When Cam Talbot and his wife, Kelly, explained to their four-year-old twins Landon and Sloane that Talbot was leaving the Flames and joining the Wild, they used a book of mascots to point out the Wild’s Nordy.
“Now they understand we play for the Wild, and they know their new mascot,” Talbot said after signing a three-year, $11 million deal.
The 33-year-old, however, wasn’t so sure he’d get a different NHL address Friday.
Since the free agent market was saturated with netminders this offseason, teams had plenty of options to mull when it came time to assess their needs in net — an unusual situation that made even a veteran like Talbot uneasy.
“You know that there might be guys left without a seat at this point,” Talbot said. “So, it was very nerve-racking, very stressful, not just on me [but] my wife, too. You just never know, but we knew that there was going to be some shuffling, some spots opening up, so we were just hoping for an opportunity from somebody.”
What was also unique about this year’s signing season was that an interview period didn’t precede it; that was nixed by the new collective bargaining agreement implemented before the NHL resumed play in August to finish out the 2019-20 season.
Without that time to gauge interest, Talbot said he wasn’t sure whether to accept the first offer that came in or hold off. But he said he was lucky because the process with General Manager Bill Guerin, who said the Wild reached out to Talbot’s camp as quickly as it could, was calm.
“When Bill called, it seemed like the perfect fit,” Talbot said. “It was kind of a no-brainer … so once we got the call from him, it was just a where do we sign kind of thing. We’re very excited and looking forward to the opportunity.”
Aside from bringing in Talbot, the Wild signed minor-leaguers Joseph Cramarossa and Dakota Mermis to one-year, two-way contracts that are worth $700,000 in the NHL and $160,000 with Iowa of the American Hockey League.
A forward, Cramarossa spent last season in the AHL, tallying seven goals in 51 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Rockford. He also has four goals in 59 games with Vancouver and Anaheim in the NHL. The 27-year-old has crossed paths with Guerin before, as Guerin was assistant GM in Pittsburgh when Cramarossa played for the Penguins’ top affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Mermis, a defenseman with 20 games of NHL experience with Arizona and New Jersey, played most of last season with Binghamton of the AHL where he scored three goals and added 16 assists in 53 games. The previous season he was captain of Arizona’s AHL affiliate in Tucson.
Talbot wasn’t just staying in shape while the NHL season was paused by the pandemic earlier this year.
He was also working to reinstate the Alabama-Huntsville hockey program that helped launch his pro career.
“They gave me the opportunity to play college hockey on a scholarship,” said Talbot, who joined the NHL as an undrafted college free agent. “I come from a small town and humble beginnings, so anytime you’re able to get a full scholarship and be able to play hockey is kind of a dream come true. I never envisioned my career going this way, to be quite honest. They gave me a platform and the opportunity to show myself at that level and to show NHL scouts that maybe I could be there one day.
“That meant a lot to me. That’s why I had to help pay it back when I heard they were trying to save the program.”
After hearing of the university’s intention to scrap the NCAA Division I hockey team amid budget concerns, Talbot took to social media to galvanize support and was doing multiple interviews a day to spread the word. After a GoFundMe page took off, the campaign — which included a donation from Talbot — received nearly $540,000 from supporters to eclipse the $500,000 goal needed to rescue the program by a late May deadline.
“It’s a place that’s kind of dear to my heart,” he said, “and [I] wouldn’t be where I am without them.”