RFA Profiles: Joni Ortio

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:

Now to the case at hand…

Pros

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).

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 3.13.58 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 3.23.48 AM

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.

Cons

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.

Verdict

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.

Kevin Poulin

recap-1-16

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.

  • FlamesRule

    Ramo and Ortio both for one year. If both can play next year like they both did in the last half of the season we have our “above average” goaltending.

    If you take out the first 20% of Ramo’s games from last year like you did with Ortio, I’m sure his stats jump up significantly above Ortio again and make him the clear goalie leader.

    • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

      You go with these goalies and you are gonna have a repeat of last season. Get a goalie these two have had opportunities and have squandered them.

    • You’re definitely right, Ramo’s numbers after his little AHL stint are pretty darn good. From December 1st until his injury, Ramo was at a 0.917 save percentage.

      As for Ramo and Ortio as a tandem next year, I don’t think it’s an awful idea. But I still think the team needs to seriously explore upgrading on one or either guy this summer.

      • freethe flames

        I could live with this if and only if the Flames have explored all the legitimate options and found them too costly. Ramo would also need to take a paycut b/c of the uncertainty of his injury.

  • Burnward

    Still think they need to bring in two NHL goalies and have Ortio/Gillies in the AHL.

    An injury away from Ortio/?? In the NHL scares the heck out of me. Another lost season due to goaltending should not be an option.

    Reimer and Johnson on two year deals would be just fine by me.

    • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

      You are absolutely right! Are you gonna feel comfortable going into the season with these two? Recipe for disaster. The flames need some proven talent between the pipes.

  • freethe flames

    When looking at the options for the Flames 4 goaltender contracts stand out for me. Raanta $1m for each of the next 2 years for NYR (he was a guy I thought the Flames might be interested in), The $2.5 m contract for Elliot in StL, the $3m for Jones with (SJS 3 years[ a former back up trying to prove himself and he has) and the $4.1 for Talbot(probably the most sought after back up wanting to prove he should be a starter and he has) in Edmonton; these are the types of contracts that the Flames need to be looking at as we pursue our next goaltender.

    Looking at the best prospects IMO out there these numbers have some validity: Andersen the best tandem goalie out there = money like Talbot(plus the cost in assets to acquire him: probably an early 2nd rounder +), Reimer= he’s the back up to Jones no way he should be paid more than Jones, Pickard a back up looking to be a starter(asset to pick up; probably a late second rounder) salary should be less than Jones, Johnson out of Buffalo= a salary less than Jones, Kuemper(asset to acquire; 3rd rounder) a salary less than Jones, Ortio+= a salary less than Raanta, Ramo a salary less than Elliot, and Enroth a salary= Raanta.

    These are my thoughts on the salary and cost of acquiring a goalie.

    • freethe flames

      How is this going to happen? The Penguins are in cap hell and the flames are awefully close to cap hell. Plus MAF no move clause. If he moves expect it to be Dallas for Niemi. Dallas gets a goalie they think they can win with Pittsburg gets a backup for murray and some cap space.

  • RedMan

    This is an important year for the flames in their rebuilding. They cannot afford to stumble out of the gates again, especially due to a stupid brain cramp regarding goalies. My guess is they pick up a legitimate starter for two years maybe three, and sign 1 of either Ramo or Ortio. If they believe Ortio still has more upside they will keep him as a backup to the new starter.

  • Bananaberg

    Ortio on a $0.925 2-way contract for 1-2 years has merit and gives BT a chance to evaluate his progress.

    We all agree that CGY absolutely needs to upgrade goaltending this summer. With a few additions up front and a goalie, we are right there as a playoff team.

    Timing wise for BT, we couldn’t be in a better situation. There are few goalie buyers this summer:

    CGY

    TOR (though TOR isn’t as far along in the rebuild for playoff contention, so they’ll pay less and should)

    DAL (can’t offload both guys, will likely keep Niemi if they get stuck; plus can’t afford to lock +$10/yr on goalie tandem again)

    On the other side, there are plenty of sellers, ESPECIALLY if we get word of an expansion draft in the next couple years (news to be released June 22nd as per Bettman’s comments today):

    ANA (Andersen won’t be as expensive as we think, and is definitely worth a couple 2nd round picks, given our stock of picks this year)

    SJ (Reimer is available)

    PIT (Fleury, contingent on expansion announcement)

    TB (Bishop, contingent on expansion announcement)

    CAR (Ward; no thanks)

    DAL (Lehto/Niemi; Niemi is useful, but only with salary retention or super cheap deal)

    NYI (Halak; too inconsistent)

    CONCLUSION: CGY should strike a multi-player deal with ANA for Andersen and Rakell. With Rakell, we can move on from Colborne. Fair Value Estimate: Two 2nd rounders + Colborne + 3rd rounder

    Boom. Great deal for CGY, monetize some of the value from the Hudler and Russell trades this year.

    • freethe flames

      Your trade deal has merit; would we have to give up the third if Colborne is included. Which two 2nds get it done? I appreciate when someone tries to present a real deal. It makes me think.

    • Baalzamon

      Boom. Great deal for CGY, monetize some of the value from the Hudler and Russell trades this year.

      Yes, it is. A little too great, don’t you think? If we accept that two seconds and Colborne is enough to pry Andersen out of Anaheim (and honestly that’s a stretch), you’re basically offering them a third round pick for Rickard Rakell. The Ducks would laugh in your face.

      And that’s ignoring the fact that both Andersen and Rakell need big raises going into next season. Salary cap says hi.

      • Bananaberg

        Given that sellers > buyers for goalies, and ANA can’t afford to keep both, CGY is positioned to take advantage of better price from ANA. All we have to do is outbid TOR, which shouldn’t be difficult, given they’re behind us in the rebuild.

        I would even be willing to offload all of our 2nd round picks this year in the deal, plus Colborne for Rakell and Andersen.

        Think about it: what is a strong starting goalie worth? Certainly two or more draft picks. ANA is maxed out on contracts (50 of 50 are used going into offseason), so they also benefit by dropping 2 roster players for 1 coming back.

        ANA: Clean up goalie situation, reduce cap hit, get a big-bodied winger back (Top 9), and get 3 draft picks

        CGY: Get a starting goalie, get a Top 6 winger, monetize some excess value derived from Russell/Hudler trades. Retain plenty of picks in draft to bolster prospect pool.

        That’s a great situation for both teams.