Calgary’s Goaltending Options: Free Agency

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

Cam Ward

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

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

Jhonas Enroth

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

Conclusion

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).

Calgary’s Goaltender Options

  • Trevy

    This may be the best option in the end. Trading for any one of the big 3, Bishop, MAF or Andersen, could be costly especially Bishop. Not to mention he could conceivably bolt (pardon the pun), to free agency after a year if he’s not happy in Calgary or command a ridiculous salary considering it’ll probably be his last long term contract, he is 30 after all. MAF just plain scares me in the playoffs as you don’t know what you’ll get and Anaheim will probably want Andersen to go to an Eastern conference team.

    Therefore, free agency might be the best solution and of the ones mention, Reimer is the logical choice. As long as we hire a coach that actually has a decent defensive system in place, he should do alright. Then again Treliving has a knack for seeking talent and it wouldn’t surprise me if he pursues an upcoming back up from another team either. In any case, it should make for a fun spring/summer!

  • Greatsave

    I wonder where Reimer’s head is at. Is he looking for a final chance to prove himself as a #1, or is he just looking for a comfy deal?

    If he’s looking for that chance, I wonder if he could be had for a short-term, show-me kinda deal. 1-year, 5 million, with a guarantee for the starter job. Goes against the “Always earned, never given” mantra I know, but different players have different buttons and some need assurances to perform best.

    Sign Ortio to a 2/3-year deal (if you want to save on dollars, you can probably do that by signing him to a deal that will expire into UFA?), and if Reimer flops then hopefully Ortio will be ready for a larger role next season.

    5 million might seem like a lot but it’s right there with Hiller, Niemi, Howard, etc.

  • Nighteyes

    I think a cheap but high potential young back-up like option is still the best route go, kind of how San Jose was able to snag Martin Jones. I personally think Calvin Pickard should be something legitimately pursued. I’ve seen good things from him in Colorado and he could thrive given more playing time. Just a thought.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    I’m all for the Ramo/Ortio option above all else. Sign them both for 1 year, 2 if for real cheap. This coming season is not one in which the Flames need to be worried about getting to the Cup final, so ‘tending isn’t a big deal. The cap is the bigger issue, and cheap net minders will help with that.

    An alternative would be to trade one of our cap monsters for someone else’s. i.e. Wideman for Mason. If you’ve got a big cap hit, AND you need a goalie, if you can move that cap hit TO the goalie, you’re killing two birds with one stone.

    • Greatsave

      I disagree. We’ve seen what Ramo is. I think it’s time to audition other options.

      And if we’re so keen to remove Wideman from the payroll, buyout is always available.

      Well, not always. For 15 days in June.

  • The Fall

    Im less and less optimistic that any of the front runners are viable candidates.

    I have no confidence in MAF, Reimer, Howard, Ward, Anderson…

    A Bishop trade will cost way too much in return (and I still don’t see him as being available… Stevie Y will not sign Stamkos for the big deal).

  • Parallex

    I think Reimer comes in at less then that. I just don’t see a ton of demand out there. That’s not to say he’ll work for peanuts but I think 4M x 3 is far more probable.

    I mean… ask yourself this… who needs improvement in goal and isn’t already paying someone starter money? Teams already paying starter money are going to explore trade first. Now of the remaining teams who isn’t a budget team? They’ll want someone even more cost controlled. Now of the remaining teams who is looking for a upgrade at starter rather then backup? I don’t think Reimer wants to be the B player anymore.

    I think Calgary is well positioned to pick up a goalie in free agency.

    • Greatsave

      I’m sorry but I have not understood the hype around Vasilevskiy. My friend is a Tampa fan so I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of watching too many Lightning games this playoffs. Two things strike me about Vasilevskiy: 1) he’s what, 6’3″? But he makes himself very small in goal, especially in tight or when the puck’s around the net, in that butterfly of his (he remains in a butterfly when the puck’s around the net rather than some variation of VH or reverse-VH), and 2) he seems to lose his stick a lot. (Granted, Hasek did too.)

      • Scary Gary

        I think the fact that he’s 21 (perspective, Gillies is 22) and has played as well as he has in the AHL and NHL is attractive. He had a 0.935 save percentage in the AHL this year (12 games; granted small sample size) and a 0.910 save percentage in the NHL (24 games; 0.921 in 7 playoff games). Both of which were improvements over his 20 year old AHL/NHL seasons so he’s trending in the right direction.

  • Greg

    That summary of Ward reminded me that those high-potential youth options like Murray aren’t gaurantee dot work out long term even if they look good short term. A guy could win the conn smythe, sign a big deal, and look like a salary cap burden within 12 months.

    Goalies are pure voodoo, and you can only make 1, maybe 2, bets a year. Good luck with all that BT!

    • flamesburn89

      Good point. Ward looked like a world=beater after he helped the Canes beat EDM in the finals, but he’s never really lived up to the hype after that. One hot playoffs by no means guarantees future success. Just way too small a sample size to accurately gauge a goalie’s talent/potential.

  • CutterMcAwesome

    Reimer is the best option available. He should want to sign here, as this will give him the best chance to start. Jones has cemented his role in San Jose.

      • Parallex

        Yeah… but the prognosis on Ramo’s injury was that he’d be out until October. So he’s a no go. We need someone fit and ready. Besides I’d have way more confidence in Reimer then Ramo.

        I mean… I might offer him (Ramo) a 900K contract (no cap hit if in the minors) if he can’t sign on anywhere else because of the injury. I’d feel bad if the guy wasn’t able to get employment because of an injury he suffered while playing for us and he’d be useful depth once fully recovered.

  • freethe flames

    It comes down to managing assets both players and $. If you can get who you really want for a reasonable cost of assets then you go for it, if not you need to possible take second best.

    The UFA does not cost any player assets so in this order: Reimer, Johnson, Ramo, or Enroth but a lot also depends on their demands both cap and length: Reimer $3-4m x 3, Johnson $2.5 x2, Ramo $2 x 2, Enroth 2×2 and none of them with special clauses.

    From the UFA market Andersen, Pickard and Kuemper in that order. What becomes interesting is the player asset cost: Andersen will be the highest absolutely but the other two should be affordable. There may even be package deals available with the later two. Andrsen will also lokely demand the highest salary as well.

    I would prefer almost any of these options rather than MAF, either of the Dallas goalies, or even Bishop(only because the cost will be high and he is likely to bolt). The only other guy I like is Elliot but again the assets cost will be high.

    It will be interesting to see what BT gets done.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Last time I heard Ramo speak about his injury, which was just before the playoffs began, he said his recovery was ahead of schedule and he fully expected to be ready to fully participate in training camp in September, thus making him ready to go when the real shooting starts in October.

    I am on record as saying that the Ortio-Ramo combo is the Flames’ best bet for 2016-17. If Ramo’s recovery is delayed for under a month, can any of the farmers be called on as a backup?

    If Ramo isn’t ready until late November or December, Flames might want to pass on him and bring in a cheap backup.

    I am banking on Ortio as the #1 guy next season. It’s his job until he proves that he can’t carry the mail.

    As for Ramo, he is more than capable as a backup, so as long as he is healthy and good to go, bring him on home.

    reamer may be a Shark now, but he has primarily been a Leaf. Last player who was primarily a Leaf when he came to the Flames and actually made an impact was Lanny and that was more than a generation ago. Old Leafs should just dry up and blow away, not try and reinvent themselves as Flames. How many Gary LeMan and Nicki Hagman flops do the Flames need before they get the message?

  • Flamethrower

    One name only…Andersson. He will be able to carry the Flames until Gillies is ready to step up. In the mean time re sign Ramo.

    It has to be made clear who is going to be #1.

    If Rammo is not hsppy with this? Let him go! Then resign ortio. My feeling are from friends in the know is ortio may be poison in the dressing room. A pouty baby!

      • Flamethrower

        Anaheim will be willing to negotiate if not with us but someone for they can ill afford to go to arbitration if they can’t agree with Anderssons contract demands. The biggest stumbling block will be trading him within our own division.

        Besides im not the GM but you can’t make a trade for a quality player without giving something up.

        Andersson is in my opinion by far the best of the options available.

        Really thou you tell what Anaheim needs amd i tell you if I’m willing to part with it but like i said I’m not the GM.

  • Hockeyfan

    Good chance Reimer or Fleury will be available.
    Sign Reims at 3.5 for 2 to 3,or trsde our 1st and Wides, retaining 30% for Fleury. Both would be a huge improvement with ortio as B/up.
    Huge improvement over last season in goal and a possible playoff spot. JG and Monahan should come in at 6.5 for 6.

      • Hockeyfan

        i disagree because Fleury is an excellent goalie and a change of scenery would invigorate him.
        ultimately Reimer would be the best pick up for a good contract.

        • The GREAT Walter White

          If BT gives up our first round pick for MAF he is an idiot….

          Trading MAF is a salary dump for the Pens at this stage of his contract.

          Wideman for MAF is a fair hockey trade…..

          WW

        • freethe flames

          MAF $5.75m contract makes it more unlikley.

          @Flame thrower: what does Anahiem need: speculating at their team nit much that we have to offer. What we have that they need is draft picks as they only have 5 in this years draft.

    • Baalzamon

      trsde our 1st and Wides, retaining 30% for Fleury.

      That’s a terrible trade for the Flames. First of all, no way do they have to retain salary on Wideman. The sixth overall pick by itself is worth more than Fleury. If anything, Pittsburgh retains salary and adds their first.

  • freethe flames

    The more I look at it the more I start to focus in on Reimer or Johnson as all they cost is money. If Reimer’s demands are too high then Johnson can be had leaving you both player assets and money to acquire a top 6 forward or a solid possession forward.

    If you go the RFA route then if the cost of acquiring Anderssen is to high then Pickard could acquired for a lot less and signed for a lower price tag; again leaving you assets to deal with other issues.