This news isn’t particularly shocking, but it is devastating. Karri Ramo, who went from sacrificial AHL lamb to the Flames’ starter, is officially done for the year with a torn ACL and meniscus damage, suffered in the final minutes of a 6-5 shootout win over San Jose.
Ramo will require surgery, and is expected to be out for 6-8 months. He’s an upcoming UFA, so that’s it for him this season, both as a Flame and as potential trade bait. He could recover in time for the start of the 2016-17 season, but who knows where he’ll be playing then?
It’s been an extremely up-and-down year for Ramo, but this is the lowest of lows. Re-signed right before free agency officially opened, the hope was that two of Ramo, Jonas Hiller, and Joni Ortio would establish themselves, creating healthy competition for the Flames goaltending position. This, however, ended up not being the case, as all three goalies played rather evenly – and so, the Flames started the season with three goalies on the roster.
It went extremely poorly, and something had to be done. Ortio wasn’t getting the time of day while Ramo and Hiller apparently became sieves over the off-season. Giving up four goals on 18 shots to the Washington Capitals seemed to be the final straw when it came to Ramo, as he was demoted to correct the problem following that performance.
Except Hiller got hurt not even a week later, so Ramo was back: and with his only competition being an inexperienced Ortio, he eventually took the reins and ran with them, starting 33 games for the Flames throughout the year. He played in 37 total, and looked to be on pace to break his previous record of 40, set in his return to the NHL in 2013-14 – that is, until this injury has completely knocked him out of commission.
What comes next?
So for the time being, that’s that. It’s entirely possible the Flames decided to extend him when determining what to do with their goaltending situation in the off-season. They have no goalies actually signed. Hiller is 34 years old and appears to have taken a turn for the worse. Ortio hasn’t impressed, and also doesn’t seem to be getting much of a chance at the NHL level to begin with. Jon Gillies only has seven games of professional experience under his belt, so he isn’t an answer, either; Kevin Poulin is doing okay in the AHL, but relying on him at the NHL level probably isn’t a smart move.
The organization knows Ramo, and, evidently, trusts him. He won the starter’s position back in November and never really let go. Ramo came at a $3.8 million cap hit this season, and one would have to hope that could be knocked down a bit: while he salvaged his season save percentage up to .909 this season, you can’t really ignore extended periods of disastrous starts; they’re just as much of who Ramo is as are the shutout streaks he occasionally goes on.
And it’s not like there are a ton of UFA goalies that will be available. The best of the bunch is probably James Reimer, but most of the offerings are more backup-type guys. Why take a risk on someone new when you already know someone who can maybe do the job?
On the other hand, there are still a couple of months left to the season, and things can chance in an instant. Hiller could suddenly become his old self, Ortio could take the reins as Ramo did and run with it. Upcoming free agent goalies could be extended, leaving the Flames with no options. Or they could still trade for someone else.
Ramo’s days this season, however, are over.