The Calgary Flames can’t seem to go a day without a new trade rumour circling around the team, and this morning is no different. Since Elliotte Friedman suggested last week that the Flames were the most aggressive team working the phones, they have been link to Milan Lucic, David Backes, Robin Lehner and now TSN’s Darren Dreger says they have expressed interest in Cal Talbot.
The New York Rangers goaltender appears ready to be a number one starter in the National Hockey League but is unlikely to ever achieve that goal with his current team. The Rangers have incumbent starter Henrik Lundqvist locked up for six more seasons at $8.5 million per year and will be allowing him to the number one guy for the duration of his huge contract.
Talbot is a bit of a late bloomer, but part of that is due to the Rangers bringing him along slowly since they already had one of the game’s best goaltenders in Lundqvist. Soon to be 28 years old, Talbot has never been a number one goaltender in the NHL, but has proven over the past two seasons he is more than capable of taking on that role.
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Talbot played three years of NCAA hockey with the University of Alabama-Huntsville, before leaving College to sign with the Rangers in 2010. He really broke out in his final year of NCAA, posting a 12-18-3 record and a 2.61 goals against average but a fantastic save percentage of .925.
He then matured slowly, but steadily in three seasons of American Hockey League action with the Connecticut Whale, the Rangers top affiliate. His final full season in the AHL, 2012-13, Talbot posted a 2.67 GAA and a .918 SV%. Though these aren’t terrible numbers, they also didn’t suggest he was a budding superstar.
Mar 8, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; New York Rangers goalie Cam Talbot (33) makes a save on Chicago Blackhawks center Joakim Nordstrom (42) during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
However, once Talbot became an NHL player in 2013-14, he became nearly unbeatable. He notched a 12-6-1 record in his rookie season with an incredible 1.64 GAA and .941 SV%. Talbot played mure more frequently this season, finding his way into 36 games as Lundqvist missed time with injury, but it was then that he proved he can be a starting goaltender in the NHL.
With Lundqvist out, the Rangers didn’t miss a beat thanks to Talbot stepping in and performing admirably. By season’s end, the Caledonia, Ontario native had a record of 21-9-4, a 2.21 GAA and a .926 SV%. He played behind a sound defensive team, but you can’t just throw anyone into the Rangers net and expect a .926 SV%.
Dreger’s tweet suggested there were several teams interested in acquiring Talbot. He mentions the Flames among the Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks, Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers as teams interested with the Flames, Oilers and Sharks being the three most likely destinations for the Rangers goaltender.
The Flames don’t necessarily have a desperate need for a goaltender like the Oilers and Sharks, but could use an upgrade with Karri Ramo likely to leave via free agency, and Jonas Hiller unlikely to stay any longer than the end of next season.
Feb 14, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New York Rangers goalie Cam Talbot (33) makes a save during the first period against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
The Flames have a few young options that could theoretically take over in the near future. Joni Ortio would have to pass through waivers to go back to the AHL, so he is in Calgary next season. Jon Gillies is turning pro next season after a tremendous NCAA career. Both have promising futures for the Flames, but aren’t ready to take over the net just yet.
Maybe the Flames go into next season with Hiller and Ortio and let Gillies make the move to the NHL a year later when Hiller leaves as a free agent. That would be the safe route, but Talbot would be a huge improvement on the inconsistent Hiller, who is 33 years old.
The most games Talbot has played in one season is just 36 and he would have to play more if Calgary acquired him next season and finds a way to move Hiller. However, Ortio could be a solid backup and Talbot would only be asked to increase his workload to about 50 or 55 games. He has shown he can post excellent stats in 36 games, so there is no reason to suggest he would crumble with a slightly busier schedule.
Many goalies in the past have had a difficult transition from exceptional backup to starting goaltender. We all remember the Toronto Maple Leafs trying to play Vesa Toskala 66 times in one year because he was great in 28 games with the San Jose Sharks. Ben Scrivens posted incredible stats in 19 games as the Los Angeles Kings backup, but couldn’t duplicate the feat when the Oilers suited him up in 57 games last season.
Nov 28, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Rangers goalie Cam Talbot (33) controls the puck against the Philadelphia Flyers during the second period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
So there is risk in acquiring a guy to be a number one when he has never played that role before. However, when Lundqvist was injured early last season, Talbot showed he can handle playing every game for a long stretch of games. I’m not suggesting he would post a 1.67 GAA and .941 SV% playing on the Flames, but he would be an upgrade on Hiller.
Getting a 28 year old netminder and moving out a 33 year old who is one year away from UFA would also help the Flames avoid rushing their promising young goaltenders into the NHL. Gillies looks fantastic coming out of College, but shouldn’t be forced into an NHL job next season unless he earns it.
Mason McDonald will play one more year of Junior with the Charlottetown Islanders before turning pro one year from now. He looks promising as well, as he posted the second best save percentage in the QMJHL last season, but he should be able to develop slowly in the AHL for a few years instead of being forced into the NHL job before he is ready.
Dealing for Talbot would allow Gillies and McDonald the time to develop properly in the minors before they take over the Flames crease. It’s not that Talbot would just be a stopgap, as he should provide solid goaltending, but it’s an added bonus that Gillies and McDonald would be overripe and not underprepared for their NHL debuts.
Acquiring Talbot would also be very costly for someone who has just 57 games of NHL experience at the age of 28. There are plenty of rumours suggesting that the Oilers are willing to move the 16th overall pick which they acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins, to upgrade their current goaltending situation.
The Flames could one-up the Oilers literally, by offering their 15th overall pick to land the Rangers goaltender. It would be a hefty price to pay, but it would also be worth the risk as the Flames would be upgrading their current goaltending situation and also upgrading their future netminders by giving them extra time to develop their skills before they find themselves in front of nearly 20,000 fans at the Saddledome.