With Talbot at his best, Oilers should be a force in the West

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This post is part of Oilers Day on PHT…

Connor McDavid is the driving force behind the turnaround in Edmonton.

He had a 100 points to lead the league and won the Hart Trophy. Edmonton made the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and came within one win of the Western Conference Final.

Not to be overlooked, Cam Talbot provided terrific goaltending and was a pivotal factor in helping Edmonton get back into the post-season.

In his second season in Edmonton following the trade from the New York Rangers, Talbot was a work horse, even exceeding expectations of coach Todd McLellan.

In a time when some goalie coaches believe the days of playing 70 or more games in a season are behind us, the Oilers netminder made 73 starts and led all goalies with almost 4,300 minutes played.

That was by far the largest amount of ice time last season for an NHL goalie, and Talbot was able to sustain a .919 save percentage throughout the whole year. His save percentage went up to .924 in the post-season, as Edmonton got through the first round and pushed Anaheim to Game 7 of the second round.

“This is what you work your whole career towards,” Talbot said earlier last season. “I was working my butt off day in, day out, in New York, hoping to get this opportunity at some point behind (Henrik Lundqvist). And Edmonton, I was lucky enough (they gave) me an opportunity last year. You’ve just got to be ready for it when you get it. … I feel great doing it.”

Talbot just turned 30 years old in July. He has two years left on his three-year deal with an annual cap hit of $4.166 million.

Talbot will be eligible for unrestricted free agency at the completion of this contract, and his no-movement clause has only one year remaining before it transitions to a modified no-trade clause in the third year, according to CapFriendly.

The Oilers will soon have a more long-term decision to make with Talbot.

In the short term, his playing time will be a focus this upcoming season. Will McLellan once again rely heavily on Talbot to start in 70 or more games? Or will Laurent Brossoit make the leap as a capable back-up, trusted to take on increased playing time in order to keep the starter refreshed and healthy?

After years of disappointment — and previous first overall selections — the fortunes of this franchise took quite a turn when it won the lottery and the opportunity to select the dynamic phenom McDavid. Edmonton, with McDavid and the rise of Leon Draisaitl up front, Oscar Klefbom on defense and the arrival as an NHL starter in Talbot, took a big step last season.

It may be a tall order for Talbot to duplicate what he accomplished in 2016-17, but another solid season from their starting goaltender should solidify the Oilers as a serious contender in the West.

Related: Poll: Are the Oilers legitimate Stanley Cup contender?