There’s no way around it — Cam Talbot has had a bad season. He’s at the top of the list of disappointments among this group that has ultimately massively underperformed expectations. After his first two seasons with the club and a 2016-17 season in which he finished fourth in Vezina Trophy voting, starting goaltending was never an issue that crossed the minds of Oilers fans.
But Talbot has struggled mightily this year. For the season, he has a .907 save percentage in 62 games. He’s posted just one shutout and he’s allowed the most goals of any goalie in the league. This, of course, is shocking given how good he had been in his career before this season. Last year, he posted a .919 save percentage in a whopping 73 games, and in the previous three seasons, he averaged a .924 save percentage with the Oilers and Rangers. So it isn’t like he just randomly popped out of nowhere in 2016-17. He had been quite good before.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. How do you handle Talbot’s next contract? He’s signed for one more year before he can hit the open market. At this point last year, it seemed like a no-brainer he should be inked long-term. But is that still the case after this year’s showing?
Talbot is signed for one more season at a very team-friendly $4,166,667 cap hit. Peter Chiarelli inked Talbot to that three-year extension back in January 2016, just a few months into the goaltender’s tenure as an Oiler. Despite not having a massive track record, the Oilers put faith into Talbot, and, save for this season, it’s paid off.
While the down season is tremendously disappointing, it could provide the team an opportunity to get Talbot signed to an extension at a lower price than he would have been able to command had he matched his 2016-17 season. Like I said, Talbot is set to hit the open market on July 1, 2019, meaning the Oilers have all summer and next season to work on an extension with him if they please.
Personally, I’m of the mind that Talbot is still the goalie of the future. He’s been largely excellent throughout his career and he’s struggled this year. I believe a large chunk of that has to do with the team in front of him. The blueline is noticeably worse in the defensive zone this year, which is inevitable given the injuries to Andrej Sekera and Oscar Klefbom. I would rather bank on the 180 games he played in his first four years than the 60 he played this year to determine who he is as a player.
It’s also really difficult to find a goalie. Between Talbot and the team’s last good goalie Dwayne Roloson, we rotated through guys like Ben Scrivens, Viktor Fasth, Ilya Bryzgalov, Devan Dubnyk, Jeff Deslauriers, and Nikolai Khabibulin. The free agent market doesn’t have many enticing names either, unless you’re willing to wait until 2019 to throw a bunch of money at Sergei Bobrovsky or Pekka Rinne. So even if the Oilers decide Talbot isn’t their guy, it’s difficult to find a superior replacement.
What say you, Nation? Is Talbot still the goalie of the future? Does he have to prove it next year? Or should he be signed to an extension this summer?
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