Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports
This was supposed to be the season in which the Brian Burke-Brad Treliving era Calgary Flames took a major step forward, but shoddy goaltending has sabotaged those lofty preseason expectations.
From the perspective of performance, spending efficiency and asset management, the Flames’ goaltending has been a bit of a disaster. The club ranks 30th in all situation save percentage by a good margin, despite having committed the fourth most salary cap space among all NHL teams to the goaltending position, according to NHLNumbers.com. That’s ugly stuff.
The good news is that Calgary’s big-money goaltenders are on expiring contracts, but it’s clear that the Flames need to address their goaltending going forward, and there could be some intriguing names available on the trade market. One that stands out in particular is Danish-born Anaheim Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen, who may shake loose in Orange County as a result of John Gibson’s stellar recent performance, according to a report from TSN’s Darren Dreger. Is this the sort of deal that the Flames should pursue aggressively?
Let’s begin with what Dreger reported during a Thursday night edition of ‘Insider Trading’:
Keep an eye too on the Anaheim Ducks. Not a strong market for goaltenders, but the belief is that maybe Anton Khudobin or perhaps (Frederik) Andersen could be available. It’s based on the play of John Gibson. Not a strong market but keep an eye on what’s going on in Montreal, perhaps there’s some interest there, maybe in Calgary. The asking price on Andersen is going to be extremely high, but word on the street is that those goalies are available.
So it would seem that not only is there some possibility that Andersen may be available, but Dreger specifically name checked the Flames as a possible fit.
Andersen is currently on the injured reserve with a suspicious bout of the flu. The twice-drafted 26-year-old goaltender was scratched with flu-like symptoms 10 days ago, and has yet to return since though the Ducks have indicated that he’s getting close. He must’ve been really sick to have missed more than 10 days of action.
How good is Frederik Andersen?
The big Danish netminder has been dogged with questions about his technique, but there’s no doubt about his NHL size (he’s listed at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds) and overall athleticism. There’s also no questioning his career results, as Andersen has been dominant in the SHL and the AHL and well above average in his 98-game NHL career.
I’d think that a goaltender with Andersen’s profile – sometimes choppy technique, but insane athleticism – would be particularly interesting to a Flames team that employs a highly-regarded goalie coach like Jordan Sigalet.
Andersen has managed a .917 save percentage over 98 games, results that qualify as better than average for an NHL starter. The 26-year-old was sensational as a rookie, but managed only average results in a more demanding role during his first full season as a serious starting goaltender during the 2014-15 campaign.
Andersen’s track record as a workhorse starter-type is a bit shallow, but his overall track record is suggestive of a goaltender that’s a safe bet to manage average results in heavy usage. Certainly you’d much rather have Andersen this season and beyond than any of Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo or Joni Ortio.
Andersen’s contract status is a major reason why the Ducks will likely get a very decent return should they opt to deal Andersen.
Anaheim’s most regular starter in 2014-15, Andersen is on a affordable, expiring contract that carries a $1.15 million cap hit for this season. This summer Andersen will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. He’ll require a $1.3 million qualifying offer (QO) from a team if they hope to retain their first refusal rights in contract negotiations, though the Ducks (or a team that acquires Andersen via trade) could also opt for team-elected arbitration in lieu of extending him a QO.
There’s no doubt that Andersen is due a significant raise this summer, and he’ll be able to use Jonathan Bernier and his $4.125 million per year ticket as a comparable for his final restricted season. Of course, the whole point of trading for a player like Andersen would be to extend him for several years and use that final remaining restricted season to restrain the annual average value of a longer-term deal.
This one is a bit hard to peg, particularly because the trade market for NHL goaltenders is as variable and unpredictable as goalie performance is.
We know that goalies that are in that fringe starter/high-end backup range on expiring deals bound for unrestricted free agency – think Eddie Lack, Michal Neuvirth, Jhonas Enroth, Devan Dubnyk – are generally worth third-round draft picks, though Cam Talbot netted the New York Rangers significantly more than that as a result of a wild overpayment by the Edmonton Oilers.
We also know that goaltenders who fit a similar profile, but have a few restricted free agent seasons remaining – think Martin Jones, Robin Lehner, Cory Schneider – generally cost about a first-round pick to acquire. Andersen isn’t quite a Schneider-quality goaltender, but he’s a better and more tested bet in my view than Jones or Lehner.
Now the Flames aren’t in a position at the moment to deal a 2016 first-round pick without significant conditions attached, obviously, but that’s likely to be fair market value for a goaltender of Andersen’s quality.
Should the Flames do it?
The Flames need to have their eyes on two or three years down the road, and of course, they dealt their first-round pick in 2015 for Dougie Hamilton.
Dealing a first-round pick for a very young, very good defenseman is one thing. Dealing a first-round pick for a goaltender – even a goaltender like Andersen who does conceivably have his best years ahead of him – is another matter entirely. And of course, as previously mentioned, the Flames simply cannot afford to part with their 2016 first-round pick just in case they don’t get this ship righted.
If there’s a deal to be made involving a conditional first-round pick or a second-round pick and a really good prospect, then maybe that begins to make some sense for the Flames. Ramo and Hiller’s deals are expiring, and anyway, they haven’t been nearly good enough to warrant another lucrative deal next season. Ortio will be a restricted free agent, but there’s no way he’s shown enough to be pencilled in as anything more than a true backup or as organizational depth.
And of course, the club lost probable goaltender-of-the-future Jon Gillies for four-to-six months to hip surgery on Thursday. It’s a tough break for a promising young player.
Now the hip injury shouldn’t change our bullish projections of Gillies’ abilities. As the goaltending position has evolved from the standup stylings of past generations to the physically demanding pseudo-martial art that we see today, hip surgery for goaltenders has become something like Tommy John surgery for pitchers – it’s going to happen eventually. That Gillies is losing a full year of development time doesn’t change our appraisal of his ceiling, but it may be reasonably expected to delay the timeline for his arrival as a full-time NHL goaltender.
At some point the Flames are going to need to address their goaltending, and Andersen is as good a young netminder as you’ll find available. He’s probably better than any of the top goaltenders likely to be available in free agency this summer and that he has a restricted season remaining, which can be used to restrain his annual average value on a longer-term deal, makes him a worthy trade target for any club desperate for help in net.
And there’s no club in hockey more desperate in this area than the Flames are at the moment.