One of the more intriguing pending restricted free agents for the Calgary Flames this summer is goaltender Joni Ortio, mainly because of how strange his 2015-16 season was. At one point, we thought Ortio’s career with the Flames was all but done. Now, thanks to a nice run at the end of the season, Ortio’s future looks much brighter. Is it bright enough for another contract, though? That question shouldn’t be too hard to answer.
For the next three articles in our series of RFA profiles are going to be a little bit more in depth on specific players. Today’s focuses mostly on Ortio with a little post text at the end on Kevin Poulin. Here is our rundown:
- May 20 – Bill Arnold, Kenny Agostino, Turner Elson, Bryce Van Brabant
- May 24 – Drew Shore, Freddie Hamilton, Tyler Wotherspoon
- Today – Joni Ortio, Kevin Poulin
- May 31 – Josh Jooris
- June 3 – Joe Colborne
First off, Ortio was Calgary’s second best goaltender this season. Now, knowing how much of a problem area the position was, that’s not saying a whole lot, but it’s still accurate. Below is how Ortio compared to the other three goalies on the Flames roster at the end of the year (screenshot courtesy war-on-ice.com).
As you can see, Ramo was Calgary’s best goaltender this year by a decent margin and also did so with the largest sample size. That said, Ortio was right there with him in a few categories and actually finished with a better save percentage in high danger scenarios. Even more impressive was Ortio’s performance in his final 17 games of the season, plotted below.
When you eliminate Ortio’s pronounced struggles in October, his numbers are very respectable. Translated to an entire season, Ortio’s body of work after Feb. 23 would have put him right there with Ramo. Of course, performing well over an entire NHL season is the ultimate test and one that hasn’t yet been conquered by Ortio. That said, with by far his largest body of work in the NHL to date, Ortio at the very least showed us he belongs at the highest level.
Having just turned 25 last month, Ortio is also still relatively young, especially for a goaltender. As we have come to learn more and more, goaltenders tend to develop slower and sometimes don’t reach their full potential until their mid-20’s and beyond. I still think Ortio has a decent chance of getting better which is a nice potential reason to keep him around.
Finally, and perhaps just as important as anything else, Ortio is going to come rather cheap. Even he admitted on locker clean-out day that he doesn’t have much leverage in this upcoming contract negotiation; Ortio knows an affordable, one year deal is probably what’ll be on the table.
We know the Flames are going to actively try to upgrade their goaltending situation, and they should. But having Ortio as a low cost option isn’t a bad thing. Much like this past season, the team should be able to defer his contract to the American League without much difficulty, if necessary. And if he does take another step in the coming campaign, well, then maybe it won’t be necessary.
While giving Ortio some modest, performance-based praise above was valid, we also can’t go too overboard either. All things considered, Ortio’s performance was just okay in his 22 appearances with Calgary this season. Even when looking at his smaller body of work at the end of the season like we did above, Ortio wasn’t lightning the world on fire.
To this point, Ortio has shown us the NHL is where he belongs. What he hasn’t shown, though, is number one caliber stuff. As it stands right now, I’d be comfortable with Ortio in a backup role, but that save percentage is going to have to come up for him to truly enter into a conversation about being an everyday starter. As we said earlier, he’s still young, so that may still come. For now, though, we can only go on what we know.
One of Ortio’s biggest problems in the NHL has been consistency. We’ve definitely seen multiple strong performances from him. This season, those performances started to be strung together with more regularity, too. But Ortio still mixes in too many below-average games right now.
For instance, in the 17 game sample size we talked about above, Ortio still had seven games where his save percentage dipped below the 0.900 mark. That’s more than one in three occasions and only slightly less than every other outing. To start knocking on the door as a regular starter, Ortio is going to have to lower that rate.
Finally, before signing Ortio to another deal, Calgary needs to truly evaluate their big picture plans between the pipes. I think we all agree the team needs to find a solution at some point in the near future, ideally this summer. Is Ortio a longterm fit with the Flames? Right now, it’s tough to definitively answer one way or another. The fact the immediate response isn’t yes, though, puts this bullet point in the con category.
This one is simple for me: qualify Ortio and sign him to a one year deal. Yeah, I put some cons in here to balance the article, and yeah the drawbacks I pointed at are all valid. But in the end, I think the positives far outweigh the negatives in his his case. Ortio had his best NHL year yet, is still young with a higher ceiling I think he can reach, and will come at an affordable price. For those reasons I think he should be in the fold for training camp come September.
After being acquired early in the season from Tampa Bay, Poulin was solid if not spectacular in his time with the AHL’s Stockton Heat. In 29 appearances, Poulin finished 14-11-3 with a 0.909 save percentage and was Stockton’s best regular goaltender.
At the age of 26 and with 50 NHL appearances under his belt, Poulin is a nice depth option for any organization. As such, seeing him re-sign with Calgary wouldn’t be a surprise at all and would make lots of sense. It’s not imperative they qualify him, though. Poulin’s NHL totals are mediocre and depth goalies are not hard to come by via trade or free agency.
Verdict: I’m fairly indifferent on this one. If the Flames liked his fit with the Heat, then by all means, give him another contract. The organization is going to need someone to hold down the AHL fort in net next season and Poulin is as good a guy to do that as anyone. If they don’t qualify him, though, there will be plenty of candidates to eat up minor league minutes.