Officially, this year's winner of Smashfest, the charity ping-pong tournament, was Steve Moore. But new Ottawa Senators netminder Cam Talbot had the best return of the night when I asked him about being involved in this summer's NHL goalie carousel.
"I feel like I'm always a part of it," Talbot said, getting a big laugh from the gathered reporters. "So it's not new to me."
Having said that, the veteran netminder - who was traded to the Sens from the Minnesota Wild for young goalie Filip Gustavsson - understands the business that is the NHL.
"It always seems to be one of the most talked-about points in the NHL because unless you're Andrei Vasilevskiy or someone like that, you're moving around more often than not," Talbot continued. "I feel like I'm well-versed in it, unfortunately, but it's just the way it goes and it's fun to be a part of it. You get to see a lot of new cities and meet a lot of new teammates."
An Ontario native, Talbot is looking forward to being closer to home in Ottawa. And as someone who experienced the Battle of Alberta as a member of both the Flames and Oilers, he's hyped about the chance to be a part of the Battle of Ontario now - especially since the Senators appear to be on the ascent.
A big summer for GM Pierre Dorion netted the Senators Talbot, sniper Alex DeBrincat and former Flyers captain Claude Giroux. Ottawa was already starting to roll thanks to a young core led by young captain Brady Tkachuk, ace defenseman Thomas Chabot and burgeoning forwards such as Josh Norris and Tim Stutzle, among others. Talbot called the DeBrincat trade "massive," while adding that the Giroux coup on the first day of free agency was another big one for the franchise. Not only is the goaltender ready to take on a leadership role in Ottawa, but he's also happy that he doesn't have to face some of his new young teammates on the ice anymore.
"You never want a guy like Brady standing in front of you - he wreaks havoc in front of the net," Talbot said. "Josh Norris can rip the puck. There's so much talent up front, you can't name them all in an interview like this. But their core has gone through it and they're ready for the next step."
Which is all very exciting for Talbot, who will have his own challenge to meet in Ottawa. Not only does he need to keep out pucks for a team that finished 22nd overall in goals-against this past season, but he'll also need to battle returning netminder Anton Forsberg for starts. Forsberg, who put up an impressive .917 save percentage in 46 games for the Sens this past year, recently signed a new three-year pact with the Sens. But of course, Talbot wants to prove he can still be a No. 1 in the NHL.
"That's the goal, right?" he said. "No one wants to go into camp and say 'I don't want to play many games this year.' We're all competitive hockey players and there's that edge that you want to be the guy. I'm 35 years old now, but I still want those games, I still want the net every night and it's going to be a battle. Anton is a very good goalie as well and whoever is the best is going to play. That's the way it should be."
Talbot will also have the extra motivation from his Minnesota exit, which featured a public spat between his agent, George Bazos, and Wild GM Bill Guerin. The Wild, of course, had recently signed deadline acquisition Marc-Andre Fleury to a two-year extension to be their starter again next season.
"The way it ended in Minnesota - it wasn't the way I wanted it to end, to be quite honest," Talbot said. "We saw ourselves there for a long time to come, but obviously that's not how it played out. On the flipside, I'm excited to be part of a new group, a very young group; one that is headed in a great direction."
Talbot sees the Senators as a group that teams won't take lightly in 2022-23 and he's happy to be a part of that effort. And if he can give Ottawa strong goaltending, who knows what this group can accomplish?