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Oilers Goalie Search #4: Cam Talbot
Why a reunion with the former Oiler would make sense
With the expansion to 32 teams, no position has had its depth tested more league-wide than goaltending. This was increasingly obvious through Day 1 and Day 2 of the NHL draft, with several teams acquiring new netminding solutions.
One of my preferred options in Ville Husso was trade by the Blues to Detroit for a 2022 third-round pick. Steve Yzerman subsequently signed the Finnish goaltender to a 3-year contract with an AAV of $4.75M, setting up a promising future in goal between Husso, Alex Nedeljkovic, and 2021 first-rounder Sebastian Cossa. This also means that Jordan Binnington, who had been involved in trade rumours, will stay put in St. Louis.
New Jersey filled their need in the crease by acquiring Vitek Vanecek and pick 46 this year from the Capitals in exchange for picks 37 and 70. Vanecek, a pending RFA, has produced inconsistent results in a tandem situation with Ilya Samsonov with mediocre overall results while positing solid a 5v5 SV% and 5v5 HD SV% this year. Following the trade, Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald stated to the media that he is content heading into the season with Mackenzie Blackwood and Vanecek as the 1A/1B. Despite some poor results over the past couple of seasons, I would have time for Blackwood at the right price if he were to become available.
Toronto also opened up space while Chicago filled a hole with the trade of Petr Mrazek to Chicago in exchange for moving back 13 spots in the draft. This came days after Leafs GM Kyle Dubas stated he had more faith in the strong results Mrazek had posted previously compared to the struggles he had in his first year with the leafs when projecting the Czech goalie’s performance.
With New Jersey and Detroit filling their goaltending holes, the amount of openings and available goalies is quickly shrinking. Edmonton, Toronto, and Washington are the teams with contending aspirations still searching for a starter, while Buffalo could also use another quality goalie. Meanwhile, the list of perceived starters is down to two, with Darcy Kuemper being my preferred option over Jack Campbell, but it appears someone is going home without a dance partner in free agency. The Oilers have reportedly been in on both goaltenders, but on Friday’s insider trading, Chris Johnston outlined that Jack Campbell is the priority for Dubas and the Leafs while Pierre Lebrun Kuemper would be a possible match with the Capitals. (On the trade front, Dreger said it seems less likely Jake Allen gets traded until there’s some certainty with Price’s health)
One situation that I would be monitoring closely if I was Ken Holland is how things are unfolding in Minnesota. After extending Marc-Andre Fleury yesterday, Wild GM Bill Guerin implied in an interview on the draft floor with Elliotte Friedman that he was very happy to be bringing back both Fleury and Cam Talbot. Then today, Talbot’s agent made the following comment to Pierre Lebrun.
To add further fuel to the fire, Guerin publicly responded with the following.
GMs will often publically state one thing to the media while undermining that to their peers to maintain some type of leverage, so it wouldn’t be the first time that this situation could flip. If Guerin could be convinced to move a reportedly disgruentled Talbot, I’d have strong interest in seeing him return to Oilers’ colours.
Goalie Target #4: Cam Talbot
Oiler fans will be extremely familiar with Talbot, who enjoyed the most success of any Oiler goalie since Dwayne Roloson. He led the team to within a goalie of the Western Conference Final in the 2016-17 season, starting a combined 86 games in the season. His performance that season was second in the league behind Sergei Bobrovsky according to all the advanced models I’ve seen. Frankly, there could be an argument that Talbot was the most valuable Oiler that season, posting the results he did without any cover.
Talbot started 67 games the next season where he saw his performance regress. Ultimately, his play began to deteriorate as the Oilers’ lack of back up options left him playing too many games, leading to fatigue (enhanced by young twins at home) and injuries. Talbot was traded to Philadephia to make room for a freshly extended Mikko Koskinen and clear cap space for the return of Andrej Sekera.
The next year the Alabama-Hunstville grad signed a 1 year deal with Calgary, which saw him post great splits in a tandem with Dave Rittch, ultimately taking over starting duties down the stretch and in the bubble playoffs. This earned him a 3 year, 11 million contract with the Wild that is entering its last season.
Talbot’s Wild career has not been without intrgue. He has played phenomenal at points, namely in last years playoffs where he almost single handedly carried the team past the Vegas Golden Knights, and down the stretch this season, going 12-0-3 with a .920 save percentage, 2.30 goals-against average and two shutouts in his final 15 starts of the season. Despite his strong play late in the season, the freshly acquired Marc-Andre Fleury was named the Wild playoff starter until Talbot was somewhat unfairly started in the deciding Game 6 against the Blues.
The 35-year-olds advanced stats haven’t been great since joining the Wild. However, we do know that their system lends itself to portraying the Minnesota defence as superior than what it would normally would be, in addition to their shots typically being marked further away than the average NHL arena. As a point of reference, Kevin Woodley from InGoal Magazine has stated that Fleury’s adjusted numbers according to Clear Sight Analytics were above expected in both his Chicago and Minnesota stints this season, despite showing up as negatives in most public models.
Moving away from straight numbers, Talbot would be a great fit with the Oilers. Talbot was a well liked member of the locker room during his time in Edmonton, and had previously stated he would be open to returning to the Oilers. He’ll also have familiarity with the city, and have experience working with recently extended Oilers’ goalie coach Dustin Schwartz.
Talbot pays a technically based style that would provide stability and consistency behind Dave Manson’s defensive structure and would come in at a reasonable $3.667M cap hit. Talbot also has a history of stellar playoff performance, something the Oilers will be desperate for moving forward. Stuart Skinner should be able to spell Talbot enough to allow both to be successful, but if the combination isn’t working, the 1 year of term on Talbot’s deal would not prevent the Oilers from finding an alternative solution. If he is available, I believe Talbot would be one of the better short term, low risk choices for Ken Holland moving into next season.
You can find me on Twitter @OilinGoal