NHL ’summer’ has arrived; Twins go to the Hall!

Marc Elliott

RAINY RIVER – The NHL draft is complete, the Free Agent signing period has commenced with a flurry of activity but has slowed since days One & Two, and now, the dog days of the off-season summer are here. That’s ok with me! This is the time of year when I give the game a rest. I mean, I love it so much that the last thing I’d ever want to do is to get burned out from it and lose interest. But the reality is that from now until training camps kick off in September; there aren’t going to be many newsworthy items going on.

I’ve been watching MLB (Go Twins!) and lots of horse racing. And no, I don’t wager on the ponies; I don’t know the first thing about that.

On July 7, right before the annual NHL Entry Draft began, the WILD re-signed future HHOF netminder Marc-Andre’ Fleury to a two-year deal for $7 mil. It carries an AAV of $3.5 mil. This event kicked off some tension between the team’s other, and now former, netminder Cam Talbot and his agent George Bazos. Apparently, Bazos was also in Montreal for the entry draft, and when word got to him about the Fleury deal, he was all over GM Bill Guerin like a cheap suit. That feeling of being jilted and passed over to begin the Stanley Cup tourney was evidently still fresh in their minds.

Somewhere between the team’s swift playoff demise and July 7, they thought Talbot had been anointed the club’s number one tender. They were clearly of the belief that it was Talbot’s net. I can’t speak to whether anyone from the team had whispered this to Talbot or what, but with a season having as many ups and downs as a department store elevator, I’m not sure where he got that feeling from. When he was good, he was good. And when he wasn’t, we know how that went. On top of the hurt feelings, his wife went on social media and vented when Fleury got the starting nod for the tournament. That’s never a good plan for a guy in a team sport.

In the playoff, the STL Blues and the WILD split the first four games, and then STL decisively eliminated the WILD in G5 and G6. By the time Coach Dean Evason did play Talbot in G6, it was too late for the WILD. I do not know how much Guerin pushed on Evason to start the playoffs with Fleury. Still, based on the way they were handled and in considering how each was playing up to the end of the regular season, I would likely have gone with Talbot to start with and made adjustments as necessary. Most teams end up playing every other day in the tourney, so both were going to get games regardless. I cannot and will not blame Fleury for the series loss, but it seems as though the staff erred in this decision, IMO.

In Montreal, Bazos informed Guerin that he (Guerin) had some things to “think about” regarding Talbot and his future in The State of Hockey. After letting that gel for a bit, Guerin made a couple of nasty quotes regarding the matter and, upon returning to St. Paul after the draft event, dealt Talbot to the Ottawa Senators.

It was that quick. My basic thought was, oh well, farmer in the dell. Bazos and Talbot miscalculated how much power he and his “game” may have had within the club. As I probably said when Talbot came on board in 2020, I think he is a good tender, but not the sort that can win games or series based on his own play, regardless of what the team in front of him is doing. And that is what I feel we saw in his two seasons with the club. Good, but not Brodeur, Roy or Plante good. I saw nothing over two years to change that. Guerin was cordial about it after the deal concluded and wrapped it up. No assigning of blame or the like. Nice and neat, done deal.

The WILD picked up the Sens backup tender Filip Gustavsson in the deal. “The Goose” is 24 and comes in at 6’2”, 184lbs. In 27 NHL tilts, he is 10-13-3, with a GAA of 3.12 and a SV% of .905. He is a native of Skelleftea, Sweden and was a 2nd Round pick of Pittsburgh in the 2016 entry draft, selected 55th overall. He has minimal experience at the NHL level, and his numbers won’t knock you over, but they are probably a reflection of being on a team that was in the midst of an ongoing rebuild. He will benefit from coming in behind Fleury.

ALL IS QUIET on the Kirill Kaprizov front. Based on comments I heard from the draft, it seems as if the league and its clubs have decided to stand down on making any further comments that could be misconstrued either way by Russia or the United States. But in addition to matters related to the issue, as

I had chronicled in previous editions, it now appears that what was previously believed about it was not true! I have recently heard that Kaprizov has been in Germany, had surgery and is in recovery. No word on what the surgery was other than it was nothing to be alarmed about and that he will be good to go for training camp in September. So, can he get out of Russia? Can he get back into the United States? Was he flying all over the planet trying to get back into the U.S.? Has he got document problems in Russia and the U.S.? Or was it all misinformation to throw the media off the scent of juicy off-season news? I don’t know, and I’m giving it a break. Geeeez.

ON NEXT SUNDAY, JULY 24, one of my favorite Minnesota Twins of all-time, Tony Oliva, will finally be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. This day has been a long time coming for Oliva and his family. As a kid in St. Paul, I grew up an easy bicycle ride away from the old Met Stadium and went to many games there as a kid that was falling in love with the game. Former Twins pitcher Jim Kaat will be inducted, too, with both former players being installed via the “Golden Days” category.

I saw Kaat play many times as a Twin, but Oliva endeared himself to the Twin faithful in a way that Kaat may not have. I grew up with neighbors that had escaped Cuba as communism took over the island nation. Even as a kid, I knew what they went through to get to the States.

Back then, the Twins were famous for their scouting corps, and one in Cuba saw Oliva play and encouraged him to go to the States while he could still get out. He was an immediate sensation with the fans. I can’t wait, and there is a strong chance I’ll be in tears. Oliva is the ONLY Twin to be a part of all three World Series entrants. (65-87-91) Congrats! PEACE