What are the chances Joni Ortio can clear waivers?

The Flames’ goaltending was thrown for a bit of a loop when, about an hour before free agency opened, Karri Ramo re-signed with Calgary for a one-year deal. The duo of Jonas Hiller and Joni Ortio suddenly became a trio, just as it had been in the 2014-15 season.

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Let’s say nothing else changes between now and the start of the season. Let’s say the Flames try to find a buyer for Hiller, but ultimately end up keeping him. Let’s say Ortio – in his youth and lack of NHL experience – fails to beat both Hiller and Ramo for a spot on the roster.

Let’s say Ortio has to go through waivers.

Does he clear?

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Early sneak-in

Prior to the 2014-15 season getting underway, Ortio was one of the very last training camp cuts. It was expected, but he was the team’s top goalie prospect, already with some NHL experience under his belt, and there was no harm in keeping him in the main camp a little longer.

If the Flames end up having to waive Ortio, that’s not going to happen again, because that’s when he’s most likely to be claimed. Teams will be approaching a finalized roster by that point, and if they’re unhappy with their goaltending situation and a young, potentially NHL-ready goalie shows up for free? They’re going to take him.

Is that fair to Ortio, who then, presumably, won’t get the chance to earn a spot in camp? Not at all. Is it what might be necessary to keep him within the Flames organization? Yes. Players sneak past waivers in the early goings of camps all the time, because other teams are busy trying to evaluate the prospects they already have.

If you claim a guy off of waivers, you can’t waive him yourself. He has to stick on the NHL roster. That could make Ortio a risky pickup for any other team… unless they’re desperate.

Does anyone have good reason to be?

Completely set in net

Most NHL teams at this time – including the Flames – already have a very clear picture of just who their starters and backups are going to be. Any team in this situation isn’t about to pick up a rookie goalie and hand him a free spot unless something absolutely disastrous happens, such as injuries, trades, or a case of horrifyingly bad GMing.

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The following teams, as they currently stand, know just who they’re heading into the 2015-16 with between the pipes:

  • Anaheim Ducks: Anton Khudobin, Frederik Andersen, John Gibson
  • Carolina Hurricanes: Cam Ward, Eddie Lack
  • Chicago Blackhawks: Corey Crawford, Scott Darling
  • Dallas Stars: Kari Lehtonen, Antti Niemi
  • Detroit Red Wings: Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek
  • Los Angeles Kings: Jonathan Quick, Jhonas Enroth
  • Minnesota Wild: Devan Dubnyk, Darcy Kuemper, (Niklas Backstrom?)
  • New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist, Antti Raanta
  • Ottawa Senators: Craig Anderson, Andrew Hammond
  • Philadelphia Flyers: Steve Mason, Michal Neuvirth
  • San Jose Sharks: Martin Jones, Alex Stalock
  • St. Louis Blues: Brian Elliott, Jake Allen
  • Tampa Bay Lightning: Ben Bishop, Andrei Vasilevskiy
  • Toronto Maple Leafs: Jonathan Bernier, James Reimer
  • Winnipeg Jets: Ondrej Pavelec, Michael Hutchinson

That immediately takes away 15 of a potential 29 teams that could claim Ortio.

Battle for the backup spot

Even with 14 teams left who could potentially claim Ortio off of waivers, many of them still aren’t likely at all. Most of these teams already know who their starter is, and while there may be some questions surrounding the backup spot, all of these teams already have the players in their systems to battle it out.

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Look at it this way: every year, we get it forced down our throats that the Flames are all about earning spots, not giving them away for free. There’s no way they’re the only team with this philosophy. That means the chances of a team, already with goalie prospects, essentially telling them that the battle is over because they just picked up this kid on waivers in favour of them aren’t very high.

The following teams, as they currently stand, are good bets to fill their two goalie spots with players already in their organizations:

  • Boston Bruins: Tuukka Rask, Zane McIntyre, Malcolm Subban
  • Colorado Avalanche: Semyon Varlamov, Reto Berra, Calvin Pickard
  • Edmonton Oilers: Ben Scrivens, Cam Talbot, Anders Nilsson
  • Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price, Dustin Tokarski, Zachary Fucale
  • Nashville Predators: Pekka Rinne, Carter Hutton, Juuse Saros
  • New Jersey Devils: Cory Schneider, Keith Kinkaid, Scott Wedgewood
  • New York Islanders: Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Greiss, Kevin Poulin
  • Washington Capitals: Braden Holtby, Justin Peters, Philipp Grubauer

In each of these teams, the cupboard seems not only full, but there are already internal battles taking place that Ortio’s presence would disrupt. That’s another eight teams off the list, leaving just six possibilities.

(Note: I don’t include Saros as a potential backup for next season, but I do include him because why would the Predators go after Ortio when they already have their own young, promising Finn?)

Some questions remain

This all just leaves us with a handful of teams left, and ones that are more likely to claim a goalie off of waivers. They already have two goalies available to them, but are maybe ti on prospects, and their pencilled in backups are aging and they may prefer to take a flyer on someone else for free.

The following teams, as they currently stand, would have more use for picking up Ortio than the others:

  • Arizona Coyotes: Mike Smith, Anders Lindback
  • Buffalo Sabres: Robin Lehner, Chad Johnson, Linus Ullmark, Nathan Lieuwen
  • Columbus Blue Jackets: Sergei Bobrovksy, Curtis McElhinney
  • Florida Panthers: Roberto Luongo, Al Montoya
  • Pittsburgh Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury, Jeff Zatkoff
  • Vancouver Canucks: Ryan Miller, Jacob Markstrom

The Coyotes, Jackets, and Canucks only just signed their projected backup goalies for this season. While their two goalies do look rather clear, they’re also all older guys – with the exception of Markstrom, but who even knows why Vancouver does what it does with their goalies – and simply picking up Ortio to immediately improve the prospect pool can be tempting.

As for Florida, it’s entirely possible the Panthers want a younger, cheaper potential guy. Even though Luongo’s contract goes on until the end of time, he’s also getting older, and while they do have some goalie prospects in the pipe, Ortio may be more NHL-ready than they are.

The Penguins let Greiss go, don’t really have any NHL-ready prospects, and at 28, Zatkoff is a bit older and doesn’t exactly show a lot of potential for a future in the NHL.

Then, there’s the general mess that the Sabres are trying to dig their way out of. They got who they see as their future starter in Lehner, and it remains to be seen if Johnson will be able to replicate the numbers he put up in Boston. Furthermore, it’s a team still on the rebuild, and a young, potentially NHL-ready goalie could be really, really enticing to them. They don’t have any steady veterans to backup Lehner should he stumble, but we aren’t talking about a team that’s going to immediately compete, here.

Ultimately, should Ortio be sent through waivers early enough, all these teams could still be too busy looking at their intended backups and potential camp battles to pay him attention. If nothing changes over the summer, then hopefully that’s the case, because losing one of your promising prospects because you couldn’t find a suitor for your older – but still perfectly serviceable – guy would suck.

  • Burnward

    I thought there was a work around in this?

    I seem to remember reading that they can send him down before waivers kick in…and re-entry waivers no longer apply.

    Is that wrong?

    • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

      I also read that Ortio is not subject to re-entry waivers.
      This means he can be sent to Stockton prior to 12 days before the season starts and not be subject to waivers at all. This means that they can send him down and then call him up when either Ramo or Hiller get traded or injured.

        • Greg

          I remember seeing comments about this in some threads here, but never anyone replying who had actually verified it. So as far as I know, that’s not the case and he would have to clear waivers regardless of when (if) he’s assigned to Stockton.

          I’d say it’s a 50/50 proposition he’ll clear so let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. I’d bet the flames carry 3 goalies until a trade can be arranged, or it becomes clear 1 of the 3 would clear waivers (and that won’t necessarily be Ortio).

  • CofRed4Life

    It’s impossible to see into the future, but even though most of the teams, according to your analysis (which is well done, by the way), have everything set, what about season ending injuries? Think about why we picked up Schlemko on waivers. Gio went down and we didn’t have the means to fill the hole left by him.

    There are a lot of unknowns in every season, and I would worry a lot about Ortio being on waivers. The possibility of him being snatched up at any moment is frightening. I hope management can move on one of our goalies before the beginning of the season, or this could be a sore spot of regret.

  • CofRed4Life

    It has to be summer and a shortage of credible hockey topics…..what a ridiculous suggestion of even considering sending Ortio down. This kid has already proven he can play. In fact in his limited time playing with the Flames he has shown more ‘consistency’ that Hiller or Ramo combined.

    May I suggest you perhaps write about possible trade destinations for Hiller….

  • Parallex

    Ask yourself this question…

    Who would you rather have as your back-up goaltender in a year where you frankly predict to finish out of the playoffs, Anders Lindback/Chad Johnson or Joni Ortio?

    Honestly, I don’t think he’ll get through waivers.

  • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

    Regardless to who has who. If you see a prospect you deem better than anyone you currently have, why wouldn’t you pick him up and flip the guy who got bumped down your depth chart for a pick? Free asset at the end of the day.

  • PrairieStew

    Good work outlining this. I don’t think all of those goalies you list however are also subject to waivers. A team might pick up Ortio even if he isn’t realistically any better at this point than their prospect if they can go ahead and send their guy down. For example is Malcolm Subban waiver exempt ? Pretty sure Zach Fucale is.

    Teams might also take the risk of their guy clearing if they decide to pick Ortio up for nothing. I can see the Leafs choosing Joni over Reimer at this point, or the Caps with Peters, the Devils with Kinkaid etc.

    I think that the Flames are evaluating not only the 3 with one way deals, but also what they have in the pipeline. Gilles is ready to be a pro – and might only need one full season in the minors. McDonald is heading in to his last year of junior and has progressed since being drafted; does he project to be an NHL backup in 2 years or 4 ?

    I still think that a possible solution is consider Ortio as part of a package along with some of the redundant forwards ( Colborne, Bollig, Raymond, Granlund, Shore, Byron) for a higher quality forward that someone needs to move ( Sharp, Skinner, Steen ?) Trading Hiller is not going to gain an asset like that. Moving Ortio might.

    • RealMcHockeyReturns

      Not sure this is that far-fetched…maybe Flames see Gillies and MacDonald as better options by end of Prospects tourney, who knows? Ortio save % in NHL not fantastic in small sample size. BUT actually expect Ramo or Hiller going in a deal for a scoring RW along with one or two of Jooris, Shore, Arnold, Granlund, Colborne, Byron, possibly Bouma, or others depending on who comes here…and not Sharp as traded to Dallas already.

      Teams close to cap and needing to fill out roster but without LTIRs to reduce their cap hits (like Tampa has) include Detroit (could we get TATAR for Bouma and Grandlund plus Ortio?), San Jose (maybe right-shooting Wingels for Byron and Ortio?). Shoot these ideas down but more likely than other ideas…cap issues trumps or affects all decisions!

  • OKG

    Ortio never got a fair shake last season in Calgary… he was NHL ready but got sent down due to numbers game and then they decided to go for numbers game again by resigning Ramo. I don’t get it. Hiller/Ortio would have been the way to go next year.

  • TheoForever

    At the end of the last season most people hopped we offer a contract to Ramo and then trade Hiller, so we can get a draft pick. So far so good, I wouldn’t panic.

    There is no way Flames risk the waver on Ortio and there is zero chance he clears the waver in a league that employs Lindback.

  • RKD

    Just the thought of Ortio going on waivers is enough to turn my stomach. This guy appears NHL ready, in his limited action his play and position looks very sound. He’s not flopping all over the ice to make a save, he doesn’t let out giant rebounds. I would be surprised if a team didn’t claim him. Anything could happen from now until the season starts and if a team trades one of their goalies as part of a trade they will look at Ortio. Next summer the Flames could be without 3 goalies as Hiller, Ramo will be UFAs and if Ortio is claimed they will have to get a #1 starter.

  • Willi P

    If not traded before, Hiller gets sent down before Ortio. Doesn’t get claimed, they work out a trade after, possibly retain salary for a marginal return.

  • Graham

    Brad resigned Ramo for a reason, and I don’t think lossing Ortiz on waivers is part of the plan. Brad is far to smart to allow that to happen. Goaltending situation resolves itself this summer.

  • MattyFranchise


    Starting twelve days before the start of the season and ending on the day of each team’s final game, teams wishing to loan players on their active rosters to any other league must first place the player on waivers.

    The Flames season starts on October 7th this year. So the Flames have to make a decision on Ortio before September 25th or he will be subject to waivers for the rest of the season.

    So Ortio will be subject to waivers for pretty much all of training camp.

    • TheoForever

      The article quote is taken straight out of the CBA article 13:

      13.2 The “Playing Season Waiver Period” shall begin on the twelfth (12th) day prior to the start of the Regular Season and end on the day following the last day of a Club’s Playing Season.

      I don’t think you can circumvent the rule by just putting the guy in the minors one day prior to 12 days.

      The spirit of this rule gives teams ability to send players to AHL for their playoffs.

      Interesting, we have the Feaster interpretation situation.

      • MattyFranchise

        I think you can. That’s what the rule is there for. The AHL thing is another matter. If the Flames are eliminated then their waiver eligible guys can go back to AHL. But if the Flames are still in the playoffs then their waiver eligible players can not return.

        I’m not sure where your interpretation is coming from. Can you explain your reasoning?

        And there’s no need for name calling 😉

  • PrairieStew

    Hopefully Ortio won’t need to be sent down and BT will find home for one of the other two guys. If not I could see if Ortio wins a position out right that they send the other guy down to the AHL to mentor Gilles. Teams I think would be less willing to pick either Hiller or Ramo contract up although it would be a way to get a back up for nothing. other teams have been able to do this type of thing in the past.