The start of unrestricted free agency in hockey is a crazy time.
It's been less than a month since the Stanley Cup was awarded. Less than a month since one team's dream of a championship was realized. Less than a month since new playoff heroes were born.
Now, with those recent memories fresh in mind, NHL GMs, players and fans hope to turn next year's Stanley Cup Championship dream into a reality. Now is when GM's try and find the right pieces to the Stanley Cup puzzle.
The crazy part about it is that even though the proof of what it takes to win the cup has just recently been displayed, teams will still be willing to pay "more for less" as they dream about the next time the cup will be skated around the ice.
A little over two years ago, a new hero was born in the city of Pittsburgh...his name is Max Talbot.
Max is not a large man by any physical standards. But what he did during the 2008-09 playoffs played a very large part in helping the Penguins capture their 3rd Stanley Cup.
His fight against Daniel Carcillo when the Flyers were winning 3-0 in game 6 of the series and his 2 goals...the only two the Penguins scored...in game 7 of the cup finals against the Red Wings, propelled Max to hero status.
It seemed like Max was a "go to" guy when the stakes were highest.
Unfortunately for Max, these past two seasons have not played out like he or anyone else here in Pittsburgh would have wanted.
Injuries in 2009-10 limited Talbot to 45 games and he never seemed to find his stride.
In 2010-11, Max played all 82 games and saw his performance get closer to what is was during the 2009-09 season. But for a guy that's 26-27, you expect him to keep improving each year until he reaches his early 30's. So while his 2010-11 season was not a bust by any means, it's fair to say people expected more from Max...and he, almost certainly, expected more from himself.
So as we stand here on July 1st, 2011, these two paths intersect. Max Talbot's hockey career and NHL free agency.
While the Penguin's would love to keep Talbot...and Max would almost certainly want to stay in Pittsburgh...the two parties are heading in opposite directions when it comes to how much Talbot is worth - right now.
Talbot made $1M in 2010 - a decent living by anybody's standards. He would certainly like to make that or more in 2011 but Ray Shero is in a tight spot with the salary cap and can't really offer Max too much more than that. As it turns out, Shero and the Penguins apparently offered Max LESS than that.
As much as Max would like to stay here, he'd be foolish not to try the free agent market. Talbot is a 3rd/4th line player who can easily double, maybe triple, his annual income by signing as a free agent.
It's almost a certainty that Max still has the ability to do what he did in the past and maybe even improve upon that. Max is banking on it and you can bet there will be a number of NHL teams that will do the same. At least one will be willing to pay "more for less (now)"...in hopes that's Talbot will regain the form that made him so valuable during the 2008-09 season and playoffs.
Much like Ryan Malone a few years back, you hate to see a guy that you really like leave the team - but you understand in this case that it's the best thing for his future from a financial point of view.
While I hope there is some way Max stays...I know this is almost certainly good bye (for now at least).
Thanks for the effort and humor Max.
Thanks for helping to make the cup a reality in 2009.
Good luck...hope you get nice deal with some team that puts you in a position to shine. (...preferably a western conference team...)
Who knows, maybe you will be the piece that finishes someone's Stanley Cup puzzle in 2011-12.
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