| July 14, 2022, 12:45 PM
Cam Talbot says he didn’t want to leave Minnesota, but now that it has happened, he is setting his sights on being the new No. 1 goaltender for the revamped Ottawa Senators.
“I’m extremely excited,” Talbot said, on a Zoom call with reporters on Thursday. “I mean, this team has a lot of good, young core pieces and you can see with the moves they’ve made in the last few days (Claude Giroux, Alex DeBrincat), that it’s an exciting time to be part of the organization and I’m looking forward to stepping in and helping to take this team to the next level.”
Recent moves and with more to come, Talbot says, suggest “the rebuild is probably coming to an end and they want to make a push” to the playoffs.
Talbot, 35, was the Wild’s starting goaltender for most of the 2021-22 season and had a sensational second half, with a 13-0-3 record in his final 16 starts. Yet, when the playoffs started, the Wild opted for veteran Marc-Andre Fleury as the starter for the first five games, only switching back to Talbot in Game 6, an elimination loss to the St. Louis Blues. Talbot did lose all three starts to St. Louis in the regular season.
When the club brought Fleury back with a new two-year deal, Talbot and his agent had discussions with general manager Bill Guerin and those talks did not go well.
“We didn’t really want to be moved,” Talbot said on the Zoom call. “It played out in the media that maybe I had some ill will toward the organization . . . but it wasn’t like that at all. We loved our time there. We love the fans, the group of guys, the staff. We made some lifelong friendships there.
“It’s just one of those things where, you know, there’s only room in the net for one guy.”
Talbot said he had a “great relationship” with Fleury last season and that it could have been another good situation this season.
“That’s between myself and Billy and everyone else,” Talbot said. “We had some conversations and both sides kind of felt this might be best.”
Guerin said of the Tuesday trade of Talbot to Ottawa for prospect Filip Gustavsson that he did not want any more “drama” with his goaltending situation. Last week, Talbot’s agent, George Bazos, told a hockey insider that “Bill has a lot to think about” regarding Talbot and the starting job. Guerin replied, “I don’t have s— to do. Cam Talbot is under contract.”
Now, that contract, with one year left at $3.66M, belongs to Ottawa and the Senators.
While Talbot says he hasn’t been told anything by the Sens organization about the starting job, he plans to earn it. The incumbent, Anton Forsberg, won his first starting job in the NHL last season with Ottawa at the age of 29.
“Honestly, I’m not sure what to make of the situation, it’s kind of a new opportunity for me,” Talbot said. “I’m not sure what the coaches, or GM or anything kind of envision, we haven’t had any of those talks yet.
“Whatever kind of role they want me in is how I’m going to play it, but obviously I want to play,” Talbot said. “I think I have got a lot of good hockey left in me and I can still play upwards of 50-55 games a year and that’s what I’m going to push for. But you never know how things are going to play out – I still want the net as much as possible and I hope it’s going to be a good relationship between Anton and myself.”
Talbot doesn’t know a lot of the Sens players, but says he was contacted and welcomed by Austin Watson, Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris and Tim Stützle. The veteran goalie was with Giroux briefly in Philadelphia in 2019 and met Tkachuk at the All-Star game last year. He was also familiar with the Sens captain via his brother, Matthew, when Talbot was a member of the Calgary Flames in 2019-20.
With plenty of experience of hockey hotbed pressure from the Battle of Alberta – Talbot was with the Edmonton Oilers from 2015-19 – Talbot looks forward to being part of a renewed Battle of Ontario between the Maple Leafs and Senators. Talbot grew up in Hamilton and still makes his home there. He says he grew up watching Sens-Leafs games on Hockey Night in Canada.
“It wasn’t much better when Toronto and Ottawa were playing each other,” Talbot said. “I remember having CBC on every Saturday night, sitting on the couch watching with my dad and yeah – growing up watching Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Marian Hossa and Wade Redden who just joined the organization (development coach) and I was able to play with him in Hartford a little bit.”
As a Hamilton kid, Talbot took special notice of the late Ray Emery of Hamilton being the starting goaltender for the Senators in the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs and Cup final. Talbot, 19 at the time, had just finished a season with the Hamilton Red Wings of the OPJHL.
There for Craig Anderson
Senators fans will remember Talbot staying out by the bench post-game to salute then-Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson, following Anderson’s 2016 shutout of the Oilers after Anderson had missed time to tend to his wife, Nicholle, battling cancer.
“I remember it was his first game back from a rough time in their lives,” Talbot said. “And you know, it was a goalie battle the entire night. I think it was 2-0 with an empty-netter. When you see a guy at the other end, and his teammates just flocking to him after the game, and he was overcome with emotions – some things in the game are bigger than hockey. And I felt the need to acknowledge that on the bench – his performance and how tough that must have been, and how good it must have felt to get that win in the way they did it.”
Speaking of family, Talbot and his wife, Kelly, have twins Landon and Sloane turning six this fall.
Talbot says he hopes to find a rental home soon in Ottawa, close to other players and their families. Watson, a veteran player with children, was particularly helpful offering information to Talbot about housing and schools.
Meanwhile, Talbot is working out in his home gym in Hamilton and training with longtime goalie coach Pat DiPronio on a tiny ice rink facility in Stoney Creek that the locals refer to as ‘The Dungeon.’