Some minor news out of Flamesland today. First, the club announced the re-signing of RFA Leland Irving to a one-year, two-way deal worth $600,000. Second,, Former first rounder Matt Pelech was signed by the San Jose Sharks to a similar one year, two-way $550,000 contract.
Last season was the first time Irving stood as the starter for the majority of the season in his pro career. He played 61 games, winning 30 with a save percentage of .913. Oddly, the Flames article says his save rate was the 10th best in the league last year, but the truth is there were 17 better goalies by this metric. Some of them had the same measure, but even if you count them as ties, Irving lands at 13th overall.
While the youngster took a moderate step forward last year, my hopes that Irving will be anything more than a back-up at the NHL level have begun to fade. Seven of the puck stoppers with better save percentages than Irving last season were rookies. Marginal NHL back-ups like Curtis Sanford (.930) and Michael Leighton (.926) were far superior. A .913 SV% in the NHL is mediocre, let alone in the AHL. Irving’s save rate has been surprisingly stable as a professional (hovering between .913 and .905) which is eminently replaceable goaltending. Unless he starts to saves pucks at a far greater rate, Irving will join the ever growing ranks of Flames first round busts.
I think the organization shares my skepticism based on the nominal contract offered. Irving’s ELC averaged about $1.2M in terms of NHL salary per year. His new deal cuts that neatly in half and is only for a single year. The 23-year old likely has this season to prove he’s more than a merely competent AHL goalie, otherwise the team will move on.
Speaking of which, I am somewhat surprised to see Matt Pelech land an NHL contract (albeit a two-way deal). He was previously available to the league for free via waivers and no one bit. His lack of progression over the years and his seemingly unending list of serious injuries suggests a future limited to the AHL, Europe, or early retirement but it looks like the Sharks are going with the low-risk, low-reward path – at least for one year. Pelech is probably a guy who can step in as a 6th or 7th defender in a pinch, so look for him to play that role for San Jose. Some many wonder why the Flames themselves didn’t go this route with a homegrown prospect, but the truth is the organization is swimming with similar players: Brett Carson, Brendan Mikkelson, TJ Brodie, Chris Breen. There really was no pressing need to keep Pelech around for a role that already has ample competition.