Should the Flames look into Calvin Pickard?

This past off-season, a fair number of goalies changed teams. Some of these trades worked out, while some appeared to be more of the footnote variety.

While some teams acquired back-ups, though, around the time of the draft and before free agency, three teams got goalies who projected to be starters:

  • The Buffalo Sabres traded a first round pick (21st overall) for David Legwand and Robin Lehner. 
  • The Edmonton Oilers traded three picks for Cam Talbot (and another pick).
  • The San Jose Sharks traded their 2016 first round pick and a prospect for Martin Jones.

Lehner ended up spending a fair amount of the season on the shelf. Talbot’s numbers dropped, but remained respectable enough as he nearly doubled his NHL games played (57 with the Rangers; 56 with the Oilers) and ultimately won the starter’s job in Edmonton. And Jones went on to 65 games with the Sharks in a single season as their starter (with a .918 SV% on a team that’s won at least one playoff round).

Three teams got creative to solve their goaltending woes, and while the jury is still out on two of them, the Sharks appear to have made a successful gamble with a 26-year-old goalie that had only played 34 NHL games before getting traded. In him, they found their starter.

So… how about Calvin Pickard?


Pickard is a 6’1, 200 lb. goalie from Moncton who only just turned 24 years old. Drafted 49th overall by the Colorado Avalanche in 2010, he appears to have graduated to the NHL level, usurping Reto Berra’s role as backup (remember him?). He is an RFA who needs a new contract.

Pickard has played 36 NHL games thus far: more than Jones had before he was traded, and at a younger age. He has a career .927 SV%; this past season, he posted a .922 SV% over 20 games.

For the most part, he’s had pretty good numbers throughout his career, particularly at the NHL level. And this is something to stress: he plays for the Colorado Avalanche.

As in, literally the worst possession team in the NHL.

Comparable former backups

When Jones posted a .915 ES SV% for the Kings in 2014-15, he was playing on the top possession team in the NHL (55.35% 5v5 CF) and extremely good defensive team (48.46 5v5 CA60, second best). When he posted a .949 ES SV% in 2013-14, it was behind a 56.82% 5v5 CF team (best in the NHL) that still remained exceptional purely defensively (47.60 5v5 CA60, second best).

Talbot, meanwhile, had a .931 ES SV% in 2014-15 for a Rangers team that was one of the lower possession teams in the NHL (49.47% 5v5 CF and 56.45 5v5 CA20, 20th in the NHL). In 2013-14, his ES SV% was .940 for a much better team (52.40% 5v5 CF, eighth in the NHL) that was decent enough defensively (54.35 5v5 CA60, 11th in the NHL).

This season, Jones went on to a .925 ES SV% with the Sharks (51.62% 5v5 CF, ninth; 52.80 5v5 CA60, 10th); Talbot a .920 ES SV% with the Oilers (48.90% 5v5 CF, 19th; 57.72 5v5 CA60, 24th). Jones’ numbers remained modest even as his team allowed more pucks in his vicinity while Talbot’s dropped as he joined a defensive trainwreck.

Now, back to Pickard. In 2014-15, his first year in the NHL, he had a .945 ES SV% on an Avalanche team that was second last in possession (43.16% 5v5 CF) and just as abhorrent defensively (63.31 5v5 CA60, also 29th). In 2015-16, he dropped to a .923 ES SV% on a still-awful team (44.20% 5v5 CF, 30th; 63.30 5v5 CA60, 30th).

Pickard, as a 22 and 23-year-old, was able to post relatively strong numbers on some of the worst teams in the NHL. Imagine what he might be able to do on a team even slightly better.

The Avs’ situation

Through 2015-16, Pickard had an NHL cap hit of $850,000. His numbers would suggest he’s at least due for a raise. Colorado is projected to have roughly $21 million in cap space to start next season, though they have a couple of players they need to re-sign:

  • Mikkel Boedker, who they acquired at the deadline, will be looking for a new deal; one probably greater than the $3.75 million cap hit he carried this past season.
  • Nathan MacKinnon, aka the 2013 first overall pick who has 153 points through 218 NHL games to start his career, is coming off of his entry deal. He is definitely going to get a raise.
  • Tyson Barrie, who has turned into one of Colorado’s top defencemen, is an RFA. He’s not going to carry a $2.6 million cap hit any longer.

Let’s spitball and say Boedker ends up with a Soderberg-like contract ($4.75 million cap hit), MacKinnon a Duchene-style one ($6 million cap hit), and Barrie, somewhere near Erik Johnson’s ($6 million cap hit). That leaves Colorado with about $11.5 million left in cap space with three forwards left to sign, plus Pickard. The Flames could be in roughly the same boat once Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan re-sign, albeit with a few extra options (Hunter Shinkaruk potentially proving he’s good enough for the NHL; if worst comes to worst, getting an extra $4 million in cap space by buying out Dennis Wideman’s contract).

Also: the Flames don’t have anybody for Pickard to be stuck behind. The Avalanche are committed to Semyon Varlamov for at least another three seasons at a $5.9 million cap hit.

Also also: Pickard could be vulnerable to an expansion draft after the 2016-17 season.

A risk

Acquiring Pickard – whether by trade or, depending on how the cap works out, perhaps by even forcing Colorado’s hand via the rare offer sheet (a $2 million offer, for example, would cost a second round pick; recall from above that first round picks were quite the commodities in other teams looking to find their new starters) – would definitely be a risk for the Flames, though.

Let’s assume Joni Ortio returns to the club next season. He’s pretty much already penciled in as a backup goaltender, the just-turned-25-year-old having put up middling numbers as his career has progressed, though he looked to show more ability as he started getting consistent NHL starts towards the end of the 2015-16 season.

Pickard is staying in the NHL. So that could effectively leave the Flames with the 25-year-old Ortio, and the 24-year-old Pickard. No experienced returnees like Karri Ramo who have history of being, at absolute best, a 1B guy on the Flames; no experienced players from the free agent market such as James Reimer who may cost a pretty penny. Just two young question marks.

On the one hand, they may flop. We saw the Flames post the worst goaltending in the entire NHL this past season, but it’s still possible to go even lower. If they do flop, though, at least it would be with two kids who shouldn’t be too expensive and at least had potential, rather than on a retread or big name that could end up tying up a lot of money for years to come (and potentially blocking Jon Gillies all the while).

On the other hand, the Flames might just find their new starter.

The greatest risk to the Flames is their 2016-17 season, but not much beyond that. The potential rewards, however, could see Calgary solve one of its biggest question marks as it looks to move out of the rebuilding stage.

    • urbzy

      If they paid a 2nd for Berra, and Pickard has usurped him as backup, then COL should expect a 2nd and the some. What else do you think CGY could add to sweeten the deal and is it worth it?

      • Baalzamon

        Only if they still think Berra was worth the 2nd rounder. By now, I think they realized they got bent over in that trade.

        Even if the Flames took Hunter Smith with that pick…

  • Lombardi

    I’d trade our Dallas first rounder for Pickard in a second. Not sold on the kid so would still like Fred Anderson out of Anaheim but it’s a great option

  • The GREAT Walter White

    It appears from all these articles that there are lots of goalie targets out there for BT to look at. RFAs, UFAs, goalies with one year left on their contract, etc. Seems like it’s a buyers market out there, especially with the expansion draft looming.

    This coming year is our cap crunch year with Gaudreau and Monahan on new contracts and a lot of bad contracts in their last year.

    I’m hoping we get a goalie on a decent contract with one year left of term. Signing a UFA to a lot of money and term could really bite us later. Voodoo.

    Ever since the disastrous 2014 draft and early UFA contracts (his first year with hopefully BB still calling the shots…) I think BT has actually done a great job with drafting, trading and signing so I trust he gets this one right…


  • KACaribou

    I would love to see goalie save percentages with High Quality Scoring Chances separated from total shots, PP or not.

    I think that would be an interesting and possibly more fair way of comparing goalies.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the Flames were already using this comparison.

    Being that we have already established through analytics that the Flames give up more High Quality Scoring Chances than opponents (they also produce more), it would be a more fair way of judging the goalies we have; before throwing caution to the wind to get another goalie who will suddenly be faced with more High Quality Scoring Chances than he is used to.

  • supra steve

    Pickard does sound like a possible option, if COL is agreeable to part with him for a fair price.

    But is this the type of solution that BT will be seeking? Pickard sounds like he has a decent chance of becoming more than he has been to this point, but we all know that going from back-up to starter is a leap that many are not equipped for. Kipper is the example we are all most familiar with for those that made the leap successfully. Some unsuccessful examples can be found in…Edmonton has taken more than a few swings at getting a back-up to be their starter–Fasth, Scrivens, and now Talbot.

    My guess is that BT would be looking for someone who has experience as a starter. Time will tell.

  • King Quong

    My preference would still be Andersen more proven but still has hopefully significant upside yet. I’d move a couple 2nds and maybe more depending on what that more would need to be.

    • Stu Cazz

      Assuming there will be expansion a top flight goalie can be obtained for far less that what you are suggesting….Flames are one of very few suitors for a veteran goalie in a market that may very well have numerous veteran goalies available such as the Flyers (Mason), Ducks (Andersen), Blues (Elliott), Lightning (Bishop) and others…depending on need perhaps an asset and a prospect is all we need to give up…Canadian teams crucially require the draft to build…giving up “a couple of 2nds” is a Darryl Sutter strategy that has failed here in the past…….

      • piscera.infada

        Canadian teams crucially require the draft to build…giving up “a couple of 2nds” is a Darryl Sutter strategy that has failed here in the past…….

        I agree with this, but…

        Assuming there will be expansion a top flight goalie can be obtained for far less that what you are suggesting….

        I’m not sure this is an assumption I would be making. It may artificially lower the cost of the goalie market at large, but I doubt it will be as pronounced as you state.

        With Andersen, the cost for the Flames to acquire him would still be much, much higher than someone outside their division–most GMs are simply not willing to give a division-rival (someone they will compete with directly for playoff spots) a starting goalie. In addition, goalies like Bishop and Elliot may not become available. If St. Louis and Tampa see them as being keys to competing next year, they may just hang on to them. They are both UFAs at the end of next year anyway, so the “pressure to trade them” would be the same either way (either lose them at the end of the season to expansion, or as UFAs).

        • Stu Cazz

          Agree. My suggested strategy is based on the assumption their will be expansion. If expansion does not occur then the price for those veteran goalies will perhaps become unreasonable and BT will employ a different strategy. In either scenario a trade for Andersen in my view is unlikely because of the division competitiveness. I firmly believe the Flames franchise is in no position to give up high draft choices in view of the drafts we lost last year to acquire Hamilton….the rebuild continues but we are close!

      • King Quong

        Well obviously you pay as little as possible and obviously I’m not employed by an NHL team so I have no clue what the price would be. But the main point of my comment is that I feel Andersen is the best available option and I’d be comfortable moving the two seconds. Yes we need to draft more but we also need a legit #1 goalie just as much and Andersen is a #1 goalie you could have for a decade and he has a chance to become an elite goalie. You pay more for Andersen because he’s proven and young. If he was an unknown player I wouldn’t pay that much but the FACT that you KNOW you’re getting a YOUNG STARTER bumps that price up.

        • supra steve

          I would move 2 seconds for Andersen as well, in a hurry. I believe, however, that the Ducks will get more than that, if they choose to move him this summer.

          • freethe flames

            Why not offersheet him? Anything under $3.5 m would only cost you a second. That’s triple his current salary. Chance to be a starter, 3x your salary might work. But if you are prepared to do that; you had better have all your own RFA’s in a row.

          • supra steve

            Ramo made $3.8 million this season. I’d bet Andersen does better than that this summer in signing a deal with term. What’s the compensation for signing a RFA to a bigger dollar deal?

            Besides, if he signed for 3 x $3.5, the Ducks would match that offer in a heartbeat.

          • freethe flames

            I’m not sure, anything after @$3.6 is a first and third. All teams have a comfort zone with salaries either the cap or a cap management system. Could $3.5m be more than Anahiem is prepared to pay, only they can decide this. I throw this out there because it is another option for the RFA’s some teams just won’t match at a certain point.

  • freethe flames

    He is a good possibility. Those expecting an Andersen; what are you prepared to give up for him; the price will be high. There are other cheaper options. I have said it before a Raanta, Enrothe or now Pickard on a 2/3 year deal for below $2m might be exactly what this organization needs while Gilles is developing.

  • hulkingloooooob

    good potentially cheap (and shorter contract?) option. sounds like there could be some real good value there…..only thing is it’s ramo or pickard, not both. if we give orts the run around again we’ll lose him this time for sure. so do you risk having two backups and go with orts and pickard? or the slight increase in stability and go with ramo and orts? tough call. it’s a roll of the dice but maybe a good time to do so….

    nice one again Ari…..where were these decent pieces during the reg. season? you didn’t even say the H word. well done.

  • Baalzamon

    Why are we so sure that Reimer is going to be prohibitively expensive? Who else is looking for a starting goalie, really? Carolina, maybe? And that’s if the Ducks don’t trade Andersen to them. And assuming they don’t think Eddie Lack can carry the load.

    Toronto maybe, but they traded Reimer in the first place. He might be done with them. And them with him.

  • MarbledBlueCheese

    Pick him up!

    I love the idea from a cost/cap perspective as well. Pickard/Ortio would be a fraction of the cost of Hiller/Ramo. And we need the space.

  • Stu Cazz

    Ryan Culkin played for Patrick Roy in junior. The Avs were heavily recruiting Culkin before the Flames drafted him so it’s possible that Pickard can perhaps be obtained in a trade involving Culkin. I would look at Pickard as competition for Ortio in a back up role behind a veteran goaltender per my earlier comments….

  • BringStanleyHome

    Personally I want Treliving to trade for Scott Darling, but Pickard seems like a good target aswell. My guess is you could get either one for around a 2nd Rd pick.

    • Baalzamon

      Antti Raanta is, at worst, just as good as Darling, and he’s a free agent so the Flames wouldn’t need to give up anything to get him. Also, he’s younger than Darling.

      • BringStanleyHome

        Ya I don’t know, the Flames would have to give up cap space to get Raanta, where as I believe Darling is on a cheap contract for another year. Age wise they’re a year apart. Career sv% Raanta .914 Darling .922 plus he’s half a foot taller.

        Raanta just gives me an oileresque feeling like a Fasth, where as Darling seems to play solid every time I have seen him play. But I see your point, in not giving up assets to acquire a goalie. If the Flames go the ufa route than they might aswell get the best goalie available which is.. Reimer? Than they would probably have to overpay for his service.

        Anyways exciting times ahead for Flames fans!

  • Petzl

    Pickard > Enroth/Reimer/Anderson/Bishop just based on cost to acquire, contract size and timing of potentially peaking at the right time. Got to keep in mind were not competing for the cup for at least a few more seasons. Worst case Pickard and ortio fail terribly and you have to pick up a goalie 30 games in for a pick.

  • flamesburn89

    I’d be interested in Pickard, but a Pickard/Ortio combo doesn’t seem like a strong option, and God forbid the team signs a UFA and goes with another three goalie circus at the start of training camp.

    Perhaps CGY picks up a veteran goalie, trades for Pickard, resigns Ortio and waives him to Stockton at the start of training camp?

    • flames2015

      I doubt Philly will entertain a trade involving Neuvirth right now. He’s under a favorable contract of 1.75 million next year with a better save % than Mason. I’d say they keep both Neuvirth and Mason until the tradeline, if not Mason would likely be the one to move out of the two.

  • KiLLKiND

    Why did nobody mention Vasislesky or Gudlevskis from Tampa instead of Bishop both have cheap contracts and they can’t have 3 goalies in the NHL a we know all to well. If we have to trade Klimchuck and either our 3rd if Dallas doesn’t beat St. Louis or their 2nd probably if they don’t just cause that what Yzerman would settle for.

  • jakethesnail

    I would be happy with Ramo/Ortio for one more year. I would rather go with the goalies we know than try someone new. It may take 6 weeks for the new goalie to adjust to new surroundings; is he married> living away from family..etc. Six weeks of adjusting and struggling and we are off to another slow start.

    We ain’t winning the Cup this year anyhow.