Cap constraints meant the Los Angeles Kings couldn’t go out and sign, or trade, for a superstar goalie.
Instead, they looked for older, cheaper goalies who can come in and form a partnership with Pheonix Copley.
They landed on 35-year-old Cam Talbot.
Talbot’s coming off a down year with the Ottawa Senators but had three solid seasons split between the Calgary Flames and Minnesota Wild before that.
And perhaps most encouraging for Kings fans, his best years came while playing for Todd McLellan with the Edmonton Oilers. A relationship that was a big selling point for Talbot.
“It definitely was,” said Talbot when asked if playing for McLellan was a factor in his decision to sign. “Playing for Todd in Edmonton, I had some of my best years when I was there. When we were there he rode me pretty hard and I played the most amount of games I’ve ever played. Had some of my best years and getting to reunite with him was definitely a huge bonus for me. And coming to a team that’s been building towards something here. They want to win and I’m at the point in my career where I want to win too. This was a huge opportunity for me to step in here and hopefully challenge to play some games.”
It’s not just Talbot’s personal relationship with McLellan that sold him either. McLellan plays a goalie-friendly system, one that doesn’t give up too many high-danger chances or second opportunities to the opposition.
“Oh, so much easier, like you said, they don’t give up a ton of second chances,” said Talbot when asked about playing in McLellan’s system. “I try not to give up that many either, but I know if I do, those guys are going to be right there to help me out. We’ve got two of the best two-way centers in the game, you bring in a guy like Pierre-Luc Dubois and now you’re pretty stacked down the middle. And playing in Todd’s system, obviously, I’m pretty comfortable in that, playing in it for four years now. So, it was definitely a huge selling point coming to a team like this that’s on the cusp of winning and playing in a system that I already know. Play for a guy that I already know, that I hugely respect in Todd, everything fell into place.
It sounds like it will be a goalie tandem to start next season. McLellan wasn’t afraid to swap goalies frequently last season — especially after acquiring Joonas Korpisalo at the trade deadline — and only made the decision to stick with one in the last few games of the season.
I would expect a similar one-for-one type rotation with Talbot and Copley, with shutouts forcing the only back-to-back games situation.
It’s something Talbot is comfortable with and he’s looking forward to playing with Copley.
“Very comfortable, that’s kind of where it’s been at for me for the past couple of years now,” said Talbot when asked how comfortable he is in a goalie tandem situation. “When Marc-Andre (Fleury) came into Minnesota a couple of years ago, we had just an absolutely great relationship for the last few months there and our tandem worked really well down the stretch. So, I know it’s probably going to be a tandem situation here and I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to Pheonix yet. But, hopefully, I’ll be able to get his number soon and, obviously, with my anniversary yesterday, there were a lot of things going on here. So, I just haven’t really gotten a chance to go through all the messages on my phone and stuff like that yet. So, definitely looking forward to it. Talked to Todd McLellan today, he said that Pheonix is a great guy, works hard, so, that’s all you can ask for in a goalie partner.”
Even saying all of that, Talbot is still hoping for an opportunity to take command of the net himself. He’s a goalie who’s taken on number one goalie duties in the past — he played 73 games for McLellan in 2016/17 — and hopes he can gain that trust again. But, he’s also aware that Copley could gain that trust just as easily.
“I hope so,” said Talbot when asked if there was an opportunity to take command of the net. “I mean, I feel like this the opportunity that, if you come in and play well you’ll just kind of get the net. And this team, as I said, they’re ready to win now. And if you play well, I can’t see any reason why Todd wouldn’t stick with that guy. And it goes both ways, if (Copley’s) playing well, then I would expect him to get the games as well. That healthy competition is always good, it pushes everybody to be better and that’s what I thrive on and I’m assuming Pheonix does as well. I think it’s going to be a very healthy competition and I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully, I can take the majority of (the games) but you just never know. I’m going to do everything I can to get as many games as possible.”
Talbot has experienced some injury issues recently but assured the media that he’s 100% healthy and there will be no issues moving forward.
“I feel good, definitely no lingering effects from anything that happened last year,” said Talbot, “For anyone that doesn’t know me, I feel like I train extremely hard, especially for a guy my age. So, I’m doing everything that I do every other summer. Just, the older you get the more you try and add into your repertoire here. And just try and hit the ground running when training camp starts.”