While the Kings may have acquired their crown jewel in the Pierre-Luc Dubois trade, the deal only created greater anticipation as to who would fill their egregious void between the pipes.
That question has been answered in the form of soon-to-be-36-year-old Cam Talbot, who celebrated his new contract and wedding anniversary simultaneously Saturday before introducing himself to the Kings faithful Sunday.
“This team is built to win right now, and they are very goalie-friendly with the system that they play,” Talbot said. “I’m just going to try to step in and make it as seamless as possible.”
The move reunites Talbot not only with former Minnesota Wild teammate Kevin Fiala, who was the first King to reach out to Talbot over the weekend, but with Coach Todd McLellan, for whom he played (and played and played and played) for in Edmonton for four seasons. That included making 140 starts in just two campaigns between 2016 and 2018, what Talbot described as some of his best years.
“History is repeating itself, in the sense that Mr. McLellan is now his coach in L.A. There is a relationship that is already there and some faith from what he knew he did in Edmonton,” said Patrick DiPronio, who has coached Talbot privately for 26 years and counting.
Talbot also mentioned the Kings’ depth down the middle. Already possessing one of the top all-around centers of his era in Anze Kopitar, they added a shutdown guy in Phillip Danault two seasons and Dubois, whom they hope can become a prototypical top-line pivot, this summer.
“We’ve got two of the best two-way centers in the game, then you bring in a guy like Pierre-Luc Dubois, now you’re pretty stacked down the middle,” Talbot said. “Then, playing in Todd’s system, obviously I’m very comfortable with that.”
Talbot will continue to work with DiPronio, as he has since he was in grade school. He also credited longtime New York Rangers goalie coach Benoit Allaire with shaping his game at the outset of his pro career. Since New York, he’s had half a dozen other addresses in the NHL, but none of his success may have come if not for Allaire.
“If I didn’t sign with the Rangers out of college, I don’t know if I would have made it to the NHL. He helped rebuild me, honed what skill I already had but also kind of took me back a little bit,” Talbot said. “I played a lot more like Jonathan Quick coming out of college than Henrik Lundqvist, so he kind of found that happy medium.”
While Talbot said the situation at the rink was what lured him to Los Angeles, its location, along with its natural wonders and theme-park adjacence, was a nice bonus for Talbot, wife Kelly and twins Sloan and Landon, who will turn 7 in October.
“The city and the climate is a huge bonus. We’ve been in some of the coldest climates throughout my career –– Edmonton, Calgary, Minnesota, Ottawa –– so this is definitely going to be a nice change of pace, and we’ll leave the Canada Goose (parkas) at home this summer,” Talbot said.
“They’re going to be excited that they can just walk outside in shorts everyday instead of putting on a snowsuit,” added Talbot, whose briefest stop was in not-always-sunny Philadelphia.
Talbot’s ability to walk around or, more specifically, man his goalcrease was not always a given last season. His campaign was fettered by three separate injuries, but Sunday he expressed equal confidence in his present health and his offseason training regimen.
This year, Talbot figures to share time with Pheonix Copley, who could have been considered at various points the Kings’ No. 3, No. 2, No. 1, No. 1A or No. 1B goalie. The Kings also signed another goalie with NHL experience, David Rittich, who made the lion’s share of starts in Calgary during the 2019-20 season, only to see Talbot claim the Flames net down the stretch and into the playoffs. Last season, both Talbot and partner Anton Forsberg, who tore both his MCLs in February, were limited by injuries as well as a less-than-stalwart defense.
In between, Talbot operated at both ends of a tandem in Minnesota, with neophyte Kaapo Kahkonen and then potential hall-of-famer Marc-Andre Fleury. DiPronio said that while Talbot has been a rhythm goalie who plays better the more work he gets, that he was also highly adaptable and almost never turned in two subpar efforts in a row.
He offered an example, the lone blemish on Talbot’s 7-1-0 run to a gold medal at the 2016 World Championships with Canada in which he also posted a 1.25 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage.
“He played well until the (first) Finland game and he struggled; they ended up losing that game. I told him, ‘Learn from it. Focus on your little things,” DiPronio said. “Well, they ended up playing Finland in the final and, obviously, he proved himself.”
In addition to the two goalies, the Kings have been looking to make low-cost signings to restock depleted organizational depth following a hectic series of player transactions. They made another such signing Sunday, adding defenseman Joe Hicketts, 27, to a mix of players destined for their top minor-league affiliate.