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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

At Random: Trading Places

With former Edmonton Oilers Milan Lucic and Cam Talbot wearing Calgary Flames jerseys this coming season, there’ll be an extra couple of storylines added to the mix when the 2019-20 edition of the Battle of Alberta unfolds.

While the trade of Lucic to the Flames for James Neal got plenty of ink — in equal parts because GM Ken Holland got out from under a contract many thought was untradeable and at the same time landed a winger capable of adding some scoring — I suspect Talbot will have a bigger impact on the BOA than Lucic does.

Lucic didn’t live up to his contract with the Oilers beyond his first season in Edmonton and struggled mightily with confidence on the way to getting a ticket to Cowtown July 19. Talbot, meanwhile, hit the skids last season, lost his job to Mikko Koskinen and ended up being dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers for Anthony Stolarz. Talbot signed a one-year deal with the Flames July 1.

I’d argue Talbot, 32, who posted a 104-95-19 record with a .912 save-percentage and a 2.74 GAA in four seasons with the Oilers despite a miserable .893 and 3.36 GAA in 31 games last season before being sent away to to Philly, is a better bet for a bounce-back campaign in tandem with David Rittich than Lucic is.

SOMETHING TO PROVE

There’s no doubt that both Lucic, who scored just 16 goals in his final two seasons with the Oilers after scoring 23 in the first year of his contract, and Talbot, who never managed to put together an encore of his stellar 2016-17 season in Edmonton and was traded away by Peter Chiarelli, have something to prove.

Contract aside, I don’t think there’s any way the Flames get the better of the Lucic-Neal swap, even if the big winger regains at least some of his touch and adds a physical element in bottom six minutes the Flames are looking for. I think there’s a better chance Talbot and Rittich will outperform Koskinen and former Flames’ stopper Mike Smith, who signed here as an UFA.

“It’s always been a heated rivalry, and I’ve been part of it for four years. It’s always an exciting time. I’m excited for the opportunity to switch sides,” Talbot said Sunday.

Talbot never managed to gain a foothold in Philly behind Carter Hart. He played in just four games, three of those starts, and had awful numbers — .881 and 3.70. In some ways, the way Talbot went sideways last season reminds me of how Devan Dubnyk came off the rails here, got traded and almost played his way out of the league until he found his game again. Might Talbot get his act together down the road with the Flames?

“Up until last year, I’ve had a pretty good career,” Talbot said. “I think I’ve proved myself, so it’s about getting back to what made me successful and getting off on the right foot. He (Rittich) played extremely well last year and kind of took that spot and earned his right to battle for it. I’m going in. I want to complement him.”

ABOUT JESSE

It’s easy for fans and media types to just dump on a player like Jesse Puljujarvi, who reiterated last week that his days with the Oilers are over, but it’s pointless without knowing the facts. “I want a new start with some other team,” Puljujarvi said. “Playing in North America is still my goal. I will stay in Oulu until I have a contract. I will find a place to play somewhere.”

I understand the sentiment of those who are pissed at the kid — if the guy doesn’t want to play for our team, screw him — but there has got to be reasons we don’t know about why he’s sticking to his guns. I don’t know what they might be and neither do you, but if Puljujarvi isn’t even willing to give things another go with a new GM and coaching staff, it seems obvious this is more than pouting about opportunity or being mishandled.

I think that Puljujarvi is making a mistake because he and agent Markus Lehto aren’t going to force Holland into making a rushed deal and his trade demand comes off as petulant when he hasn’t established himself as a bonafide NHL player, but it’s his decision, not yours or mine.

  • Abagofpucks

    I don’t see KH losing any sleep over JP, the way i see it by JP deciding to stay in Finland makes things easier for the coaching staff to concentrate on who is here and where they fit. As far as i’m concerned JP can sit in Finland and stew.

  • CMG30

    Agreed that the bigger danger is Talbot recovering his form. Talbot does have the ability to be a good goalie. It’s just unfortunate that his past few seasons have been plagued by inconsistency. As for L v N, I think that should Neal come in and return to form in Edmonton, that’s just a bonus. The default position of Holland is probably to buy him out next off season for the cap relief.

    • Your point being? Devan established himself as a bonafide starter with seasons of .916, .914 and .920, then fell off the map and couldn’t stop anything here or to close the season in Nashville. Talbot established himself as the starter here, hit the ditch and then didn’t do much in limited duty in Philly last season. He turned 32 a month ago. You think niggling over age has any real relevance with the comparison I made? If so, please elaborate. Some people give Mike Smith a decent chance of bouncing back here this season — he’s 37.

    • Hockeysense9393

      All the Flames need from Talbot is average goaltending as a 1b backup on a good defensive team. Anything better then that is just gravy for the flames. I think 32 is still a pretty good age for a goalie…no? Most goalies don’t even get rolling till late in their 20’s and you think 32 is already washed up? Do you know anything about the position??

  • OilCan2

    BOA: James Neal scores on the first shot of the game. Talbot gets switched out for Rittich. JP lights it up in Finland / Sweden / KHL and Ken trades him for a first round pick.

  • Finnaggled

    im betting its because he knows his teammates dont want to play with him, and he blames them. Instead of realizing his inability to learn new things is the issue.

  • Gofucoffee

    Remember last year when McD said “if you don’t wanna be here……”
    I think this statement has something to do with JP doubling down on not resigning. He’s been told!

  • Rhoethbeorth

    I really don’t get what’s going through Pool Party’s head.

    Am I right in assuming JP is a Group 2 RFA? If so, he has the right to have his agent contact other NHL teams and negotiate an offer sheet. So, unless he has the laziest agent in history, it would seem other NHL teams aren’t interested in him — at least, not for more than ~$1.4M per season, the level at which the Oilers would be entitled to draft picks in compensation. If that is the case, then refusing to accept the Oiler’s qualifying offer and play in the NHL (where he can showcase his talent and prove to other teams he is worth trading for) seems like career suicide.

    At this rate, he’ll end up in finishing his career in St. Petersburg, fighting Nail Yakupov for third-line minutes.

  • Gordoil

    Not on his side by any stretch. But if he really wants a fresh start, why would he not just sign with the Oilers crap the bed at training camp, then get picked up on waivers by whom ever take the chance. we know someone will

  • billsbills

    Talbot thought his 2017-2018 season was good? By who’s standards? He has a long way to go to proving he can play in the league again. His numbers last year says he’s not even a capable backup.

    Sure there may be other issues for JP in the locker room. But there has to be a level of professionalism. On all sides. There is zero room for anything other than helping every teammate succeed. If you don’t help all to succeed and only those you deem worthy, you end up with a bad team. Maybe there is something to that in Edmonton. If JP wants to be an NHL player, the best thing he can do, is demonstrate that level of professionalism regardless as to who he’s playing with or what team he’s on. We’ve all had bosses and co-workers we didn’t like. But you don’t quit because of it. Especially in such a small industry where everyone knows eachother.

  • BR

    WE win on contract alone – If neal produces, great. Even getting two decent seasons out of him before the buyout will help massively on the cap management front.

    Talbot is a real danger, everything about the situation reminds me of Dubnyk. It will sting to see Talbot get a Vezina, let alone on a successful Calgary team. And he absolutely has the talent to do it.

    • ed from edmonton

      Whether Smith or Talbot can put up starting performance is pure speculation. Smith was a starter for a number of years and had one bad year (some may say a bad 1st half of a year) but is 37. Talbot has only had 1 year of a clear starter quality (16/17) but is 32. I will say however, that if Talbot thinks his 17/18 season was good he is fooling himself.

      Let’s hope JP stays in Europe so the Oil don’t have to waste a roster spot on him.

    • Hockeysense9393

      Neal had to move, this was apparent. Neal seen the writing on the wall by the second game of the season. The emergence of Lindholm pushed Neal to the 3rd line and it was all downhill after that. Neal being scratched for a must win game in the playoffs kind of sealed the deal of a future with the Flames.

      Trust me…Treviling tried every possible avenue to trade the guy and get anything back that would make any sense at all. The Flames trading with rival Oilers really puts that into perspective on how the trade market really was out there for Neal. Nothing?!

      The Flames fans and organization hope that Neal has a bounce back year in the Oilers top 6. We don’t need him…
      We just want the 2nd round pick that will come with it. He was an expendable asset for us that becomes a valuable asset for you.

      Probably the best scenario is Neal scoring 30+ goals and Lucic scoring 20. Let’s hope for that!

      The whole Talbot vs Smith capade is another story all together. That should be full blown by Christmas…

    • OilerForLife

      We don’t need to trade him now. Let him play in the SHL, KHL, or Swiss league like Mathews did. If he looks really good, then we can trade him, but again, only for a fair deal. Doesn’t matter what JP says, Holland won’t trade him for nothing. If JP fails over in Europe then he won’t ever play in the NHL, then he’ll regret the fork in the path he decided to take.

  • Clayton

    I think the Lucic/Neal and Talbot/Smith swaps will balance each other out…Flames will win one, Oilers will win one…so as Flames fans bash Oiler fans about one deal the Oiler fans will bash the Flames back about the other…it is just how the battle of Alberta always goes.

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    You guys should look at Smith’s numbers during the playoffs. He wasn’t just good, he was putting up all-time playoff numbers. And he has throughout his career. In Calgary, he had personal issues and he was injured the year before last. Plus, the Flame fans were booing him half the time. It wasn’t the best situation to play in and his play suffered.

    If you listen to Flames fans, he was the worst POS ever and the only time he was any good was in the playoffs this past Spring. If you look closely at the numbers and the situation, he was probably the best goaltender we’ve had since Kipper. I think he’ll be fine, if his starts are managed (and Oil players are going to LOVE his puck-handling).

        • Albertabeef

          I generally tend to stay away from this site but wanted to see what everyone was saying. So Hockey83, would you not consider the shutout a game he stole? First playoff game Flames won 4-0. Also the last two playoff games he never let more than 2 goals in during regulation. All things considered Smitty had a good playoff run, the rest of the team not so much.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Smith was a polarizing player. In 2017/18, he was the MVP for 1/2 the season, then got injured and came back playing bad. He started the following season playing lke the way he was post injury. He got back to being okay when Rittich tailed off. He wasn’t lights out. He won a bunch of games to finish out the season, a lot of them against non-playoff teams. He was one player that showed up in the playoffs, but he still ended up giging up two OT golas that were stoppable. Neither were high danger.

      The puck handling was a plus and a minus. It helped some times, especiallt against the dump in. Where it hurt was in the zone exits. Confusion at time with the D. Just clearing the puck to see it come back. He will probably have a lot of miscues with the Oiler D.

      Neal is a sideways trade, with the edge going to the Oilers. Neal is not a play driver, and if he gets playsed with Nuge, then the better defensive center will have to contend with a player that doesn’t play well without the puck. Expect a lot of goals against with him on the ice. His excuses about not having time to train are just that. It’s not the first time he’s played on a team that went deep. It’s just the first time he hasn;t been able to keep up production. Whiffing on passes and shots isn’t just a training issue.

    • Hockeysense9393

      This is true…I think most level headed hockey fans would appreciate Smith’s contributions to his team and to his backup. He was just an “age” declining asset that they thought was replaceable. He’s gonna want the net, so the question is how this will affect Koskinen? As the Oilers sit, they most likely need above average goaltending to compensate for the lack of defensive attributes and scoring acumen. The Flames on the other hand just need average goaltending to back stop the good balanced team they have. Obviously they felt a need to get younger with more of a potential for an upside.

      Just remember, the Oilers will actually need to make the playoffs for Smith to show his post-season heroics. I think there is more of a chance that Smith and the Oilers have more of a chance to derail then the Flames with Talbot.

      This is going to be interesting fodder for sure. One thing to keep in mind is that Smith and Neal are good buddies. That worked real well in the Flames dressing room for sure.

  • Heschultzhescores

    It will make the Battle of Alberta interesting again. I can certainly see Looch waking up when he plays us. Every ex Oiler lights it up against us. My prediction, Looch gets the Gordie Howe Hat-trick first game against the Oil.

  • bcoil

    All lot of people keep looking at the Lucic for Neil trade as one for one but it is not. It is Lucic for Neil AND a very good player that we will not lose in the expansion draft because we won’t have to protect Neil but would have had to protect Lucic

    • KootenayFlamesFan

      Except the oil don’t have enough very good players to even worry about that. Looch wasn’t taking the spot of anyone you couldn’t afford to lose.

  • Moneyball

    I think all 4, Lucic,Neal,Talbot and Smith will rebound this year. That being said I don’t think they will rebound to be all stars, just better than last year.

    Personally I don’t see Puljujarvi as much more than a wasted pick, every other player in the top ten that year now out performs him (on and off the ice for that matter)

    There doesn’t seem to be much strategy in puljujarvi’s Approach as the best way out of town is to sign a cheap bridge deal and the hope to get sent down or to play well enough to be able to be traded.

    Clearly what he has done is hurt any chance for him to get traded and apparently no team thinks he is worth the minimum offer sheet. Personally I hope the Oilers make an example out of him and grind him to either stay In Europe or to sign for the minimum as we need to set the tone for future rfa’s the team and the city doesn’t deserve to be treated like this now or in the future.

  • ScottV

    I never quite understood from afar the dynamics going on between PC, (Katz / Gretzky / Lowe), Nicholson, McL and the player group.

    When PC came aboard – I thought he wanted to transition the team from on and done rushers to more of a cycling, playing the odds – big mans o zone controlling kind of club. A lot like the Stanley Cup Champion – St Louis Blues. I was for that – even though most were saying the only way to win was up tempo Pittsburgh Penquins hockey.

    It appears to me that PC was eclipsed by all sides, in that his vision of a St. Louis like hockey club never got a go. It was like he was ignored by all sides. PC brings in Lucic to help shore up his vision and McL has him playing a one and done rushing hybrid style. Lucic is not a rush guy in any variation of a one and done rushing style.

    The year they had some success – I was posting many times – wondering how the hell they were winning so much with such an unstable brand of hockey that McL was influencing. It wasn’t much better than the Eakins swarm for crying out loud. The whole deal was dependent upon two very hot young forwards and Talbot completely having to stand on his head. I kept saying that year that they better shore things up but somehow they seemed to get away with it in the short term. In the longer term – it did prove to be unsustainable.

    If the Flames put Lucic with the right guys in the right system and if they play a solid game in front of Talbot – this whole deal could easily be to their favor. The saving grace – is probably Tippet. Our Coach is probably as good as their Coach. The one who picks the right systems in line with the nature of respective player groups – will probably prevail.

    McL would have been out of his league. Tippett? – I think he is up for the challenge.

    • ed from edmonton

      I agree with one thought you have presented, that the difference between the 16/17 team and the next two years was primarily goal tending. Just look at the Blues, they went from worst to best be changing on player their goaltender. Talbot went from Vezina candidate to less than a backup in two years and the Oil record shows the impact.

  • Hemmercules

    When the Oilers hired Holland, and Holland hired Tippet I thought that might be enough to make JP change his mind and give it one more go with the Oilers. Maybe sign a one year “show me” deal and work his @ss off and prove us all wrong. When JP continued to stand pat on his trade request I knew it has to be something more. Maybe he doesn’t fit in or doesn’t like some guys in the room? Maybe he’s just sour on the organization all together. The way Bobby slammed Reider publicly like that Im sure made some guys a little angry. I’m sure he offers a reason to some media person when he’s gone form the team like most players that leave the team on a low note. At the end of the day I hope there is a good reason otherwise he should grow up, buckle down and prove he’s an NHL player on the team that drafted him.

  • HockeyYoda

    “it seems obvious this is more than pouting about opportunity or being mishandled”
    It doesn’t seem obvious to me at all. What seems way more obvious and likely is he’s blaming the Oilers but when it comes right down to it, if he was playing good enough…none of this drama would be happening. He’s convinced himself that his poor play can’t be his fault – he’s too good for that. And I say this as someone who’s highly critical of Oilers management for other blunders. But on this one, it’s on you JP.

  • Gary Chalmers

    I think the Oilers win both the Smith/Talbot moves and the Neal/Lucic trade. Smith is a better puck-handler, he was good in the series against the Avs, when the Flames and their overrated defense, lead by the ,never should have won, Norris winner Giordano were ran out of every game, and Talbot is done. Lucic can’t play, too slow, not skilled enough and Neal has a good shot that should get him close to 20 goals.
    On JP, he’s gotten poor advise from whoever is telling him not to sign, and start the season in Edmonton, in an effort to try to increase his trade value as he has no value. I had heard that you would tell him something, and it would go in one ear and out the other, that he understands english just fine, but was not willing to start on the 3rd line and work his way up the line up but wanted everything handed to him, so I say let him waste away in Europe.

    • hagar

      I agree with you in every way. I don’t know how much of the jesse not listening and knowing English is true, but the rest I know is true.

      Talbot played horrible for two straight years, smith played horrible for half a season, then finished the season in the playoffs with his best performances ever.

      Same goes for neil and lucic. Lucic has been horrible for a couple years, and neil has been bad for one year. Not often you see someone have two horrible seasons, then turn it around. Much more often do you see guys have one bad season, then turn it around.

      Not saying either is a slam dunk by any means, but both have a much larger chance to win us the trade vs the other way around.

  • TKB2677

    What JP and his agent are doing is baffling to me. He’s frustrated, he thinks it’s 100 the teams fault he isn’t magically a top 6 forward which isn’t true and he wants out. I get it and while it doesn’t make me happy, I can accept that. So go to the GM, make your case, ask for a trade but keep it quiet. No GM is going to want a player who is unhappy and wants out on his team. So when a trade materializes, it will happen. But if you want out, do what you can to help a trade happen. He more times JP mouths off, the harder it is to trade him. But they went stupid and went public with the trade demand, then they made it worse by threatening to go to Europe. Their bluff got called so you’d think JP and his agent would eat crow, shut their mouth, sign a 1 yr deal and look to get moved. Nope. More demands. Holland won’t blink. He has ZERO ties to this player. He wasn’t with the team for the last 3 years, he didn’t draft him. Most of the people in charge who JP can blame for his problems, have all been fired by Holland. Holland even brought in new amateur draft people. So he has nothing to tie him to JP what so ever. So if JP sits and rots never turning into anything, that’s not on him at all.

  • Towers-of-dub

    Kurt Leavins at C of H seems to have better access to the details of the Puljujarvi situation. His blog seems to suggest that certain players in Edmonton specifically asked to not play with JP because he’s not capable of doing his job as it is asked of him. My interpretation of the blog is basically that when JP is on the ice, you might as well play as if you’re a man down.

    • TKB2677

      I agree with you. When JP’s agent open his mouth a while ago, he acknowledged and even complimented Holland as a GM and it being a positive he was in Edmonton. He then acknowledged the change in coaches and said it was positive but then went on to say that the team was basically the same and that JP “didn’t fit”. That told me that JP was an outsider, not accepted by the team and the team didn’t want to play with him. This has been backed up several times but different media people, the latest being Levins who quoted sources. I don’t blame the Oilers players for not wanting to play with JP, he’s completely lost out there and drags his line down because he doesn’t know or won’t do what needs to get done. These NHLers expect the guys on their line to go to the right spots and be there. If they aren’t it screws up the whole line. It’s been reported by multiple people that McLellan spent significant amount of 1 on 1 time with JP trying to coach him up. Then Vivieros was basically exclusively working with JP all last year and it still didn’t help. I think this guy is just too stubborn and lacking in the mental side of the game to get it.

  • HelpMeBabyJesus

    Bottom line for Talbot…his wife had twins and he became distracted as hockey started to play second fiddle for him. Good for him but bad for the Oilers. He never regained his form after that and all of us cringed as the first shot of every game seemed to go in. Good luck in Calgary Cam. Oilers…just shoot the puck on him! 😉

    • TKB2677

      With Talbot and his last few seasons. Does the Oilers poor defense hurt his numbers? Yes they would a bit but the Oilers defense had nothing to do with Talbot letting in crap goals from long range or not being able to make saves. The goalies job is to stop all the pucks he’s supposed too plus a few he’s not. That’s for every team. There were a lot of nights that Talbot flat out didn’t make enough of the saves he should have or his rebounds were crap. If the only way Talbot can be good is if the defense in front of him doesn’t give up the blue line ever which isn’t realistic, do your job and stop the puck. He didn’t do that. In Calgary, the defense is better so his numbers will go up a bit just because of that but if he plays like he did in Edmonton the last 2 years, he won’t be that much better.

  • serlio

    I think JP is part genious part idiot. Playing a year in europe is probably the best thing for his developement at this point since he can no longer be sent to the ahl and could clearly use some seasoning and a confidence boost. However the public trade ultimatum was a massive blunder and can only serve to lower his trade value which is kinda counterproductive considering holland wants more than a bag of pucks in return