FN Weekend Open Thread: The Flames Back-up conundrum



Leland Irving remains unsigned and the whsipers here in Calgary are that the negotiations remain contentious. Rich Winter is Irving’s agent – the same agent for Mark Giordano when he fled the Flames in the face of Sutter’s insistence he accept a two-way deal. Winter also has a high regard for his client, so there’s little doubt the Flames are dealing with a flight risk here.

Should Irving depart for greener pastures, the club will be facing by now what is a familiar issue: lack of a quality back-up goalie (although there is no guarantee Irving himself would have filled the role admirably either). It was clear by the end of the season that the Flames had little confidence in Henrik Karlsson, whom I expect will end up in Abbotsford or back in Europe for the final year of his deal.

The problem has haunted Calgary since Roman Turek took his ball and went home. It’s becoming a much more pressing issue at this point, however: Kipper turn 36 in October and has just two seasons left on his deal. Meaning, at this point the team should be looking not just for a guy who can spell Kiprusoff off every five games or so, but also someone who can meaningfully audition for the starting position as the incumbent ages and reaches the end of what could be his retirement contract.

The list of UFA goalies this summer is, er, modest. If Irving leaves and the Flames don’t trust Karlsson, their options are fairly limited – they could go with a mediocre, career back-up type like Ty Conklin or Brent Johnson, which would be a band-aid at best. Enticing Karri Ramo to break his KHL deal and come back to the NHL is starting to look like a last dtich option as well, although then you’re depending on him to break a contract and probably take less money to be a 20-game goalie here in North America.

An Irving Replacement?

Calgary could also investigate a potential swap for Jonathan Bernier, who has asked for a trade this summer in the wake of Jonathan Quick’s recent 10-year deal. Bernier hasn’t done much at the NHL level yet, but is a former 11th overall pick who mostly tore up the AHL during his time there. In 2009-10, he finished with a .936 SV% and was named the AHL’s outstanding goalie of the year.

JB was drafted the same year as Irving, is the same age, but has a better resume. He was previously considered the goalie of the future for the Kings organization but has since been rendered redundant thanks to Quick’s unlikely emergence as an elite puck stopper. I’m not sure what LA would want in return for Bernier, because his pedigree is good but his accomplishments in the NHL are minimal –  doubt the asking price would be excssive, however.

If the Flames can’t get Irving in the fold, they have a sudden, very real gap in their organization between the current starter and the rest of the organizational depth (Ortio, Brossoit, Gillies are many years away), the Ramo wild card notwithstanding. The acquisition of Bernier would replace the (potentially) departed Irving and give the club a young back-up would is a decent bet to develop into a capable starter in short order.

So what say you Flames fans? If Irving leaves, what should the Flames do about the back-up role?

  • KleptoKlown

    For all the chatter about Irving + not a 1st rounder for Bernier, try and look at it from the Kings perspective.

    Irving is a lesser version of Bernier. Irving is young, and is going to want a chance at being a #1. There is no chance of that happening in LA, so why would the Kings trade for him?

    As it has been stated on here, there are always veteran backups available. No guarantee the Kings even want another goalie in return for Bernier. They can sign a veteran backup just as easily as any other team.

    Dean Lombardi is in no rush to trade Bernier. Bernier may be in a rush to leave LA, but he has another year on his contract. The ball is in Lombardi’s court. If he doesn’t get an offer he likes, he doesn’t make the trade.

    It’s a sellers market. Your nickle and dime offers won’t cut it.

  • KleptoKlown

    @Kleptoklown: Now take a deep breath, exhale & pushe real hard & get that turd out & you’ll feel much better. A little sensitive on your guys pick, hey we get it from many on ours. Especially our 1st rounder this year. I agree with pretty well most of what you said, no one here says we are rocket scientists at drafting, in fact we have sucked for some time. You just seem to take a comment on a Flames site a little too personal. If you are going to be like that I suggest you keep to sticking to the Canucks sites & you can be happy again. Yes you are right. Irving doesnt have a lot of value & wont have until we actually let him play games & establish his own market value. I really havent agreed how we have handled this kid but the problem seems we are so desperate to win games every year from being a bubble team, we wind up playing Kipper way too much. Its a real catch 22 scenario. Flip side is, you pay a goalie some outlandish contract & you lose faith in him, play another guy enough to establish himself & create huge value to the point you dont want to trade him. You then try to trade a goalie you lost faith in & nobody wants the contract. Seeing you have some pretty good experience with that scenario, which problem would you prefer, the Flames or the latter?

    • KleptoKlown

      I am sorry if you consider a barrage of facts in the same context as a difficult bowl movement.

      I do however understand you equating the Flames and turds.

      Am I sensitive? Do I take this personally? No.

      Do I have a low tolerance for B.S? Yes.
      People like @Baalzamon who make unfounded statements like that tend to get called out on there B.S

      Stick to Canuck sites? We haven’t won since there was no NHL and the team was called the Millionaires. That’s approching 100 years…despite our optimism, there is no happiness in Canucksville…although to me, a 23 year drought isn’t exactly a “bragging right”. 23 years ago the New Kids on the Block had a #1 hit(yeah I googled it)

      Now on to your flip side…No one (with a clear mind) has really lost faith in Luongo here in Canucksville. If the Canucks backups the last 2 years were Irving and Karlsson, Luongo would be the #1 and no trade offers would be considered.

      Cory Schneider has played better than expected. When Luongo signed that “outlandish” contract (which no less than 3 teams publicly declared interest in acquiring…) it was assumed that he would be a Canuck until the end of his career. Cory Schneider would be showcased and traded for the best possible deal. Then, the unexpected happened. Schneider outplayed Luongo.

      No doubt Lu won’t be traded for his full value (same as Kipper when he is eventually traded…) because other teams know there is no more room for a top 10(at worst) NHL goalie within the Canucks roster…

      Yeah, Canucks have a top 10 goalie that just doesn’t fit…it sure is difficult being a fan these days…

      So you asked, the Flames or the latter? The Flames or the Canucks.

      Well the present is obviously in the Canucks favour, by at least 20 points in the overall standing. The future may have a few questionmarks for the Canucks, but for the Flames? Pretty clear it’s par for the course.

      • KleptoKlown

        “…who make unfounded statements like that tend to get called out on there B.S…”

        I wasn’t going to say anything to you, but this statement made me laugh. It’s funny you should talk about unfounded statements when you yourself assumed I didn’t like Brendan Gaunce simply because he was drafted by the Canucks.

        FYI, I was simply poking a little (a VERY little, mind) fun at a prospect who I happen to think is overrated. Is it BS to say it’s better to spend a 1st round pick on a potential starting goalie who already has several years of pro experience in NA than on a potential 3rd line center? (Okay, I’ll be judicious and say 2nd line center).

        moreover, I don’t recall Kevin R mentioning anything at all about the Stanley Cup, or the Canucks not having one. Not a thing. Maybe you should try reading too.. I hear it’s helpful.

  • Franko J

    I know it is premature to speculate about the upcoming season, but IMO Flames should let Ramo complete his contract and let Irving go to Europe because with another impending strike imminent by the NHL and the players
    there might be other opportunities available next summer.

    In the meantime, it seems that Flames management again lack a viable contingency plan in place when it comes to the team. In hindsight, the management knew that Karlssen was no longer an option, and Irving was going to be an RFA, although they have drafted goalies in past 2 years, none are ready to step in and the farm doesn’t leave any options either. This is why this team is in a condumdrum they are in. Can’t wait for the Iginla chronicles to begin. Let see what spin Feaster gives the media and fans now.

  • Franko J

    I think trading a goalie is more complicated than a forward or defenseman. To many GM’s even ones who are former goalies, there is plenty of unpredictability when it comes to goaltenders. Unlike forwards and defensemen, goalies often take longer to develop and mostly have a different timetable to mature from a prospect to a bonafide NHLer. Most of the time I find a goalie has a shorter window of opportunity to be successful and shine, because of the develop curve. When you have goalies who win the cup like Quick and Fleury have before the age of 30, it changes the mindset of most GM’s. Since the last lockout IMO I find more GM’s value youth over experience.

    For instance, if Luongo had only 2 years instead of 10 years
    left on his contract there would be more teams interested and involved. When you have two goalies such as the case with the Canucks who have two good goalies, I think Mike Gillis probably is fielding more calls on Schneider rather than Luongo. Not just because of contract, but it is the argument of youth versus experience.

  • I would not trade any first round pick for Bernier. You keep the picks, and keep building the team from the draft. Hopefully next year Ramo can be had, but if not, maybe Karlsson will step up and play better. I’m not sold on Irvings AHL #’s so I don’t care what happens to him. I’d sooner run with Ortio in behind Kipper and in two years he or the goalie we drafted this year may be ready…or Broissois.