January 16 2012 04:49PM
The deal that sent Rene Bourque, Patrick Holland and a 2nd pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft to the Habs has already been called the ‘Cammie deal’. It looks like it may have something else in store for the Flames, though.
Along with Cammalleri they got a 5th round pick in the 2012 NHL draft and a potential steal in a Finnish netminder Karri Ramo. The 25-year-old native of Asikkala, Finland has played last 3 seasons in the KHL for Avangard Omsk. The mere fact that Ramo was invited to play at the KHL All-Star games in 2009/10 and 2010/11 perfectly speaks for his performance in Russia. He is considered to be one of the top goalies in the league while Avangard is always among those who are projected to win the championship.
At 6’3 and 207 pounds, Ramo is excellent butterfly goalie who positions himself well and has no problem with playing under pressure. Omsk fans are about as tough on their players as Canadian fans – it is a truly hockey obsessed town. In two and half seasons in the KHL, Ramo’s average SV% is 92.1% and his GAA is 2.04.
It should also be mentioned he improved his rebound control with every passing season. It is fair to say that he is a complete goalie now of an NHL caliber, which is something the Flames’ GM Jay Feaster appears to be aware of.
“Karri Ramo provides us with greater depth at a critical position,” said Feaster to NHL.com.
“Ramo has NHL experience and is one of the top goaltenders in Europe. His work ethic and dedication are first rate, and he is just starting to enter the prime of his career. We believe he has the tools and mental make-up necessary to be a number one goaltender in the NHL, and are pleased to add him to our organization.”
Ramo’s ability to play in the NHL doesn’t seem to be in question. Rather, it’s his desire to come across the pond again that is vague. It has been reported the Habs wanted to sign Ramo last May, but he preferred to ink a 2-year deal with Avangard. His salary in Omsk is not open to the public, but it is widely known that Avangard is quite generous with its the players. After all, they managed to keep Jaromir Jagr for 4 seasons. The rumors suggest back in his days with Avangard Jagr was the highest paid player in the world.
Avangard is currently 5th in its conference, but with over 10 games left to play in the regular season has a legit chance to land as high as 2nd. Ramo is tied for the first place in the league with Dinamo Riga’s Chris Holt in shutouts – both have 5. Karri is also 7th in the league with .927 SVS% and 4th with 1.94 GAA. Despite these excellent stats, he was not invited to play at the upcoming KHL All-Star Game.
Technically speaking, Avangard can offer Ramo more benefits than the Flames. In Omsk, he’s a solid #1 goalie with a decent pay-cheque, his head-coach is a fellow Finn, not to mention the fact he has more opportunities to get the nod to play for Team Finland at the Eurohockeytour and World Championship, which European players cherish a lot. Plus, his homeland is closer to Omsk than to North America and he’s got a team to run – Karri Ramo is a GM of Peliitat that plays in Mestis (Finnish 2nd tier league).
Nevertheless, he seems to be pretty pleased with the deal. “Again in nizhny-novgorod when my NHL rights gets traded. Hello Calgary!” said Ramo on twitter the next day after deal (original spelling is preserved in this quote). “And it would be awesome to play with Kiprusoff! But right now my full focus is with avangard omsk for this and next year! Its great feeling to be part of great organization in NHL and I wish I someday have a change to play for flames.”
Ramo’s agent Todd Diamond had something more pleasing for the Flames’ fans. “His desire is entirely to return to the NHL,” said Diamond to the Winnipeg Sun.
“He’s very excited about the trade. We never had any dialogue with Montreal because he knew the situation with Carey Price and that he wouldn’t get a shot there. It made his decision to sign a two-year deal with Omsk easy last summer.”
It seems unlikely that Ramo will risk it all to fight for a spot on the Flames’ roster in the next 2 years. The question is – should Calgary fans be disappointed? Not quite. Miikka Kiprusoff is signed until the end of 2013/14 season. Plus the Flames have Henrik Karlsson and Leland Irving to back him up. If Ramo’s still good enough by the end of the next season, he'll only be 27 and can battle for the starting position with the Flames.