Calgary’s Goaltending Options – A Big Trade

Aside from a new coach, Brad Treliving’s biggest acquisition this offseason will be finding the team a goaltender. Not only does the organization have no established NHL netminders signed for next year, Calgary also suffered from some of the worst goaltending in the league this past season. It’s fair to say that lacklustre puck stopping was a primary factor in the club’s disappointing. 

The good news is goaltenders are relatively plentiful. Every year a handful of decent goalies is available via trade or free agency because the demand for them is relatively low.

The bad news is the Flames have a few obstacles to overcome: firstly, their cap situation is restrictive given pending raises to Mark Giordano, Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. Secondly, they have to be cognizant of the development of Jon Gillies, who is still considered a high-level goaltending prospect despite losing his first pro year to injury. Grabbing an aging and relatively expensive incumbent might make things difficult down the road if Gillies proves to be NHL capable. 

So what are the Flames’ options? To start, they could make a blockbuster trade.

The Big Trade

Treliving can eschew his cap and Gillies concerns and opt to make a big splash to solve his goaltending woes this summer. There should be more than one big name goalie available for trade and the Flames likely have the assets to make it happen. 

Trade Pieces: sixth overall, multiple second rounders (35, 53, 55), Joe Colborne, Rasmus Andersson, Brandon Hickey, Andrew Mangiapane, Oliver Kylington, Mark Jankowski, Emile Poirier.

Big Trade Options: Pittsburgh (MA Fleury, Matt Murray), Tampa Bay Lightning (Ben Bishop, Andrei Vasilevskiy).

Both the Penguins and the Lightning have difficult decisions to make in net. Not only do they have capable youngsters pushing their incumbents (Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy), but they risk losing a goalie in the upcoming expansion draft.

As such, both organizations may be highly motivated to move a puckstopper this offseason. In both cases, the older guy is likely to be the one on the trade block (although a sufficiently high offer may be able to pry the younger, cheaper option out of their hands). 

The Pittsburgh Penguins

Once upon a time MA Fleury was a pretty mediocre starter, but he has established himself as an excellent goalie over the last five years or so for the Pens. There are concerns though: the former first overall pick is now 31 years old and his cap hit of $5.75M stretches until 2019 (three more seasons). 

Matt Murray is much younger and less tested. He was an unimpressive prospect during his draft year but has been lights out since turning pro – finishing as one of the best goalies in the AHL for two years running before usurping Fleury during the Pens’ current playoff run. 

Murray is more of a gamble, but he’s also 10 years younger and an order of magnitude cheaper than Fleury ($575k). As a result, it would take a lot more to pry the youngster out of the Pens’ hands now.

The Tampa Bay Lightning

Towering Ben Bishop is one of the reasons the Lightning have become contenders in the East. Since being acquired from the Senators in 2013, Bishop has consistently put together above average seasons as Tampa’s starter. In fact, he was named a finalist for the Vezina trophy this season. 

Bishop is a couple of years younger than Fleury, but he’s also marginally more expensive at $5.95M. That price tag is actually set to go up after next year because Bishop will be a pending free agent. If he puts together another Vezina-caliber season, expect Bishop to be asking for north of $7M. His upcoming payday is another reason the cap-strapped Lightning might be looking to move on.

Andrei Vasilevskiy is a former first round pick who was tabbed as Tampa’s goalie of the future when he was chosen in 2012. He had above average numbers in the KHL as a teenager and has spent the last couple of years capably backing up Bishop. 

Like Murray, Vasilevskiy is younger and cheaper but less tested. All signs point to him having a future as a quality NHL starter, but he remains a bigger question mark than Bishop. 

Who To Pick?

Assuming for now that Pittsburgh and Tampa will only shop their incumbents, here is how Fleury and Bishop compare:

Dashboard 1-11

Two very similar players in terms of results the last three years. Bishop is closer to his prime age and isn’t signed long term, which gives him an edge in terms of being slightly less risky. Fleury has been excellent but his deal stretching to age 34 is cause for concern. If he falls back to average or worse, he will be basically untradable at nearly $6M per year.

On the other hand, the Flames risk trading a lot for Bishop only to have to either flip him at the deadline or see him walk away in free agency after a single season.

What Will It Cost?

Fleury being older and having lost the starting role to Murray recently might make him the cheaper option to acquire. In that scenario, it’s possible the Flames could package some second round picks and prospects to get the deal done (two 2nds + 4th + Rasmus Andersson?).

Bishop, as a 28-year-old Vezina candidate, may cost more. The last comparable trade was Cory Schneider in in 2013 for the Devils’ ninth overall pick. The Flames, at sixth overall, have a similar caliber of trade asset. Would it be enough to get Bishop? Is it too much of a gamble from a Flames perspective?

Conclusion

One or both of MA Fleury and Ben Bishop may be put on the auction block this summer. They both have long histories of being excellent goalies and could likely solve the Flames’ starting problems in one fell swoop. Nevertheless, there are concerns and risks associated with both guys and the price to acquire either may be prohibitively high. 

  • RedMan

    Why is Rasmus Anderson a trade chip?

    I don’t like the idea of trading Rasmus… rather trade Mangiapane. I think we need to see Rasmus do a year or more of pro before we consider moving him. Lot’s of upside, and defenseman are harder to come by

    • Backburner

      I agree. I would rather trade Kylington than Andersson. Andersson is by far our best D prospect and he’s right handed to boot.

      I would rather Treliving find a younger goalie that can grow with the team, I would hate to see a patch job with an older goalie and repeat the same mistake they did with Hiller.

      I know there is a bit of a risk involved with Murray or Vasilevskiy, but there is huge upside. I wonder if Frederik Andersen shouldn’t be in the conversation as well?

    • cberg

      Not interested in trading either Rasmus nor Mangiapanne. Magiapanne I see in the mold of Marchand or Gallagher and a key piece of the puzzle in another year or so.

  • Stu Cazz

    Giving up your first rounder or top prospects for a goalie this summer is ridiculous. With expansion a high possibility the Flames will have plenty of credible options available and the are in position of strength in any negotiations wether UFA’s or trades….

    • T&A4Flames

      I 100% agree. Unless some team is ready to get ahead of the game, and move a decent goalie before expansion really becomes a threat to some quality goalies, getting a stop gap is just fine by me.

      Both DAL goalies have 2 years remaining. I’m certain they would like to move at least 1 and try to upgrade in net. We could take one if it came with a sweetner. Then expose him at the draft. Meanwhile, next summer, leverage another, now, desperate team that is worried about losing a good asset in net (eg. Fleury/Murray) . If nobody picks up the DAL G, We can buy out his last year.

      We are not contenders next year or likely the next. So trying to gain other assets while getting a stop gap in net makes a lot of sense to me. Unless we get a bonafide and relatively young starter like Andersen.

      • Greg

        I wonder if a Wideman for Niemi trade would be workable. I’m not a fan of Niemi, but I doubt Dallas is a fan of Wideman either. It would at least convert dead cap space into marginally useful but poorly spent cap space for both teams.

        edit – nvm. Forgot Niemi has 2 years left. Not worth it to save $750K next year

        • Crazy Flames

          Ideally I think Brian Elliott would be the best goalie to target. Very small cap hit and term. Good chance St. Louis just loses him in the expansion draft for nothing anyways (they may prefer trading him East but you never know).

          I would personally stay away from both MA Fleury and Ben Bishop, age and contracts. This stands for Howard as well. I would also guess the younger goalies would cost way too much to trade for. So why not target Elliott or maybe even Niemi if Dallas would retain some $$.

          Worst case scenario would be signing Reimer to a $5 mil x 5 year type contract. I certainly wouldn’t be very keen on bringing Ramo back, but it might not be a terrible idea if we could get him at $2.5 x 1 year and just roll with Ramo and Ortio next season. The hardest part about doing that is this will be the best off season in a long time to trade for a quality goalie at a lowish price point.

  • Burnward

    Murray wasn’t that unimpressive, methinks. Third rounder and all.

    Not like he’s Tim Thomas.

    As long as they get a definite upgrade at a reasonable cost, I’ll sleep much better. Well. Go to bed angry less, anyways.

  • Denscafon

    Ya, If i were to do any trade that included prospects, I would not want to trade Shinkaruk/Anderson/Kylington/Mangipagne. I don’t mind them trading anyone else in our system though really. That includes Jank but i would like to give him a shot before we ship him out.

  • supra steve

    If the Pens are willing to give up Fleury for a modest price, like the salary dump that he kind of is, then I would be all over that. If they expect to collect major assets, like he is a 26 year old franchise tender, then I would look for other options.

  • phockey489

    I don’t like the cost associated with these goalies. MAF has been average or below on an above average team. Bishop is great but injury prone and the cost(trade & salary) plus his upcoming UFA status makes me nervous. In all likelihood Calgary is not going to be in a position to win deep into the playoffs with the useful lifespan of either of these two goal tenders.

    I like both of these goalies and they would certainly make the Flames stronger I just don’t like the thought of trading young quality assets that will likely be part of a much stronger team in the next 2-3 years I think the cost is too high right now.

    Hopefully the expansion draft goes ahead and BT can gain some leverage so we don’t have to overpay.

  • everton fc

    I think we can win with Ortio and Ramo. We are up against the cap-wall; we can’t afford Bishop, Fleury, et al., unless you move one of the high-priced youngsters, or Gio. AS for trading Mangiapane, let’s not over-estimate his value on the open market; he’s had two fantastic seasons, but he’s not a 1st round pick (he might have been a power first round pick, this draft season).

    I say, if Ramo’s healthy, go with the two Finns. And I agree – Reimer is the most under-rated goalie out there, and didn’t crack up like Bernier, in the crazy “T.O. market. But he’s to expensive for us. And I personally count Rasmus tr Kylington are “trade chips”…

    We need to be patient, cycle out more of the unnecessary players (Wideman, perhaps Bouma, Bollig, perhaps even Jooris) and continue to plug in options that are cap-friendly (i.e. Ortio/Ramo leading into Gillies/Ortio) ensuring we are giving our young wings a lot of ice time this camp. I think we have a “steal” inn Shinkaruk. I think Ferland will get double-digit goals. I don’t think Colborne will backslide like Bouma. A line of Colborne/Ferland-Backlund-Frolik could be a good one. Or move Bennett to that left wing – that’s an NHL-legitimate 2nd line.

    • Joe Flames

      “I think we can win with Ortio and Ramo. We are up against the cap-wall; we can’t afford Bishop, Fleury, et al.”

      We have the worst goaltending season in the past 20 years of the league, don’t fire the goaltending coach, then bring back 2 of the 3 goalies? How does this make the team better, other than saving money??
      I understand the idea of being patient and going with a stop-gap until Gillies is ready, but we at least have to make some kind of change.
      If BT is able to swing a deal for a true #1 our goaltending questions are answered for many years, but it has to be the right deal.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Because the Flames still don’t know what the ceilings are for Ortio and Ramo. Is Ortio a 60-game per season goalie or a career backup? Org doesn’t know. Ramo had been playing the best hockey of his NHL career when he suffered the owwie. Was that the real Ramo or just a career backup punching above his weight? Flames brass truly doesn’t know.

        What’s the point of taking on a big contract for the next few years when the cost-effective solution might already be in the stable? Moreover, if the team hasn’t written off Long Jon, what impact would bringing in an outsider for at least the next 2 or 3 years have on his role with the team?

        Although Tre has taken the blame for last fall’s 3-goalie debacle, he has never given a full explanation as to why it happened nor any assurances that it and similar blunderings won’t happen again.

        As the Flames are still very much in the dark about both Ortio and Ramo and exactly how close to the show Jon-Jon, the team might be wise to keep what they have until a clear picture emerges. Giving up on Ortio and/or Ramo could be Kipper in reverse in that it could be the Flames giving away a diamond for the price of glass.

        2016-17 affords a perfect opportunity for the Flames to see exactly what thy have with Ortio and Ramo. Why not use it rather than hope for another blue moon 2014-15 season? By adding Hathaway and Agastino plus a castoff right winger from the Devils’ org to the everyday lineup, the 2016-17 Flames will still not be able to swim with the Sharks, sing the Blues, powwow with the Hawks, or quack with the Ducks, so see next season as a chance for a new coach to implement his systems, for young studs to continue to grow, for management to get a firm handle on the payroll, and for Ortio and Ramo to see if they have a place in the NHL and what that place is.

        • Joe Flames

          I agree that we shouldn’t buy high on a new goalie, but I think you are more optimistic than I about Ramo. I think Ramo has proven that he is a good backup but you don’t want him carrying the load.

          I like Ortio and think he has not had a real chance to show what he can do, but will he even want to sign back with Calgary after being screwed around last year? I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that he has signed to go back to Europe next year too. (I hope he stays here though)

          My preference is to get a goalie who will at least give us league average results, as long as the price isn’t too high; and let Ortio stay as the backup. I’m fine with letting Ramo go.

  • cjc

    What about Andersen in Anaheim? I’m not sure what it would take to get a deal done, but he is younger and probably cheaper than either of these options, and it doesn’t seem like Anaheim can maintain their platoon for long. Could also sign him for as long as we need to. If we are going to give up a high pick or a prospect like Andersson, I’d rather spend it on a player who will be around for a while longer, and who fits in well with the team’s cost structure.

    Or we go short and cheap with someone like Reimer, hoping for league average play while we sort out the rest of the team’s issues.

  • Baalzamon

    Why do people keep thinking Reimer will be so expensive? Who would the Flames be bidding against, really? Dallas needs to drop either Niemi or Lehtonen before they can even think of bringing in another goaltender, and Toronto already chose Bernier over Reimer (burned bridge). The only other team that I can think of that might be looking at Reimer is Carolina. And that’s only if they don’t think Lack is the guy, and don’t trade with Anaheim to get Andersen.

    Same rules apply to trading for starters. It’s a buyer’s market, not a seller’s market.

  • PrairieStew

    Would the Islanders shop Halak? 2 years at $4.5, is both less money and term than Fleury. Career .917, was .919 this year and seems to have lost the starters job to Greiss.

  • Greg

    Im starting to think the threat of losing a goalie in the expansion draft is probably going to be a bigger factor at the next TDL than this offseason. Pittsburgh could probably fetch something like that 2 2nds and a decent prospect for fluery this offseason. But they could probably also fetch 1 2nd and a decent prospect at the next deadline instead. Would Pittsburgh want to bet the whole next season on a difference of 1 second round pick? Or wait to be sure Murray can start an entire season before dealing Fluery? Ditto for Anaheim with Andersen, or NYI with halak. It would only take 1 injury to make that trade seem really really bad.

    TB might be forced into something with Bishop if they sign stamkos. But otherwise, unless a team is keen to move someone for cheap or take another contract back, I’d hold off. Sign Reimer and wait and see how the equipment changes affect different goalies next year before giving up real assets.

  • Juan Valdez

    Ortio’s a solid goaltender and he’ll perform better when he’s played on a more consistent basis. He shouldn’t be discounted because of one bad season.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Why not roll with Ortio and Ramo as FC has suggested? Makes sense for cap reasons as well as a possible expansion draft.

    By holding down the cost of goalies in 2016-17, the Flames can target dough at other problematic areas.

    Flames will not cure all their woes in this offseason and now with a new coach, possibly someone from outside the org, the rebuild will take a bit longer.

    Priorities for this offseason

    –hire a coach

    –extend the boys

    –make some stinky contracts less putrid

    –fill a hole or two on defense/ forward

    Flames may be fine with Ortio and Ramo next season. Will Ramo be ready to go to camp in September? If yes, great. If not, how long until he is ready? If he is not ready when the season begins in October, will Long John be able to backup?

    Flames do not need to make their big goalie move this offseason. Indeed, it might be prudent of the to hold off until 2016-17 is well under way and we can see who Ortio really is and is the good Ramo whom we caught extended glimpses of good enough to hold down a job in the NHL?

    • Stan

      This has my vote. Likely cheaper then the alternatives and you would be dealing with Colorado which is probably the worst run team. Do you think Wotherspoon or Kulak and a 2nd or 3rd would get it done?