The Ottawa Senators will start the regular season without netminder Cam Talbot, who will miss the next five-to-seven weeks with an upper-body injury. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the 35-year-old fractured a rib earlier in training camp but played through the pain until Thursday (Sept. 29) when the injury was aggravated further.
On Friday, head coach D.J. Smith said the situation was “nothing serious” and hinted that Talbot would still have been on the ice if the issue cropped up during the season. However, on Monday, the Senators announced that their recently acquired netminder would miss the start of the campaign. With a gap to fill in net, general manager Pierre Dorion claimed Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken.
Cam Talbot Injury Casts Shadow Over Senators’ Offseason
Talbot was the centrepiece in a flurry of summer moves for Dorion, as Matt Murray was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs, while Fillip Gustavsson was sent to the Minnesota Wild.
The Senators planned on entering the season with Talbot topping the goalie depth chart. Anton Forsberg was pencilled in as second-in-command, with prospects Mads Søgaard and Kevin Mandolese representing the Belleville Senators.
Talbot’s injury casts a shadow over what has been an uplifting summer in Ottawa, as he was acquired to be a steady, veteran presence between the pipes. Now, his influence will be limited to the press box.
Talbot, who is in the final season of a three-year, $11 million contract, upheld a 2.76 goals-against average (GAA) and .911 save percentage (SV%) in 2021-22. He also finished the campaign with a 32-12-4 record. With that said, Forsberg has produced similar results to his injured partner over the past two regular seasons despite playing behind a weaker defence corps:
|Appearances (Record)||Save Percentage||Goals-Against Average||Goals Saved Above Expected (Per Game)|
|Anton Forsberg||54 (25-21-5)||.916||2.88||14.5 (0.29)|
|Cam Talbot||82 (51-20-9)||.913||2.71||13.3 (0.16)|
Forsberg was also a breath of fresh air last season, as he seized control of the crease at a difficult moment for the Senators and played a crucial role in their improved form. But there’s a reason why Dorion pursued a new starter in the summer: the franchise wasn’t comfortable with the Swede as their lead figure between the pipes.
Ottawa has aspirations of playing “meaningful hockey” in the spring. They’re under pressure to start the season on the right foot and Talbot’s injury could unsettle those plans. Even without considering the wider picture, he is a major loss for the team.
Senators Claim Netminder Magnus Hellberg
Hellberg will provide the Senators with depth while Talbot is confined to the treatment room. He was picked in the second round of the 2011 NHL Draft by the Nashville Predators but has spent most of his career in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).
The 31-year-old’s numbers from a five-season career in Europe have been average. He recorded a career-high .940 SV% with SKA St. Petersburg in 2018-19, departing with 169 KHL appearances on his résumé. He was also a consistent performer for Team Sweden and has upheld a .935 SV% in seven appearances at the Men’s World Championships.
However, the Uppsala-born goalie only has five NHL appearances to his name and split last season between HK Sochi and the Detroit Red Wings. He finished the season with a 13-20-4 KHL record, .917 SV%, and 2.42 GAA.
Hellberg, then, is insurance for the Senators. He is experienced at the professional level and will act as a buffer between Forsberg and Søgaard, the team’s top goalie prospect. But what does this mean for Forsberg?
Senators’ Anton Forsberg Faces Daunting Workload
Forsberg will be expected to carry the load to start the season. Talbot’s injury could keep him out until early November, at which point the Senators will be more than a dozen games into the campaign.
Ottawa Senators: 2022-23 Schedule – First 17 Games
- @ Buffalo Sabres, Oct. 13
- @ Toronto Maple Leafs. Oct. 15
- vs. Boston Bruins, Oct. 18
- vs. Washington Capitals, Oct. 20
- vs. Arizona Coyotes, Oct. 22
- vs. Dallas Stars, Oct. 24
- vs. Minnesota Wild, Oct. 27
- @ Florida Panthers, Oct. 29
- @ Tampa Bay Lightning, Nov. 1
- vs. Vegas Golden Knights, Nov. 3
- vs. Philadelphia Flyers, Nov. 5
- vs. Vancouver Canucks, Nov. 8
- @ New Jersey Devils, Nov. 10
- @ Philadelphia Flyers, Nov. 12
- ** Talbot’s potential return **
- vs. New York Islander, Nov. 14
- vs. Buffalo Sabres, Nov. 16
- vs. New Jersey Devils, Nov. 19
There is a small silver lining, though. The Senators aren’t scheduled to play any back-to-backs until the first week of December, which could allow Forsberg to play every game until Talbot’s return.
But that idea comes with a significant downside of its own: it would involve throwing Forsberg’s load management out the window, increasing his injury risk in the process. For a franchise aiming to move up the standings, the Senators find themselves in a difficult situation before the season has even started.
Senators’ Preseason: What Next?
The Senators have three preseason games left to play, all of them against the Montreal Canadiens. They must use these final days to integrate Hellberg and shore up their plans in net. Ahead of a difficult year in the Atlantic Division, Smith’s team can’t afford to start slowly.
Luke is an award-winning freelance sports journalist from London, England. In addition to his work on the Washington Capitals and Ottawa Senators for THW, he covers the Elite Ice Hockey League for British Ice Hockey and world soccer for numerous publications, including on Substack. To stay up to date with his content, follow @LukeJames_32 on Twitter.