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FRESH START

Cam Talbot eager to suit up for Flames this season: "Coming here, I want to prove that I still have a lot of hockey left in me and there's no better team to do it with than this one."

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / calgaryflames.com

His trademark, pearly white smile was impossible to miss. 

Rightfully so.

The very sight, followed by the first tug of that striking red kit, made the occasion all the sweeter. 

The 'Goalbuster' - Cam Talbot - was in Calgary on Saturday, officially trading the pastel orange he adorned for the past number of years for the Flames' iconic, crimson colour scheme.

And, boy … how sweet for the former netminder a mere three hours north on the QEII.

"Being completely honest?" Talbot confessed, wondering if ever he saw this coming. "Probably not, no.

"It was kind of an odd feeling coming down the highway, and realizing I'm now playing on the other side of the Battle of Alberta, but it's an exciting time.

"We're looking forward to being part of this group; my family's looking forward to being part of this community. … It's an extremely deep team from the first line to the fourth, and they have one of the best D corps in the NHL. I'm looking forward to being on this side of it, for sure.

"Can't wait for September."

Talbot, recently signed to a one-year, $2.75M contract in the early hours of July 1, made the quick drive down from his home in the Alberta capital on Friday, and is using the weekend to tour his new digs, enjoy some family time at the Stampede, and to reconnect with some old pals in the industry. 

And, of course, to get properly outfitted in some new swag that may or may not include a Stetson.

"Bringing him out for the Stampede … that's our biggest recruiting tool," laughed general manager Brad Treliving. "It's good to see him. I had a chance to visit with him this morning about our expectations, and following up on our earlier conversations - how we view his role here. 

"Ultimately, in his role, it's pretty simple. 

"Just stop the puck."

 

Video: "I'm extremely fortunate to have landed here"

 

Treliving has a history with the keeper, serving as the co-manager for Canada's gold medal-winning entry at the 2016 IIHF World Hockey Championship, where Talbot tied the tournament record with four shutouts en route to a second straight, first-place finish.

"Having a glimpse of his character, his work ethic, what he puts into his craft," Treliving said, pausing. "We knew now that this has a chance to work here."

Fittingly, Bill Peters - then boss with the Carolina Hurricanes - was the head coach of that squad, and left the 10-day sprint with a similar impression on the now 31-year-old netminder. 

"He was good," Peters said. "Really athletic; really dialled in. He was great teammate and really appreciated the effort in front of him. 

"I remember that sticking out."

Talbot was coming off a strong first year with the Oilers, posting a .917 save percentage and a 2.55 goals-against average in a career-high 56 appearances. 

The following year, he broke Grant Fuhr's franchise record with an astonishing 42 wins in a 73-start campaign, leading the Oilers to their first playoff appearance in more than a decade. 

But Talbot was traded last year to the Flyers during a tough 2019-20 campaign.

"A change is going to be good for him," Peters said. "He's a competitive guy, knows he has to bounce back. 

"He's on a one-year deal and he'll be hungry."

Talbot - who made waves in 2015, taking over for the injured Henrik Lundqvist and rolling off a 17-4-3 record in the King's absence - has been a workhorse over the course of his career. 

In Calgary, he joins Flames' 26-year-old incumbent, David Rittich, between the pipes.

"Just coming in refreshed and having a short memory," Talbot said of putting the 2018-19 season behind him. "It's easier said than done sometimes, but last year was an outlier in my career. 

"Coming here, I want to prove that I still have a lot of hockey left in me and there's no better team to do it with than this one."

"I'm looking forward to meeting David and complementing him. He's a young goaltender and took his game to another level last year. He had a heckuva season. Just coming in here to compete, push each other to be better and I'm looking forward to being part of that tandem."

Speaking of Rittich and that newly formed tandem, there's just one piece of business left to attend to. 

That eerily blank sweater needs a number to complete the ensemble.

"We've thrown around a few ideas," said Talbot, who in the past wore No. 33, already taken by Rittich. "Haven't decided on anything yet. I haven't worn anything other than that for the past 13 years, so it's going to take some time to decide."

New team. New number. 

Truly, a fresh start. 

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