WWYDW: Goal? Tending.

Well, breaking news folks: The Flames goaltending situation sucks. But you know what? Predicting goaltending sucks. It’s exhuasting. If I had to think of a word to describe the Flames goalies heading into the year, I think ‘stable’ or ‘decent’ would have been pretty close to the top of the list. That is precisely the opposite of what they have been this year. 

It’s early, but let’s start looking into the future for the Flames netminding situation in free-agency and trade options. There’s a lot of movement around the league with goaltending and the Flames will likely be in a position to add some new faces in net. Let’s see what you would do after the jump.

THE FREE AGENTS

So, Kent mentioned in his mailbag piece from earlier in the week that next year’s crop of UFA goalies isn’t exactly inspiring:

As for next year, the Flames are going to have to go shopping in the UFA and trade markets to adequately fill the net. This upcoming summer, James Reimer, Cam Talbot, Anton Khudobin and Antti Raanta are all set to become free agents. That’s not a killer’s row of superstars, but there’s some at least adequately netminding ability in there.

But Kent! That’s not all! There’s also Chad Johnson, Jhonas Enroth, and Al Montoya! Wait, nevermind. Kent’s right, this isn’t a group of goalies worth counting down days for. In fact, let’s take a look at the impeding UFA list from GeneralFanager:

UFA Goalies

None of these names are legitimate NHL starters at the moment and that includes both Flame goalies Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller so far this season. In fact, Hiller might have the most reputable resume apart from this season, though I think re-signing him would be untenable for the Flames given this season so far.

Heading into the season, it seemed as though the Flames might have been able to move one or both of these goalies if the season went south but that was clearly contingent upon the players having some value to other teams. That just has not happened. Then there’s Joni Ortio, who was shoe-horned into a three-goalie house of horrors that led to him being demoted back to the AHL. I think Ortio deserves another shot but he is by no means a lock for an NHL job at any point in his career, let alone next season.

The decline in play from the Flames starting goalies has been one of, if not the most, substantial contributor to the Flames decline this season. Effectively, this means that, barring a mid-season revival of Dubnyk’ian proportions, neither goalie will be in the Flames plans moving into next season. While the Flames clearly do not want to rush Jon Gillies into the NHL, if they don’t sign a free-agent or make a trade, they will be left with little choice. 

Of the list above, there are a few options the Flames can choose from. If they want to sign a goalie like Anti Raanta, it is hard to say what he will cost them but it will probably be more than what Flames fans are wanting from a largely-unproven netminder. Though Raanta has looked relatively solid in a pretty small sample as Chicago’s backup (.936SV% in 14 games during the 2014-15 season) there’s no telling how that would translate over say, 50 starts, and that is saying nothing of Calgary’s um, porous, defense at the moment.  

Over-paying is going to be the case with any number of NHL soon-to-be UFA backups, if the Flames want to give them a chance they’re going to have pay them (perhaps even overpay them) to choose them over other suitors. Even if they did sign a goalie like Raanta, Stalock, or Khudobin, none of them are a guaranteed, no-question, NHL starter so it seems as though UFA fishing may only fetch a tandem member or a reliable backup. Though, in fairness, I’m not sure the Flames have either at the moment.  

So take a look at that list, is there anyone there that catches your eye? 

Also, (this one’s for you Floob) Barry Brust has a .910 and 2.21GAA through 21 games this season.  

THE TRADEABLES?

It was announced today that Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier was sent to the AHL for…a conditioning stint. Yes, that is what this is. I have no further questions regarding this. 

Clearly, Bernier has fallen out of favour in T.O and it’s easy to understand why. Aside from his penchant of letting in at least one dreadful goal in most of his starts this season (not to worry, Flames fans can relate), Bernier’s averages this season have been very poor. Bernier is currently sporting an .888 SV% and is yet to win a start this season. 

Now, as we all know, Garret Sparks is the next Terry Sawchuk. This is beyond debate. He hasn’t allowed a goal and he never will so it puts the Leafs in a precarious position with Bernier and a resurgent James Reimer, who has surged into the starter’s net this season. As we saw above, Reimer is a pending UFA this season so the Leafs will likely have to make a decision soon between selling high on Reimer or selling low on Bernier. If the Leafs are looking to sell low, I wonder if the Flames would be interested? I wonder what that deal would look like?

The Tampa Bay Lightning are not going to be able to keep their stable of goalies together forever. They have Ben Bishop, making $5.9 million this year and next, with Vasilevskiy pounding on the door as well. In the minors, they have 23 year old Latvian goalie Kristers Gudlevskis in the minors as well, who hasn’t posted a season of sub .900 SV% netminding over the course of his six pro seasons. Oh, and you may remember him for taking a year or two off your life watching the Canada vs. Latvia game at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Perhaps Tampa feels comfortable making a move sometime in the summer?

Perhaps there are some other trade options around the league as well, are there any goalies that you covet on other teams? Let me know how you see this all shaking out for the Flames

  • ClayBort

    Antti Raanta has been terrific at every level, including the NHL. He has NHL hands and quick feet that make up for his size. If he can be had cheap, I make that bet.

      • ClayBort

        If he could be had for 1.5Mish you are laughing. There is still uncertainty with him. If it doesn’t impact more important resigning, I’d go as far to give him 3M for one season to pry him away from NY and other teams. He’ll have suitors for sure. If that type of deal is struck, I’d hope our 2nd goalie is had for under 1M

        With that point made, I wouldn’t chase a relative unknown if it puts some bigger priorities at risk. We don’t need to be good next year.

    • OKG

      Scott Darling anyone? Strong AHL stats, strong NHL stats, 6’6, drafted by Treliving’s team so someone who he may be familiar with, and I thought he was quite good in our two matchups with them this year. Blackhawks preferred him over Raanta too…

      He isn’t a UFA until the season after this one, though. Would have to go another year with a patchwork net but I do think Ortio can handle that better than people think.

  • piscera.infada

    Joni Ortio! “Rehab” in AHL to get confidence back, then a legit opportunity to run with team next year.As far as back up anyone other than Ramo/Hiller! It could be real nasty next year.

  • ronipedia

    I would be fine with Reimer as a stopgap until a prospect can start playing.

    I do think Hiller deserves a little more rope. He oughta get a stretch of games like Ramo has. He’s only had a handful of starts, and while he wasn’t good, the rest of the team wasn’t either. Historically he’s the better goalie, and I think over the course of the season he regresses back up.

    We should also get Ben Scrivens just in case he can pull a Devan Dubnyk now that he’s away from the Oil. It’s unlikely but the comedic payoff is worth it

    • FlamesRule

      “We should also get Ben Scrivens just in case he can pull a Devan Dubnyk now that he’s away from the Oil. It’s unlikely but the comedic payoff is worth it.”

      Scrivens is 0-4 4.57 GAA with AHL Condors. His GAA and SV % has been trending downwards the past 4 years.

      Bernier?

      This is the last year of Hiller’s contract. We could possibly trade him at the trade deadline for a 6th round draft pick or lose him to Free Agency..no big deal – he signed as a freebee

      Bernier has another year left on his contract at 4.15 million; you wouldn’t be able to get rid of him if he continues to play the way he has this year when he becomes a flame..Leafs will put him on waivers and will have no takers..

  • ronipedia

    I don’t really see why Bernier would be a good option for us. “league average goalie having a terrible year so far” sounds familiar.

    edit for the double post

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Not sure if I would fork out the 5.9 for Bishop at this stage of the rebuild. I would however target Vasilevsky as Gudlevskis would make a good backup for Bishop in Tampa.

    The price would be high for a young, cheap, good option like Vasilevsky, but could be worth it. Last year Lehner went for a 1st. No way the Flames trade their 1st, so they would have to get some extra assets at the deadline for Hudler/Russell to put together a reasonable offer to Tampa for him – as long as our ‘first’ first rounder is not on the table!

    • Greg

      That $5.9M is why Bishop might be available though. He could probably be had fairly cheap if/when TB needs some cap space.

      And I’d be delighted to have him during the rebuild at this stage. Clear starter, above average goal tender who can provide some stability and bail out your kids when they make rookie mistakes? Who instills enough confidence that you aren’t perennially resigning 1B goalies as a backup plan, clogging up development spots so you have no room to bring along goalie prospects?

      A combination of Bishop and Ortio would be both better and cheaper then what we have now, and give you room to test out Ortio as a backup. If he proves himself, you move on from the older Bishop when he’s ready. If not, you stick with Bishop and you’ve got an easy backup gig to test out Gilles next.

    • Kevin R

      Tampa have their hands full trying to resign Stamkos & a couple other young guys. I think they have as much confidence in their young Russian stud goalie as they do in Bishop. That 5.9mill would be incredible to gain that cap space. But I think you can’t make much of a deal until the summer. We let Hiller & Ramo walk, out goes over 8.0 mill cap hit & acquire Bishop & have Ortio at league Min. back him up. I would be down for that. Otherwise my next choice would be to see what it would cost to get Andersen from Anaheim, might be expensive & they surely wouldn’t take Ramo or Hiller back in the deal. So that kind of poopoo’s a deal prior to the TDL. The next option would be flipping Hiller & a mid round pick for Bernier & see if he can get his game back. The kid has the same 1st round pedigree as Duby. you just never know, but the cost for that acquisition is basically pretty cheap & Leafs would gladly take an expiring contract a a mid pick.

  • Skuehler

    I think Ramo and Hiller have gotten their opportunity here, and paid hansomly for it. They dont appear to be the mid-term solution. Let them walk, or if one of them gets hot flip for a draft pick at the TDL. Ortio needs to close out the season in the NHL. If he does well its his net to lose at training camp. Bring in the best 1B you can find for a reasonable amount – $3mil/2 years. Does that get you Stalock?

    If Orts doesnt make hay, then we need to do whatever it takes to get a stable #1 for the next 2-3 years. It will cost an assett but look at the results to the whole team when you dont have consistent quality in net.

  • Cfan in Vic

    What about Anderson from Anaheim? They’ve got Gibson and Khudobin, perhaps they need some Kris Russel really badly? Jokes…

    But seriously, that’s a lot of goalies who would probably prefer not to share the net 3 ways.

  • Parallex

    Yeah, I think what we’re basically looking for is a competant stop-gap until the internal solution presents itself.

    Ideally we’d want someone that can play at the NHL level, won’t cost an arm and a leg, and would appreciate getting the opportunity to be a starter… Antti Raanta come on down!

  • mattyc

    Bernier seems like a good buy-low candidate IMO. I don’t see a lot of reasons why he would have suddenly forgotten how to play goalie this season. Goalies are voodoo, go through rough patches. If the Leafs are really intent on getting rid of him (and he only has one year left on his deal after this one!) and the asking price is low — then it’s a no-brainer.

  • FlamesRule

    I’d put it this way. If Hiller were 27 I’d be fine with keeping him around. Goalies hit rough patches but usually they regain their form. League average goaltending at a league average price can win cups. Look at Niemi and Crawford.

    But Hiller is 33 and I really don’t have faith in Ramo as a starter at this level. With the season looking like a lost cause I think it would be great for the Flames to target a guy who is struggling like Hiller but a few years younger. Ideally Varlamov, but I could also see Bernier or someone else working.

    The other route is to go bonafide starter at a bonafide starter price both Cap and Trade assets. i.e. Bishop

    I like this option as well but being in the thick of this rebuild could mean giving away too valuable of assets and possibly losing good players due to the cap crunch.

  • DestroDertell

    The season that each of Hiller and Ramo have had will practically guarantee each of them a sub $2m pay out next year. If that. So if it is any consolation they should each be motivated not to completely soil the bed for the last 60ish games of the season.

    If Gillies is the goalie of the future, why are we talking about who we put in Goal? Why aren’t we looking at the rest of the roster, working out who stays and who goes and at what price point and then figuring out how much is available to spend, especially if goalies are voodoo?

    As was pointed out earlier, what you want is league average or better goaltending. Then you aren’t paying through the nose for it as Calgary is for it’s league worst tending. Detroit won a cup or two because Ken Holland didn’t think he should pay too much for goalies. I think he’s right.

  • RexLibris

    Okay, tell you what.

    If you order today, I’ll send you Scrivens AND pay the shipping.

    And you know what else? I’ll throw in this free, that’s right folks, FREE set of steak knives! Ya’ll are from Calgary and know what a good steak is like so, wait, wait a minute, you know what, I’m feeling really nice today so,…oh what the heck, I’m going to double that. That’s right! Order your Scrivens today and I’ll cover the shipping AND send you not one but TWO, yes that’s right, TWO! sets of these fantastic steak knives!

    Operators are standing by.

  • T&A4Flames

    In all seriousness, Bernier probably wouldn’t cost much and in my opinion could be a decent come back candidate. If it works out, we try running with he and Ortio next year. If not, we put him on waivers and move on. Maybe some deal could be worked out where TML take Raymond and Hiller or Ramo and maybe we take back an expiring salary dump. Couldn’t hurt.

    Not sure of the Stamkos situation but if they want to resign him, Bishop seems like a good candidate to be moved. Waiting it out could allow a relatively cheap payment for a $6mil G.

    Otherwise, maybe CHI looks to move Crawford or DET try Howard. Or take a chance on one of the solid looking backups in Raanta etc.

  • KiLLKiND

    I think if we are gonna get a stopgap goalie there is no point than getting a goalie better than Ramo. We aren’t competing for the cup right now and if we have an amazing goalie that will really limit the amount of games Ortio or Gilles as it may be a fight for a job and Gilles could win.

    If Tampa is willing to trade a goalie I want Gudlevskies I would be willing to give up any of our goaltending prospects (especially Snchiender), one our top forward prospects, our 2nd and whatever else they want. Gio could be worked in as well. Anybody who can do that to team Canada I want, everytime I see this kid play he is amazing. Having a goalie that can absolutely steal you games that you don’t have any reason to be in is huge. The team can play with more confidence and will be able to make riskier plays with more confidence. I think Price is a big part of why Montreal plays improved so much. I don’t think Tampa however will give him up.

    Most likely never going to happen but crazy scenario. Would management consider risking an Ortio-Gilles tandem? I don’t think they would but personally I wouldn’t mind it. Yes it will be throwing them to the wolves but personally I think Gilles is going be very good and could learn best by playing in the NHL. He will get the surgery on his hips and goalies usually come back better after surgery. The surgery increases flexibility also it the goalie gets to play with less pain and hip impingements are very painful to play with. It would be a very risky route and I think management would bring in someone on a PTO. This way if Gilles isn’t up to the task they can sign someone then but it’s a stopgap goalie we don’t need to sign them right away. We can see what we have in Ortio and Gilles before signing an FA. This will also benifit Ortio who will get his fair share of starts too. Anaheim has been running with young goalies ever since Gigure left and they’ve been doing pretty well(overall not this year though).

  • DestroDertell

    I don’t care who’s protecting, as long as they’re cheap on cap, term and as a distant third, assets. Honestly, spending big on goalies is about as smart as spending big on a RB in the NFL over the other positions.

    The very small gain between an above average goalie and a below average one is not worth the +3M$ cap hit and big term that could be used elsewhere. Goaltending performance is extremely hard to predict so you shouldn’t commit 5M$ AAV/ 5+ yrs to a goalie unless they’re Lundqvist or Price.

  • DestroDertell

    Hiller is the best, and most proven goalie on the UFA list. Problem is, we’ve likely lost him here. I wouldn’t come back if I was him.

    There are two ways to assess a goalie – long term, large sample sv%, (evsv% preferrably) in which Hiller is the most accomplished of the coming UFA’s by a country mile or two.

    OR

    Throw their names in a cap and pick one out at random. Yay stats!

    Antti Raanta and Khudobin might be good… but they might be Cam Talbot stories.

  • CofRed4Life

    I would wait out the rest of the season, and go after a cheaper UFA, like Raanta. Also, why no love for Enroth? I think he would be a cheap option. I wouldn’t want to spend more than $2.5 million, and I’d probably do a similar 1 year deal that Ramo got. As long as they’re cheaper than Ramo, I’m happy.

  • KiLLKiND

    If Hiller is 33 then he is likely not going to get his game back.
    He is unconventional, looks awkward, and was unwanted in Anaheim. No point looking at other older retreads either. Our next goalie will come out of the blue and will be a surprise. Keep trying a young guy or a middle aged backup that’s not getting any action, since it’s all a crap shoot anyway. Not many Kippers out there.