46Mike Smith
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Does a Smith for Talbot trade make sense?

If it weren’t for the emergence of David “Big Save Dave” Rittich, the Calgary Flames would be in trouble. Mike Smith, the goalie tabbed with being the starter at the beginning of the year, has struggle mightily through the first quarter of the season, and hasn’t really shown any signs of bouncing back. Rittich might have been the backup to start the year, but right now, he has all but stolen the starting gig from Smith.

Outside of goaltending, the Flames are a team that looks to be one of the deepest and most complete in the NHL. The addition of Elias Lindholm has worked like a charm so far, Noah Hanifin is starting to become more comfortable on the backend, and despite a rough start for James Neal, the team as a whole is deep enough to let him ride out this cold streak without losing games.

Three hours up the QE2, the Oilers are faced with a similar goaltending situation. After a brilliant 2017 season, Cam Talbot took a step back in the Oilers’ crease last year. This year, the Oilers were hopeful for a bounce back campaign from Talbot, but he has fallen short of expectations yet again.

The Oilers have turned to Mikko Koskinen who they signed in the offseason out of the KHL. He’s outperforming Talbot right now, despite this being just his second stint in North America. The Oilers don’t have the depth the Flames do, however, and a recent stretch of poor play resulted in them firing their head coach.

The struggles of both Alberta teams’ starting goalies has prompted a flurry of rumours surrounding them, but the most interesting one involves both: should the Flames and Oilers execute a rare trade to swap underperforming starting netminders? There are pros and cons on both sides of the deal.

Why it makes sense for the Flames

Shipping out Smith makes sense for a variety of reasons. For one, he’s 36 years old, and it looks like Father Time has caught up with him. He isn’t on contract past this season so moving an expiring asset would be nice if the return is decent. The fanbase has clearly turned on Smith, and he will have to play a game for the Flames sooner or later.

Rittich isn’t going to play the remaining 60 games, and when Smith does make his return to the crease, it’s not very likely that people will be pleased, regardless of the situation. The Flames will need Smith to get going at some point if they want to give themselves the best shot at continued success; it’s a necessary deed that will come eventually.

Beyond his on-ice play, there have been unsubstantiated rumours of confrontations between Smith and his teammates regarding his poor play, specifically with Neal. If that’s true, it’s possible that Smith is losing popularity in the dressing room too, and would benefit from a change of scenery.

Acquiring Talbot would not fix the fact that the Flames have no legitimate NHL goalie options next season, as he is also a pending UFA. However, Talbot is only 31 years old and has a higher chance of bouncing back with a set of capable defensemen in front of him. He did have a great year in 2017, and if the Flames think he can get back to that form, he would definitely be an upgrade on Smith.

Why it makes sense for the Oilers

One thing that Smith is known for is his compete level. He’s been identified as one of the hardest working goaltenders in the league and his work ethic is something the Oilers desperately need. Smith isn’t afraid to be his wild self at all times and a personality like his could help address the resiliency issues the Oilers are facing.

He might be on the older side, but Smith was an all-star last season and was one of the Flames’ MVPs in the first half. His season was derailed by an injury but if he can replicate last year’s first half, the Oilers would love it.

The most recognizable part of Smith’s game is his puck handling. Without a talented defense corps and lacking puck-moving defenders, Smith’s ability to break up dump-ins and help his defense get the puck out of their zone could go a long way in bridging the gap between the talent level of the Oilers’ forwards and their defense.

Losing Talbot would probably not be too popular with the Oilers fanbase, but he hasn’t really proven he can be a consistent NHL starter. His 2017 campaign was great, yes, but outside of that one year, he hasn’t held his own with a starter’s workload.

Koskinen on the other hand has handled starting duties in the KHL for years, including four consecutive postseasons where he played at least 15 games. He’s been the better goalie this year, and at this point, could very likely be a better NHL starter than Talbot. Still, Talbot will become a UFA in the offseason, at which point the Oilers could re-sign him if they really wanted to.

Why it probably won’t happen

In the end though, this trade doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Talbot clearly has more upside than Smith because of his age, and it would be unwise for any GM to even think about trading for Smith after his disastrous start. There is a much higher chance that Talbot can find his game than Smith can, and it just doesn’t make sense to add such a big question mark to a team that could cost many people their jobs if they don’t make the playoffs. Brad Treliving would probably make this trade in a heartbeat, but Peter Chiarelli wouldn’t, and that’s saying something.

If the Flames are looking to add another NHL goalie to their roster, they won’t find him in Edmonton.

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      I thought it was fascinating. Particularly the part about Smith and the dressing room. He did seem to have words with Neal during a stoppage in play a couple of games ago…

  • Jessemadnote

    Next article: Should we eat pie for a main course and turkey for dessert? Why it makes sense for the pie, why it makes sense for the turkey, why it probably won’t happen.

  • Off the wall

    “Confrontations between Smith and his teammates regarding his poor play, specifically with Neal.”

    Neal calling out Smith? So let’s see, Neal has 4 points, doesn’t skate well, is lethargic and definitely doesn’t embody a competitive spirit, that I’ve seen.
    But he feels compelled to call out Smith?

    At least Smith has a fiery competitiveness to him. Not to mention how well he played up until his injury last season.

    What has Neal done?

    • Off the wall

      If Neal can’t get his crap together, move him. I don’t care if it’s in Stockton. Especially after reading this.
      We don’t need a mouth, let him go South..

      • Alan Trammel

        The situation being referenced was after a game where Smith played poorly (which one right?) and yet he was trying to pass the buck and calling out some of his defencemen in the dressing room. To which Neal responded “make a ****ing save!”.
        Personally I like that Neal didnt hesitate to call Smith out his lame attempt to pass the blame.
        Even despite Neal’s own struggles. Neal not scoring isnt costing the team wins, Smith not saving was.

        • everton fc

          Neal should be the last player calling anyone out for poor play. That bothers me. He better start proving he’s worth at least half his annual cap hit, or I’d be on board w/punting him to another team.

          • kirby

            Management gave him that contract then coaches put him on the 3rd line every night. He’s made a career as one of the most consistent 5 on 5 finishing wingers in the game. So obviously he’s not going to finishing as many plays on set ups when he’s not being put in that position in the first place.

            I agree, definitely need to see more out of him, but he also needs to be given a better chance to do what’s he’s consistently done in his career. We’re treating him like a guy who’s supposed to create his own offense when that’s never really been how he was utilized anywhere else.

        • Off the wall

          Fair enough Alan. Context is everything.

          I don’t consider Neal a leader. He might have that opinion of himself, which to me, seems absurd. He is costing us points- it’s just that the rest of the team makes up for his deficiencies.

          Smith is a lone Island. It’s pretty Easy to target a goalie.

          Neal is one of 22 players on this team. Pretty easy to hide his work amongst that.

          Take him out if the lineup and I betcha we wouldn’t even miss him.

          • kirby

            Don’t consider Neal a “leader” but i also don’t consider Smith a “leader” either. And if Smith is making more unforced errors than anyone on the team, while at the same time trying to call THEM out or tell them how to do their jobs, then i’d hope ANY player would respond to him the way Neal did. Regardless of who that player is, how long he’s been here, how many goals he’s scored, whatever. That’s a fair response in that situation whether you’re a “leader” or not.

          • Off the wall

            I honestly don’t know what was said, so it’s basically conjecture on our part, unless there’s more proof.
            Apparently, there has been more than one occasion where Neal has been outspoken with Smith.

            What we hear, may just be the tip of the iceberg. It doesn’t bode well for the locker room though does it?

            In my mind Neal should just put up or shut up.
            Same with Smith.

          • everton fc

            The Vegas beat reporter interviewed last week on THE FAN, said the same – he know Neal for some time, and never consider him a leader, and that Neal took on that role in Vegas, so he wouldn’t get traded.

            My understanding has been that Smith was, indeed, a leader, with the Coyotes. And respected.

          • Justeen Trudope

            How is Neal costing the team points? He’s not out there lighting the lamp but it’s 20 games into the season. I think it’s only fair to wait until the end of the first season to make such drastic claims. He has not done anything in his career so far that makes me think he will not turn it on. The great thing is the flames don’t need to count on him right now

      • kirby

        Kind of like last year when Smith called out the teams lack of effort when he was in the middle of playing like garbage himself.

        I wonder how many guys in that room actually like or trust him, especially after seeing how they play / interact with Rittich when he’s in the game.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      This rumour seems strange since I heard that Smith was instrumental in getting Neal to sign in Calgary. Having said that both Neal and Smith look like the could push peoples buttons.

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      I found that funny as well… “Hi Kettle, this is Pot – you’re black”.
      Neal is Calgary’s version of Lucic, but without the menace. At least the Flames are winning their games, even with passengers/dead weight.

  • Sven

    Sweet Jesus no

    Never, ever , ever have anything to do with north Red Deer-

    but what a beautiful collection of words:

    “Outside of goaltending, the Flames are a team that looks to be one of the deepest and most complete in the NHL.”

    The consensus power ranking are delayed by Thanksgiving but-
    given the Flames 8 wins in the last 11 games they should be a solid top ten side

    and its nice to see that they already have wins over six of the other nine teams likely to join them in the top 10

    (Nashville, Boston, Toronto, Winnipeg, Buffalo and Colorado)

    and they have yet to play the other three…….
    (Tampa , Minnesota and Columbus)

    Green grass and high tides

      • Fat Tony

        Yes I Know that. I’m basing this on the assumption that he will be healthy before the spring. The flames are clearly going with a youth movement on defense and probably wont receive any offers on a guy that has been benched and has a cap hit of over 3 mil

  • PasstheDube

    I’d make that trade. I don’t think the Oilers will though. I have far more confidence in Talbot turning it around than I do Smith. I think in order for this to work the Flames would have to give up a pick or prospect. Considering the current crop of prospects and that the draft seems to be getting deeper every year that could be a decision that haunts this team for years

  • Pete_R

    Ignoring the obvious reasons why it wouldn’t happen, Talbot has always been an inconsistent goalie. Every other year is a bounce back year for him. That isn’t going to change as he gets into his mid-30s.

    • everton fc

      Thing is, seems Johnny G and Neal are pretty tight, socially. I read that somewhere. Need to track it down. Not an issue we need. But I bet Peters won’t tolerate much crap – maybe why Neal has been warming the bench, of late…?

  • Jimmyhaggis

    I hate rumors, what are the facts, circumstances, no one should comment unless you know what was said.
    As far as Neil, I’m kind of surprised at his play so far this season. Definitely not the guy who played with Vegas last year. Who can explain it?

  • Sven

    I keep going back to this

    When the consensus NHL rankings come out next week the top 10 will look something like this:

    1 Nashville
    2 Tampa
    3 Toronto
    4 Buffalo
    5 Minnesota
    6 Calgary
    7 Winnipeg
    8 Columbus
    9 Colorado
    10 Boston

    of the top 10 teams not named “Calgary Flames” we have played six

    and we have beaten all six

  • The GREAT JP

    All I can take away from this article is a big what is the point of this article. First of all it will never happen, second is it would never happen and third why was this even written. It also poses a question to myself, why did I even comment on this useless article.

  • FlamesFan27

    Why would Edmonton ever make that trade? Calgary would have to include something else. Talbot’s age at least gives him a chance of recovering his career. Smith is done.

  • Spider you muda&@#ker

    If people are saying Edmonton wouldnt trade Talbot for Smith what does that say about this fan base and the medias feelings about Smith because the last time I checked Talbot has been absolute dog shirt for two straight seasons but people would still rather have him then Smith! I’ve been down on Smiths year aswell but Im hoping like hell he turns his game around even if he has to play second fiddle to Rittich because two goalies are a hell of alot better then one just ask Pittsburgh

    • Getpucksdeep

      Couldn’t agree more. Early in the season I said we needed to develop our own goalie from amoung the 3 young prospects we have. Lo and behold Rittich is developing well. Very well. We still need the veteran Smith to play 1 out of 4 games. Remember we all agreed the starter should play 55 or so and the back up the rest. It applies to Rittich as well, even if he has taken over the starters role.