EDMONTON, AB - As teammates approached him at Gate 88 of Edmonton International Airport to give the goalie’s hand a congratulatory shake, Cam Talbot smiled from ear-to-ear.
“It’s extremely exciting for me and my family and it’s an exciting time in Edmonton,” said Talbot. “I’m just happy that I’m going to be around for the next three years to grow and improve with this team.”
The Oilers were boarding a plane, taking them to Sunrise, FL, to begin a three-game road trip. Talbot was bringing with him a newly inked extension along with his carry-on luggage.
Talbot signed a three-year contract extension with the Oilers on Sunday, tying him to the franchise for the foreseeable future. With the job security and the knowledge that he and his family will be staying in Edmonton, a city which he has grown an affinity for, could you blame the previously pending UFA for smiling?
“I love the city so far,” said Talbot. “It’s an exciting time with the new arena and everything coming next year and the downtown being built up, so I’m excited to be a part of this team for the next three years and hopefully moving forward and growing into a playoff team and hopefully a contender.”
The future of the Oilers, which now certainly contains Talbot, is exciting to the newly extended netminder. When the Oilers traded for him at the draft, acquiring him from the New York Rangers, Talbot spoke about the promising additions the club had made at key positions. Those sentiments were echoed today, half a season into his stay in Edmonton.
“I think we’ve made some huge strides, even from game one to now. It’s moving in the right direction and I only see us going forward from here,” said Talbot. “When I was given the opportunity to stay here another three years, it was kind of a no-brainer. From day one to now, we’ve made some big strides and I expect nothing less in the next three years to push forward and become a playoff team and eventually a contender. I wanted to be around for all that.”
Talbot has revitalized his season as of late. There was a time in which his confidence “took a hit.” Anders Nilsson was hot, and the Oilers were rolling with him while Talbot refined his game. But now, Talbot has risen to a whole other level, and the Edmonton coaching staff is rewarding him with playing time.
“The guys are playing great defensively,” Talbot said. “We’ve tightened some things up in our own end. It’s easier for me to make some reads and stuff like that. I just feel more comfortable, more confident, more patient out there. I think that’s the key. Before, I was doing a little too much and cheating a little bit on backdoor plays instead of playing the shooter. Now, it’s just trusting my guys that they’re going to take away the other options and making that first save and playing from there.”
Talbot has started 10 of the Oilers last 12 games, posting a .941 save percentage. He has gotten stronger as this stretch has moved along, recording a .949 save percentage in his last five starts. Talbot put forth a gem last night, turning aside 32 of 33 Calgary Flames shots in regulation and OT, before a perfect shootout resulting in a 2-1 win.
“I think in the last nine or 10 games, it has been probably the best hockey I’ve played in my career so far,” said Talbot. “I’m feeling more comfortable and confident than I have since I’ve been in the NHL I think. Now is a good time to start building from. It’s an exciting time to be a part of this team and I’m just happy to help us win and do whatever I can.”
With New York, Talbot was the backup to one of the game’s best: Henrik Lundqvist. Now, he’s getting his chance to show he can be a number one at the NHL level. That’s the next step, first growth and then consistency.
“I think before I was more of a student,” said Talbot. “I was learning from ‘Hank’ and from (Rangers Goalie Coach Benoit Allaire) and stuff like that. Now, it’s trying to take my own game to that next level and try to become one of the top-tiered goalies, like I got to learn from. I think I’m taking a step in that direction right now and hopefully these three years of development here will take me to that next level as well.”
Talbot didn’t take the straightest path to Edmonton. The Caledonia, Ont. native was overlooked by top junior leagues, and played his collegiate years at the University of Alabama-Huntsville instead of signing on at a larger NCAA school. He went undrafted as well, then played down in the minors for years until he got his shot in the NHL.
Flash forward to Sunday, and he’s boarding a plane with his NHL teammates to fly to another NHL city and play another NHL game, and he has a three-year extension with the Oilers as well. Now that’s something to smile about.