A rash of recent goaltending injuries throughout the NHL
made the prospect of finally waiving Joni Ortio even scarier than it already
was. Having started just two of the Flames’ first 22 games of the season,
though, and with Jonas Hiller set to return, it was finally time to execute the
obvious solution to the Flames’ three-goalie conundrum.
It turns out those fears that plagued the Flames all season
long were ultimately unfounded, as 29 teams took a pass, and Ortio cleared
waivers. He’ll likely be assigned to the Stockton Heat who, after injuries to both
Jon Gillies and Kevin Poulin, are in desperate need of a goalie.
Ortio is in desperate need of playing time, so it’s a fit.
Ever since the Flames re-signed Karri Ramo, you had to
wonder what that meant for Ortio’s season, if not his future with the
organization. He’d shown some promise in the AHL, being on the rookie team in
his first season, and an AHL All-Star his second; but he was still
inconsistent, going from a .926 save percentage to a .912.
All the while, he got in a bit of NHL experience, where he
ranged from all-worldly – including a shutout – to struggling, being pulled a
handful of times.
Really, the perfect solution would have been to send Ortio
to the AHL to start the season for further development, but his first year of waiver
eligibility made that a gamble the Flames weren’t willing to take until they
finally had no choice. Having two NHL-level goalies and nobody in the AHL
forced their hand.
Ortio had a .868 save percentage over four games this NHL
season: two starts and two relief efforts.
Hopefully, this move works out in everybody’s favour. Ortio
can work on developing consistency, and giving Stockton the stable backend
presence they’ve yet to truly have all season (Gillies, while occasionally
great, is still a rookie, and prone to good and bad games). Hiller
and Ramo can go back to the tandem that brought the Flames success last season,
and maybe give their team relief and confidence in net that they were missing
to start the year.
And this doesn’t even mean the end of Ortio’s time with the
Flames this season. With both Hiller and Ramo unrestricted free agents, and the
Flames still a rebuilding team, it’s possible one, or even both, gets traded,
and Ortio could be recalled. And with a number of starts under his belt by
then, along with receiving regular playing time, he might just be
Meanwhile, it seems the Flames have wasted no time in filling up Ortio’s vacated roster spot:
— Rob Kerr (@FAN960RKerr) November 26, 2015
This gives the Flames 14 forwards, seven defencemen (albeit one assigned on conditioning stint), and two goalies: pretty much how things should be. Hopefully Markus Granlund gets regular playing time.