Cam Talbot’s job was to come to Edmonton, stabilize the goaltending, and then prove he could be the No. 1 that takes this team into playoff contention next year.
Over a half-season in Alberta he sort of did that, or is on his way to doing that. As such, Talbot was rewarded with a three-year, $12.5 million deal announced Sunday morning.
You might say he had more to prove, and in a real life business that would be fair. But this is the NHL, where external forces dictate that a general manager like Peter Chiarelli has to make decisions and move on to stabilizing the needful areas of his hockey team.
Losing Talbot, who even at this early stage is likely the best netminder Edmonton has had since Dwayne Roloson in 2006, or before him Curtis Joseph in 1998, would have crippled Edmonton, and Talbot would have had plenty of suitors come July 1.
So, with no other options for their No. 1 going forward, a $4.167 million annual average value over three seasons makes Talbot decent value for the Oilers. He nestles into the 24th spot on the NHL’s list of most expensive goalies, in between Ottawa’s Craig Anderson ($4.2 M) and Toronto’s Jonathan Bernier ($4.15 M).
“It’s an exciting time in Edmonton … with the new arena coming and the downtown being built up. I’m excited to be a part of this team for the next three years, hopefully moving forward being a contender,” Talbot told the Oilers web team before boarding the team charter for a road trip that begins in Florida. “We’ve made some huge strides, even from Game 1 to now. It’s moving in the right direction. When I was given the opportunity to stay for the next three years it was kind of a no-brainer.”
Talbot turns 29 this summer, and has a career save percentage of .926 — most of that forged behind the far more solid defence of the Rangers. He’s at .914 this season in Edmonton (22nd among NHL regulars), but on Saturday night Talbot showed that he can be a difference maker, producing some spectacular first-period saves that allowed Edmonton to weather a poor start in a game they would eventually win 2-1 in a shootout over Calgary.
Talbot arrived this past fall as the de facto No. 1 but lost that job early in the year to Anders Nilsson. Nilsson faltered however, and Talbot reclaimed it, having started eight of the last 10 Edmonton games with a .941 save percentage in that span.
So he has overcome some adversity, and shown that he can give Edmonton playoff-worthy goaltending, something that — again — this franchise has not had an abundance of since Curtis Joseph left in the 1990s. It’s been that bad between the pipes here, truly.
“In the last nine or 10 games it’s some of the best hockey I’ve played in my career so far. I feel more comfortable and confident than I have since I (came) to the NHL,” said Talbot, who says he’s grown with the opportunity in Edmonton. “(In New York) I was more of a student, learning from Hank (Henrik Lundqvist) and Benoit (Allaire, the Rangers goalie coach). Now, it’s trying to take my own game to that next level and try and become one of those top goalies that I learned from.”
The deal buys three years of unrestricted free agency, as Talbot would have entered the market as a UFA after this season. It also helps justify the second- and third-round draft picks that Chiarelli surrendered to the New York Rangers at the 2015 draft.
The market dictates the rest of this move, with several NHL teams seeking starting goaltending this summer — including the Calgary Flames — and only a handful of proven No. 1s coming on the market. Toronto’s James Reimer may be the best of the pending UFA crop, assuming he doesn’t re-sign in Toronto.
This isn’t the summer to be without a No. 1 goalie. After Sunday, Chiarelli’s Oilers are out of that market.
Now, the defence…