As established in previous articles, there are a lot of goalie options on the trade market for the Flames this summer. Whether it’s big fish like Marc-Andre Fleury and Ben Bishop or moderate options like Jimmy Howard or Frederik Andersen, Brad Treliving will have more than a few new potential starters to choose from.
Of course, making a trade can be complicated. It involves matching wants, needs and cap situations between two teams. Not to mention the fact that many of the possible trade targets are less than ideal.
The final avenue to explore is free agency. Aside from the obvious (re-signing Karri Ramo), there are a couple of UFA’s who might fit the bill.
Unrestricted Free Agents
I’m including Cam Ward because his name has popped up in connection with the Flames more than once over the last couple of years, not because he’s a good option. The 32-year-old is now a decade removed from his Conn Smythe performance and about five years removed from an above average season.
Aside from his MVP turn in the playoffs, Ward was mostly an average starter over his tenure in Carolina. That has since fallen to “below average” in recent years: since 2012, Ward’s even strength save percentage is just .916, four ticks below the league average of .920. To put that in perspective, Ramo managed a .918 ES SV% over the same period.
As such, Ward fails the basic litmus test for being signed by the Flames: “be an obviously better option than Karri Ramo.” His time as a useful NHL starter is probably over.
Probable price tag: 2 years, $2.5M per year
James Reimer, in contrast, checks a lot of boxes. He’s on the good side of 30 (28 years old) and has better than average results recently – since 2013, he boasts a .926 save rate at 5on5 (versus Ramo’s .918).
On the other hand, Reimer has also never been a bona fide starter in the NHL, always operating in a backup or platoon type deployment (or limited by injury). His career high for games played in a season is 40, which he managed this year.
Because of his relatively limited resume, Reimer also shouldn’t cost and arm and a leg to sign this summer. He will also definitely be looking for a starter’s role over a 1B or backup position, so that could put the Flames at the top of his preferred destinations should they come calling.
Probable price tag: 4 years, $4.0M
A darkhose in this race could be Kings backup Jhonas Enroth. A smallish goalie who has bounced around the league the last few years, Enroth was excellent for LA this past season, albeit in a limited role (16 games). If we aggregate his efforts over the last seasons (and teams), Enroth has managed a .922 ES SV% since 2013. A not great number, but again better than the Flames’ default option of Karri Ramo.
In reality, Enroth is relatively untested and a better option for backup than starter. If the Flames are calling him in the summer, it probably means a lot of other plans have fallen through.
Probable price tag: 2 years, $1.5M
The rest of the goalie UFA market is filled with has-beens and never-weres, so the list of options is shorter.
Reimer is the clear cream of the crop and should be the Flames’ first call if they strike out on the trade market. The best fit would be to sign him to a “prove it” contract (two or three years) which would limit risk and be an ideal stopgap length for the development of Jon Gillies, but he will likely ask for a bigger commitment than that (four years or more).