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Team Reset

Flames counting on bounce-back season from Talbot

Goalie signed July 1, internal growth keys to Calgary taking next step

by Aaron Vickers / NHL.com Correspondent

After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the Calgary Flames:

The Calgary Flames will look to take the next step toward becoming a Stanley Cup contender after they had their best regular season since 1988-89.

But new goalie Cam Talbot, their only significant addition in free agency, is coming off his worst NHL season. He went 11-17-3 with a 3.40 goals-against average and .892 save percentage in 35 games (32 starts) with the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers.

 

[RELATED: Complete Team Reset coverage]

 

The 32-year-old is determined to return to his form from 2016-17, when he led the NHL with 42 wins with Edmonton, after signing a one-year contract with Calgary on July 1.

"Last year was an outlier in my career," Talbot said July 6. "I'm just wanting to come in here and prove that I've still got a lot of hockey left in me, and there's no better team to do it than this."

Calgary's plan is to not overwork Talbot but rather team him with David Rittich, a restricted free agent who has not re-signed with the Flames after going 27-9-5 with a 2.61 GAA and .911 save percentage last season.

"I'm looking forward to meeting David and to just complement him," Talbot said. "He's a good young goaltender. Like you said, he took his game to another level last year and had a heck of a season. Just coming in here trying to compete and push each other to be better and looking forward to being a part of that tandem."

Calgary will try to move forward from where it left off last season, when it lost in five games to the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference First Round after having the best record in the conference in the regular season (50-25-7).

"We have to continue to get better in every area," Flames general manager Brad Treliving said July 1. "We want to continue to become more competitive up and down our lineup. Sometimes the growth and improvement and upward trajectory of your team isn't based upon outside people coming in. I still believe that internal growth of this team and internal growth of young players is the most important factor."

One of the players Calgary believes will contribute more is defenseman Juuso Valimaki, the No. 16 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. The 20-year-old is expected to be a regular in the lineup after making his NHL debut Oct. 3 and playing 24 games last season.

Here is what the Flames look like today:

 

Key arrival

Cam Talbot, G: He struggled last season but is three seasons removed from going 42-22-8 with a 2.39 GAA and .919 save percentage in an NHL-leading 73 starts with the Oilers.

 

Key departures

Mike Smith, G: The 37-year-old, who went 23-16-2 with a 2.73 GAA, an .898 save percentage and two shutouts in 42 games (40 starts) for Calgary last season, signed a one-year contract with Edmonton on July 1. He was 1-4 with a 3.20 GAA and .917 save percentage in five playoff games. … Garnet Hathaway, F: The 27-year-old, who signed a four-year contract with the Washington Capitals on July 1, had NHL career highs in goals (11) and points (19), and led the Flames with 200 hits.

 

On the cusp

Dillon Dube, F: He will turn 21 on July 20 and had five points (one goal, four assists) in 25 games as a first-year pro with Calgary last season, along with 39 points (15 goals, 24 assists) in 37 games with Stockton of the American Hockey League. ... Juuso Valimaki, D: He had three points (one goal, two assists) with Calgary last season and one assist in two playoff games. He will almost certainly step into a bigger role with the departures of depth defensemen Dalton Prout, who signed a one-year contract with the San Jose Sharks on July 2, and Oscar Fantenberg, who signed a one-year contract with the Vancouver Canucks on July 1. ... Oliver Kylington, D: The 22-year-old, who had eight points (three goals, five assists) in 38 games for the Flames last season, will compete for a roster spot.

Video: WPG@CGY: Dube slams home first NHL goal

 

What they still need

With three key restricted free agents to sign (Rittich and forwards Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett), Calgary will likely try to clear more space under the NHL salary cap. That could mean the departure of forward Michael Frolik or defenseman TJ Brodie, who each will enter the final year of his contract and can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2020.

Video: COL@CGY, Gm1: Tkachuk deflects in shot for PPG

 

Fantasy focus

Even though the Flames finished with the most points in the Western Conference last season, they were outside the NHL's top 20 in team save percentage (.903; 21st). Replacing Smith is Talbot, who had 42 wins and seven shutouts in 73 games for the Oilers in 2016-17 but has since been underwhelming in fantasy. If Talbot wins the starting job outright from the younger Rittich, he could be a deep sleeper gem in fantasy; he has returned value in the late rounds before. -- Pete Jensen

 

Projected lineup

Johnny Gaudreau -- Sean Monahan -- Elias Lindholm

Matthew Tkachuk -- Mikael Backlund -- Michael Frolik

Sam Bennett -- Mark Jankowski -- James Neal

Andrew Mangiapane -- Derek Ryan -- Dillon Dube

Mark Giordano -- TJ Brodie

Noah Hanifin -- Travis Hamonic

Juuso Valimaki -- Rasmus Andersson

David Rittich

Cam Talbot

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