (Columbus Blue Jackets), Pavel Francouz (Avalanche) and Martin Jones (Flyers). If the Minnesota Wild feel they need to upgrade at goalie, they have a plethora of options but the only dude who would turn heads has the initials of MAF and he’s the former teammate of Billy Guerin.
But would Marc-Andre Fleury really be an upgrade over who the Wild already have on roster? The answer around hockey circles seems to be a resounding “yes”. In fact, Dan Rosen (NHL.com) believes he’d be an upgrade for just about any team, even the Colorado Avalanche, whose current goaltender, Darcy Kuemper, has been absolutely dominant of late and for most of the season.
Darcy Kuemper‘s strong play of late might convince the Avalanche that he’s capable of carrying them on a Stanley Cup run. He was 16-0-2 with a 2.06 GAA, .933 save percentage and three shutouts in 20 games since Dec. 2.
Fleury might be the only goalie available who would be considered an upgrade from Kuemper.
The Wild are in a similar spot, and unless they land Fleury to play ahead of Cam Talbot. it seems unlikely they would make a move for a goalie, but they’re worth watching.
MAF Juice Worth the Trade Squeeze?
What would the Wild have to give up to land MAF? Probably, Kaapo Kahkonen plus more. Would Fleury’s juice be worth the squeeze at that point?
No. While it’s true that Cam Talbot is playing poorly, it’s also true that Marc-Andre Fleury has been worse. Playing for a bad Chicago Blackhawks team, MAF is 44th this season in goals saved above expected (-9.1), according to MoneyPuck.com. That’s far below both Talbot (28th: -1.2) and Kahkonen (17th: 5.7). Fleury’s .912 save percentage trails Kahkonen’s .921 and sits right next to Talbot’s .910.
Kaapo Kahkonen is playing some of the best hockey of his young career. Trading him now could be a genius move, given his stock is higher than ever before. It could also be a huge mistake, should Kaapo go on to have a successful career (especially in Chicago) and Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t able to help lift the 2022 Wild to a deep playoff run.
#mnwild goalie Kaapo Kahkonen is now 8-1-1 in his last 10 starts with a 2.47 GAA and a .930 SV% since Jan. 6. Since entering the NHL in 2019-20, he ranks first amongst NHL rookies in wins (31) and has surpassed Pekka Rinne for most wins by a Finnish-born rookie goaltender.— Minnesota Wild PR (@mnwildPR) February 21, 2022
This is about the playoffs.
I can hear you yelling at me through your phone screen. ‘THIS ISN’T ABOUT THE REGULAR SEASON!‘ Yeah, I get that… but Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t the playoff goalie he’s been made out to be. Yes, he’s played in the 3rd-most playoff games of any goalie in NHL history (163). But his career .912 postseason save percentage doesn’t even rank in the top-50 in league history.
Fleury’s been more consistent in the postseason of late, posting a .921 save percentage in 47 playoff games with the Vegas Golden Knights (4 seasons). But you know who’s been better? Cam Talbot, whose career save percentage in 32 playoff games is .923, good for 15th-best in NHL history.
Kaapo now, Talbot later
Yes, the Minnesota Wild need to make a change at goalie. But the change is already sitting on their bench. With 34 games remaining, it’s time to give Kaapo Kahkonen the starting job. Let him run with the torch until it burns out. And if/when he starts struggling, then history tells us Cam Talbot would be one of the best possible playoff replacements they could turn to.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan