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:
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.
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