Joni Ortio is effectively the Flames’ starter. It took a long time to get to this point – he only just started making his first string of multiple starts in a row on Feb. 23 – but it’s finally happened. He’s started six of the Flames’ most recent eight games, and hasn’t been half bad during them, even though he only has one win to show for it.
There’s been a lot of concern surrounding Ortio all season, though, and it all stemmed from a phenomenon we’re once again experiencing: three goalies on the roster. When the season started, it was Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller, and Ortio; now that we’re past the trade deadline, we swap Niklas Backstrom in for Ramo.
But that doesn’t look like it’s going to mean anything bad for Ortio this time around. Not when he’s starting so many games, and not when he has just a couple more to go before the Flames can officially keep him at RFA status.
If the Flames didn’t want him around, after all, then they’d send him down. But now that Backstrom is officially on the team and ready to go, the Flames have officially recalled Ortio. He’s no longer up via emergency status: he’s up because the Flames want him up.
The Flames can recall just two more players before the season finishes.
Is Ortio going to be the Flames’ goalie of the future? Probably not, but we never really know what the future holds. He certainly has some level of goaltending talent, and seems to be getting into a groove now that he’s being trusted with regular starts.
Of the six games Ortio has started, only one has been truly bad: a .800 save percentage game against the Ottawa Senators. He’s posted a save percentage of at least .920 in four games otherwise, including two above .940. On average, he’s at least giving his team a chance – and along with his team, his own chances for continuing his career, as well.
The Flames really don’t have that many goaltending options going forward. Hope abounds for Jon Gillies, but he’s still a rookie, and will technically still be one next season as this year was wiped out by hip surgery. There’s a lot of potential there, but he’s not even close to being an immediate answer.
After Gillies, the Flames have zero goalies signed for next season, unless you count Mason McDonald and Nick Schneider (you shouldn’t, they’re still in junior this season). Free agency is, of course, an option, but that’s headlined by James Reimer, who’s going to look at the market and rightfully demand some serious coin – coin the Flames probably shouldn’t be committing just yet – and maybe Ramo, who the Flames are already familiar with.
There’s always the possibility of a trade. It doesn’t sound like the Penguins are about to part with Matt Murray any time soon, though, and it’s difficult to see the Ducks giving a good deal to a division rival for Frederik Andersen.
That does leave the Flames still with another potential guy, already in-house: Ortio, who will be 25 to start next season, and in all likelihood, still under team control. He’s a cheap, young option that can probably be easily demoted should better options come up; the only potential downside to retaining him would be a contract taken up, and a limited goalie roster spot with it.
By officially recalling him, though, the Flames are giving Ortio a chance to stay with this organization. Backstrom was promised starts, and really, he’s a veteran and Ortio’s countryman: this could prove to be a mutually beneficial relationship for the both of them. In all likelihood, it’s probably Hiller who’s the odd man out now, though healthy scratches could rotate amongst the three.
But there are 16 games left this season. Ortio is, at long last, the starter. It should be his time to roll with it – otherwise, the Flames wouldn’t have used one of just four available recalls to keep him up.