The Calgary Flames got a
lot accomplished in Buffalo this weekend. On top of significantly addressing
their goaltending issues at an affordable price, the Flames selected nine
players at the 2016 NHL Draft. It was a busy weekend that taught us a lot about
Calgary’s group, specifically for next season. Let’s take a look at the most
important lessons we learned over the last few days.
Brian Elliott wants to be
The newest roster member
of the Flames isn’t joining his new team begrudgingly. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Despite joining a team that missed the playoffs by
miles last season from a final four Blues squad, Elliott seemed genuinely
stoked when I spoke to him on Saturday afternoon. When you think about it, it’s
easy to understand because the 31-year-old is coming into a good situation.
“It’s just good
timing in my career,” Elliott said over the phone from Croatia. “To really take
the ball and grab a good, young team like Calgary is right now [and] hopefully
provide a little backbone and a good calming presence back there.”
For the first time in his
career, Elliott enters a season as (likely) an unrivaled number one. He never
really got that chance in St. Louis until late last season and he’s more than
ready to seize his opportunity with the Flames.
“It’s huge,” Elliott said.
“I’ve worked really hard over the past, you know, five years in St. Louis to
kind of make my name. I got a chance to kind of run with the ball through
actually an unfortunate injury to Jake Allen. I was able to play a lot of games
in a row and take that into the playoffs and make a deep run. I really just
gained a lot of confidence and just, you know, the ability to know that I have
it in me and that I can show it on the ice.”
Elliott comes to Calgary
on a great value contract but with only one year remaining on it. So what of a
contract extension? General manager Brad Treliving broached that with us on thefloor Saturday following day two of the draft.
“We’ll have a
discussion,” Treliving said. “There’s a couple of different ways we’ll go with
it. I’ve already been in discussion with his representative.”
Elliott will most
definitely be in line for a raise, but that doesn’t mean an extension with the
Flames is going to break the bank. The $4.5 to 5.5 million range seems
reasonable from this standpoint while Treliving’s crew has a good idea of some
“We have kind of an
idea,” Treliving revealed. “There’s some different models and
different options that are available to us. I think…getting him signed is
one. Whether that happens now or later one, we’ll see.”
The Flames can lock
Elliott up to an extension starting Friday and it would make sense to do just so at some point down the road. While Elliott has some leverage as a pending UFA, he’s also 31, so I
think a four year deal is absolutely reasonable.
The team fully believes Elliott
can carry the number one load
While I love the Elliott
acquisition, I’m also aware he has never truly carried a number one workload
over the course of a season. In terms of a starting workload, Elliott’s busiest
season was the 2009-2010 campaign while still with the Ottawa Senators. Elliott
started 45 games during the 2014-2015 season, his highest total in five years
with St. Louis. Last year Elliott posted a league best 0.930 save
percentage but did so starting only 38 games.
It’s not Elliott’s fault
his starts have never been at the same level as the top end workhorses around
the league. Sometimes the opportunity hasn’t been there while injuries have
played their part, too. Still, until a goalie proves he can play high level
hockey over 60 starts, it’s always going to be a question. For their part,
Calgary doesn’t seem worried about it, at least according to Brian Burke.
“Our thinking is that
he never got to play more than 48 games because their management team has
always believed that they have a goaltender who’s better, who’s never been able
to shake the Brian Elliott question,” said the President of Hockey Operations.
“I think part of this
trade is to shake the Brian Elliott question and say to Jake Allen it’s your
net, stop worrying about who the starter is. We feel that doesn’t reflect
poorly on Brian; we have a different view of that sequence and who should play
more. We think he can play more games, we’re not concerned about it, he’s a
conditioning freak, so that’s not an issue for us.”
I’m fairly confident
Elliott will be able to get the job done while carrying a number one workload.
The fact the Flames aren’t concerned one bit adds to that confidence level.
Joni Ortio is this team’s
Elliott in, Ramo out is
how I read the immediate impact of the former’s acquisition. But where does
that leave Joni Ortio?
I wrote prior to the draft
how I felt giving Ortio a shot as the team’s fulltime backup makes sense, and
for the time being, the team is thinking that way, too.
“I think it’s set
today,” Burke told me. “But I think it’s like every other position that we
have. If we can do something we think that’s an upgrade at that position
between now and the start of the season, we’re going to. As of today, we’re
Ortio had a nightmare
season up until February when he was recalled from the American League for
good. From that point on, though, things went significantly better. As such, Ortio
and his once inevitable jettison from the organization was put into question.
“Joni Ortio had a really
bad first half, he had a really good second half,” Burke said. “I think he
redeemed himself in a lot of people’s eyes, certainly ours, and became a viable
backup solution. I think prior to the second half of the season we were all
saying we have to cut him loose and move on with two new goalies next year. I
think he’s earned the right to be considered for that position. I think he’s
got that job today, whether he’ll still have that job at the start of training
camp, that’s no different than every other player on our team…we’ll
Ortio posted decent
numbers upon his recall from Stockton, especially after he got into a groove of
regular starts. From February 23rd through the end of the season,
Ortio posted a decent 0.910 save percentage while making 17 starts. If you
eliminate his rough final two outings, Ortio’s save percentage bumps up to
0.917. It was the best run of his NHL career and it intrigues me about the
It’s also important to
remember how affordable Ortio is going to be. While he might be in line for a
small raise on the $600,000 he made last year, Ortio is almost certainly going
to come in under $1 million. That on its own is good value. Considering Calgary
could have a combined cap hit of less than $3.5 million between two goalies
it’s even more palatable.
Giving Ortio a shot as
backup works on merit and makes sense financially. For the time being, the
Flames are leaning in that direction. Hopefully that’s still the case when
September rolls around.
Free agency doesn’t seem
This won’t come as a major
surprise, but Calgary doesn’t sound overly interested in joining the July 1st
circus this year. That line of thinking makes sense when you consider the
team’s cap looming cap crunch next season.
“I don’t expect us to
be real active,” Burke disclosed. “Most of the deals that are made on July
1st, a lot of them bear fruit, a lot of them are expensive mistakes, often way
too much term is awarded on July 1st. I predict you’ll see the GM’s being
sensible with term this year, maybe for the first time. I don’t think we’ll be
super active. We’re going to certainly kick some tires, but I don’t expect us
to do a lot.”
The Flames won’t be
totally handcuffed financially if they do want to make an addition in free agency,
but overpaying doesn’t seem prudent this summer in particular. The team has big
money they need to dole out to Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan and will carry
a brand new $3 million when Mark Giordano’s extension kicks in. With his plate
already full, Treliving knows what limitiations exist.
“We’ve got some
contracts and some cap situations here. We’ve got some contracts to get done
with our own players, so we want to make sure we’re managing our situation. The
flexibility that we may have or may not have is one issue. I don’t
necessarily say we’re going to be overly active.”
With that said, Calgary
still has some holes free agency would help fill. Perhaps chasing down Steven
Stamkos isn’t in the cards, but a good value signing or two isn’t out of the question.
getting a little sense of the players out there, their desires, maybe a little
bit of the market,” Treliving admitted. “We’ll see over the course of the next
few days. We’ve been in contact with a number of people and I would just consider
that kicking the tires a little bit just to get a little sense of where Calgary
may fit with certain players.”
Free agency last year
allowed the Flames to add both Michael Frolik and Derek Grant at fair prices.
If we’re talking about fair, sensible deals at this time next week, that’s
probably reasonable, even with Calgary’s impending cap worries.
Expansion didn’t mean much
for the Flames
The specter of expansion
and its impact on the trade market was one of the underlying themes leading
into draft weekend. While some thought we’d see a large number of big names on
the market, it made next to zero impact on Calgary’s weekend.
“I think everyone is
going to worry about that right before the trade deadline,” Burke said. “I
mean, sure you have players that satisfy your obligations, but I don’t think
it’s anyone’s priority today.”
Perhaps, though, expansion
helped the Flames pry Elliott from the Blues. After all, St. Louis would have
had to choose to protect only one Elliott or Allen in next summer’s expansion
draft. Burke was fairly blunt when I asked him how much of an impact expansion
made on that acquisition.
Well, that’s that then.