Two nights ago, Jonas Hiller started in goal for the Calgary Flames. His goaltending partner, Karri Ramo, worked the face-off clipboard and did not play. At this point, Hiller has been firmly established as Calgary’s top netminder. Down on the farm, Joni Ortio has been playing well, though he is now out for several weeks with a high ankle sprain.
With several teams scrambling for goaltending help down the stretch, the Flames can do themselves a favour and corner the goaltending market by doing one simple thing.
They need to claim Ilya Bryzgalov off the waiver wire.
Let’s be honest here – it’s incredibly unlikely that Karri Ramo will be a Calgary Flames player after July 1. Joni Ortio has a one-way contract for next season and the likely tandem in the NHL is Ortio and Hiller, who both have had strong stretches up here.
Down on the farm, Joni Ortio has a high ankle sprain and is expected to be out for up to 8 weeks – or until the end of the AHL’s regular season. Ortio’s back-up/mentor, veteran Brad Thiessen, has done a solid job in net for the Baby Flames and while he’s not as flashy and showy as Ortio, he’s a capable goalie. If the Baby Flames need to go forward with him as their go-to guy until the bitter end, they have a pretty good shot. I’m not certain that anybody else the Flames could acquire next week would necessarily be an upgrade on Thiessen as an AHL starter.
However, that brings us to Karri Ramo. Jhonas Enroth – who granted is younger and has less of an injury history than Ramo – netted a third and Anders Lindback on the trade market. If Enroth, whose numbers are poor, gets a pick of some manner, surely Ramo can garner something worthwhile as well. There’s always a market for goaltenders that have shown they can steal games, as Ramo has.
But with Ortio out, any Ramo deal would have to necessarily be paired with a move bringing in a goaltender. At this point, Ilya Bryzgalov is found money. He’s a known quantity. He’s obviously still in demand considering two different NHL clubs have brought him in this season. At worst, he’s a replacement level goalie who’s a bit kooky in the locker room.
Will the Flames care about “replacement level”? Probably not, as Jonas Hiller will likely get the vast, vast majority of starts from here on out. Will they care about kooky? They might, but goalies are supposed to be kooky, and it could help keep things light as they approach the finish line.
Here’s my thought process:
- Hiller and Ortio are your goalies next season.
- Brad Thiessen could always come back next season to back up in Stockton and potentially mentor Jon Gillies as he turns pro.
- Karri Ramo is the odd man out, and it would make sense to continue the hockey circle of life by recouping an asset for him.
- With a goaltending plan in place seemingly for next season, all you need is a stop-gap measure. All you need is a body.
- Ilya Bryzgalov is a body. That you can get by merely filing the waiver fee. You are not going to get a better goaltender without spending an asset (likely a mid-round pick) to get one.
- Oh, and potentially claiming Bryzgalov will force teams in the market for a goaltender to focus more on Ramo than they would previously, when Bryzgalov was available.
Claiming Ilya Bryzgalov – it just makes sense.