Cam Talbot is already starting to feel right at home. His family settled down in Edina, Minn., this offseason, per the suggestion of some of his new teammates, and the 33-year-old Wild goaltender was thrilled to learn that a majority in the dressing room has kids.
“Sometimes in the past, if you have kids you’re kind of the outlier, and here you fit right in,” Talbot said with a laugh. “It’s nice to be around some other guys with kids again.”
That doesn’t mean the move was easy. Having to relocate in the middle of a pandemic was difficult, especially coming from Canada to the United States.
“There was no way to come down here and try to find a place without having to go back and quarantine for two weeks,” Talbot said. “It was just not an ideal situation. We had to find a place via FaceTime. We didn’t get to see our place until we moved into it when we came down here.”
Now that Talbot is finally settled into the Twin Cities, he can turn his focus to performing on the ice. He’s the unquestioned starter for the Wild after signing a three-year contract this offseason. It’s the first time in the better part of a decade that Devan Dubnyk isn’t the No. 1 guy between the pipes.
That’s something Talbot doesn’t take lightly. He knows how good Dubnyk could be and wants to provide that same type of stability in the crease.
“Just trying to figure all that stuff so that it’s almost seamless once the games start,” Talbot said. “I want to integrate myself into this team and into the community as quickly as possible here.”
If his performance in the condensed training camp was any indication, Talbot will be more than capable of shouldering the load. He’s been extremely composed in practices over the past week or so, and was nearly flawless in the intrasquad scrimmages.
“He just looks sound,” said coach Dean Evason, who also lauded Talbot’s professionalism. “He obviously made some big saves in the scrimmages, and the manner in which he’s made them the last couple games, I know he’s ready to go.”
This is a big opportunity for Talbot, who has carved out a nice career for himself after going undrafted out of the University of Alabama-Huntsville nearly a decade ago.
He started his career with the New York Rangers, backing up the legendary Henrik Lundqvist, and parlayed that into a starting job with the Edmonton Oilers. He recorded 42 wins during the 2016-17 season to break the franchise record previously held by hall of famer Grant Fuhr.
While it looked as if Talbot was on the verge of superstardom at that point, he slowly started to regress to the mean, and the Oilers traded him to the Philadelphia Flyers a couple of seasons ago. He played sparingly with the Flyers and signed a prove-it deal with the Calgary Flames ahead of last season.
That decision helped Talbot resurrect his career, and ultimately convinced Wild general manager Bill Guerin to take a chance on him. Now it’s on Talbot to step up. He’s going to be given every opportunity to do so this season, though the truncated 56-game slate could force him to share the net more than usual.
“It’s definitely going to be a lot different,” Talbot said. “There’s going to be a lot of that 1A, 1B, and that sort of thing. For myself, I’m a guy that I want the net as much as possible. Even if it’s a back-to-back situation on the road, or whatever. I’m comfortable playing in those situations. I’ve done it before.”
In that sense, Talbot acknowledged, it might be on the coaching staff to save him from himself at times. He played 73 games for the Oilers in 2016-17, when he went 42-22-8 with a 2.39 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. He isn’t someone that’s going to ask for a day off, so Evason and goaltending coach Freddy Chabot might have to step in.
Talbot made only 22 starts for Calgary last season, winning 12 games and posting a 2.63 GAA and .919 save percentage, but was particularly good when the NHL resumed play in a bubble last summer — 5-4-0 with a 2.42 GAA and a .924 save percentage
“We are going to have to have an open line of communication there, and if they want me to maybe play a back to back or something like that, then maybe managing off-ice workload or practice workload is going to be key,” Talbot said. “Just the communication between players and coaches can be huge this season to manage that workload and get the best out of us throughout the games.”
Luckily for Talbot, he already has developed a solid relationship with Kaapo Kahkonen, who will serve as the primary backup with Alex Stalock out indefinitely with an upper-body injury.
“He seems like a great guy,” Kahkonen said. “He’s always smiling and always positive. I’m really looking forward to working with him. It’s been really good so far.”
That’s something Talbot takes pride in; he remembers learning from Lundqvist in New York and wants to pay it forward now that he’s in a similar position.
“I got to learn from one of the best,” he said. “Just watching Hank day in and day out, his preparation on and off the ice, helped me immensely when I was working my way in. It showed me what it was like to be a pro and I’ve always kind of taken those lessons and integrated them into my own game.”
Those lessons continue to follow Talbot to this day. He has experienced various peaks and valleys throughout his career and now that he’s once again viewed as the No. 1 guy has no intention of giving that position away.
“If it comes down to it, I’d love to play as much as possible,” Talbot said before stopping himself and setting his sights on the ultimate goal. “But, obviously, managing workload and stuff like that is gonna be huge throughout this season to make sure that we put ourselves in the best possible spot to not only make the playoffs but make a deep run.”