Cheap goaltending UFA options for the Flames

The Calgary Flames have a starting goaltender, but they do not have a backup.

At the draft, both Brad Treliving and Brian Burke expressed praise for Joni Ortio, but neither would fully commit to his being the backup, inclining to instead talk about always being open to other options to improve the team. Ortio had a much improved second half of the season, but is that worth pursuing? Or is there someone else available?

Karri Ramo isn’t going to get a $3.8 million salary again. Would he be fit to be a backup? He’s familiar with the organization, and wouldn’t be relied on for the bulk of starts; at the same time, he’s played heavier workloads, and Elliott has never really gone the distance in a single season. Will he be brought back at reduced rate?

Or will it be someone totally new? Let’s take a look at those possibilities.

James Reimer

Age GP-GS SV% 5v5 SV% 4v5 SV% Previous Contract
28 40-37 92.11 93.96 84.25 2 yr/$2.3M AAV

Chad Johnson

Age GP-GS SV% 5v5 SV% 4v5 SV% Previous Contract
30 45-40 91.97 92.53 88.27 2yr/$1.3M AAV

Jhonas Enroth

Age GP-GS SV% 5v5 SV% 4v5 SV% Previous Contract
28 16-13 92.17 93.71 81.82 1 yr/$1.25M

Al Montoya

Age GP-GS SV% 5v5 SV% 4v5 SV% Previous Contract
31 25-22 91.94 92.54 90.59 2yr/$1.05M AAV

Carter Hutton

Age GP-GS SV% 5v5 SV% 4v5 SV% Previous Contract
30 17-15 91.81 92.52 91.30 2 yr/$725k AAV

Putting it all together

Goaltending is much more difficult to evaluate, largely in part because it’s an isolated, static position. A goalie can singlehandedly save a game for his team; he can also be let down by his entire team in another night. To that end, we’re trying to avoid team-based stats such as wins and GAA, and focus on save percentage. A goalie may not be able to control how many shots he faces (rebounds aside), but he can control how many he saves.

Here, we see five goalies all in their late 20s or early 30s who put together solid seasons in 2015-16. Some are more impressive than others. If you’re worried about Elliott’s ability to carry a fully season, then Reimer and Johnson are the most intriguing options; if you’re confident in him, then Enroth, who had the best numbers out of everyone in this group (penalty kill aside) could be the way to go.

An added bonus: Enroth has played 50 games in a single season before, when he split time between the Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars in 2014-15; however, his save percentage in a purely backup role with the overall better Los Angeles Kings was much higher.

Reimer is an interesting name on this list. Does he want to be a starter? Almost certainly. Are there any spots in the NHL available to him? Not really; he could get a shot duelling Elliott on the Flames, or he may be able to find a better situation elsewhere (how much do the Blues feel Jake Allen is ready? Will Winnipeg prepare to move on from Ondrej Pavelec?). 

Why do Montoya and Hutton have such better penalty kill save percentages than the others? Remember, these are backups; they didn’t play much on the kill. Enroth and Hutton both played fewer than 90 minutes on it, which likely skewed their save percentages in opposite directions. Reimer and Johnson, with much heavier minutes, played over 200 minutes on the kill; their numbers are likely more sustainable.

Who’s the best option?

If the Flames are moving on from both Ramo and Ortio, then the guy to go with is likely Johnson. For the most part, he’s posted good numbers throughout his career. He’s used to playing in both high and low volume roles, which would make him flexible, depending on where Elliott is at. He put up good numbers across the board for the Buffalo, a notably bad team (Enroth had the best numbers overall, but the Kings were good, which could have skewed them). And he likely won’t be as expensive as Reimer.

Either way, whoever the Flames pick, they’re likely looking at spending under $4 million on goaltending for the upcoming season. That’s cheaper than one Jonas Hiller, and roughly on par with last season’s Ramo. They bled money from the cap in net, and they have plenty of options to keep it low for 2016-17 – and improve it, at that.

  • freethe flames

    “Either way, whoever the Flames pick, they’re likely looking at spending under $4 million on goaltending for the upcoming season.” Unless they sign Reimer; I doubt he takes a pay cut. Johnson would be a fine back up for Elliott as would Enroth. The other option might be to trade Ortio for someone elses back up.

  • Fat Tony

    I’m thinking just resign Ramo if the price is right. He hasn’t established himself as a starter so regardless of what he made last season he won’t be able to ask for too much if he wants to stay with the organization

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    I would probably try Ortio as a full time backup before I signed one of the above guys. He’s young and hungry and his teammates already know him.

    If not Ortio, then maybe the choice depends on Elliot. Will he respond better to a challenger-type backup who will push him like had in STL, or to a backup-backup where he knows he’s the #1 guy and doesn’t have to fight for it?

    Depending on that answer, I’d choose Reimer or Enroth. Good #’s but still only 28yo.

  • MWflames

    I think Ortio’s time with the flames is done. He’s a proud guy, and he definitely feels like he hasn’t been given the opportunities here in Calgary. I feel as though the relationship has soured, not malicious, but it’s not going in the right direction. An experienced backup signed for under 1.5m is probably the way to go. It’s not like these guys are Joey MacDonald’s too, these are reasonably talented goaltenders who’ve just never quite made the jump. In other words, good options.

  • UtahFlamesFan

    Should the Flames give up n Ortio so quickly?
    In 2002/03, a certain Mr Kiprusoff at age 26 posted .879 in 22 starts for the Sharks. The Sharks gave up on him and traded him to CGY where he had a decent season 😉 .933 in 38 starts. Point being, are we expecting too much out of goaltenders when they are young? Ortio showed signs of being excellent last season and other times he was not very good at all. Who is to say the next season won’t be his .933? Chad Johnson could be a better option I agree, but he could also ‘do a Hiller’!

    • freethe flames

      You may be entirely right but it sure sounds listening to BT and BB that they are exploring other alternatives. Who knows maybe he is who they sign and he has a great season and develops into Kipper 2.2 but then again maybe not. I would be fine with giving him another season but I’m not married to him being the guy either.

    • Danomitee

      Really though, the Sharks made an educated guess on the sample size available to them. Should we give up on Ortio? Maybe, maybe not. At some point you have to make a decision while your asset is still an asset, the Sharks traded for a third (Vlasic) because if he had another year like he had in 03 he wouldn’t be tradeable.

      It’s a tough game, you win some you lose some but Ortio is more of a gamble then some of these other goalies where you know what you’re going to get.

  • everton fc

    Johnson would be a good compliment to Elliott. Two older pros who know and accept their roles. Could also be two good “elders” for the youngsters, in the dressing room.

    Ortio… To me, he’s a “tweener”. Also, I think BT and Burke feel they can get into the playoffs “deep”, next season, particularly behind our defence. A hihg-end RW (Eriksson?) to compliment Gaudreau and Monahan…

    We are getting closer…

  • Flamethrower

    Cap space, it all has to do with cap space. We can banty back and forth all day but when all is said and done it is money available to the club. Today is the last day for waivers and buy outs. Lets see if anything happens and this will be an indicator of what direction Tre will go. Sure is a fun time of year. Spring cleaning and restocking keeps every diehard fan on edge for the direction our team is going. Trades and body movement may still take place if buy outs don’t occure it’s a long summer. Starting with tomorrows UFA shuffle. So if we manage to swing something my liking would be for Reimer. Always good to have one goalie to push the other with competion. Confidence also goes a long ways for the defence & the offence knowing they have a quality puck stopper behind them. I know what some are going to say but this is not Toronto. Give Reimer a fair chance and we may just get the goal tending duo we’ve been looking for.

    Just off topic a bit looking for a RW is great but besides size and BB truculence we need them to be able to put the puck in the net…oh ya again you have to pay for this kind of talent. So trader Tre, one or two more moves of quality will have this club set.

    • piscera.infada

      we need them to be able to put the puck in the net…oh ya again you have to pay for this kind of talent. So trader Tre, one or two more moves of quality will have this club set.

      I don’t disagree with you’re saying in your post, but I would like to point out that this “Flames lack of goal scoring” argument that I hear time and again, is patently false. The Flames were tenth in goals scored last season and sixth in 2014/15–in fact, they were a middle of the pack team even in that horrible 2013/14 season at 21st.

      A “first line right winger” would be great, but Johnny and Monny will produce. The offense will be fine, even sans Hudler for a season.

      This club has more immediate needs to address than simply “scoring”–those are priority number 1 for Treliving.

  • Nighteyes

    I think Ortio should be given a chance as back-up. He’s been with the organization a long-time, and will come very cheap. Sign him on a 1 or 2 year deal. If he performs poorly we can cut him loose. He is just reaching the age where goalies in the NHL generally start to gain consistency and reach the peak of their playing capabilities. Although his playing time has been inconsistent, I see potential in him to be a good goaltender, its time to find out if he can reach it.

    • Kevin R

      I guess a lot depends on what Tre wants to do with the remaining cap space. With buying out Raymond and not signing Colborne, there are $$$ there to maybe look at a guy like Erickson who would be awesome on the wing with Bennett. If that is the case, a $600K deal with Ortio is probably the deal we should go for, still gives us $$ to resign Naks & Jooris.

      • flames2015

        Erickson would be looking for a long term deal & likely $6 million plus to sign. Not sure if the Flames would want to commit that kind of money at the point. Flames have expressed interested in Troy Brower. I personally wouldn’t mind that, he has the size and truculence that BB likes and he’s been fairly consistent on the score sheet. He’s also a right hand shot. And would cost less than Erickson.

  • everton fc

    Off topic: anyone like Boedker on the LW w/Bennett? If we can afford him?? 26 now, 27 by season’s end….

    Flamethrower – with you about this time of the year being fun for hockey fans. I like Johnson and his price tag, over Reimer, as the latter wants to be the #1, and Elliott knows he’ll play 45 games max, or at least is used to this type of deployment.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    If the Flames have left Ortio in the dust, I would be curious to know the rationale for this move. Absolutely, he dropped the ball last October when he was less than stellar, but most of his teammates were just as bad during that tough start.

    Ortio might be the cheapest backup of those listed, which should make him attractive to the Flames’ bookkeepers. He is also the youngest and the biggest unknown.

    If Ortio is determined to break free of the Flames organization, fair enough, but if he is willing to put in the time as a Flames backup for an entire season, what’s not to like about reupping him for a year?

    • Prototype369

      I’m honestly perfectly fine with bringing Ortio back. He had an awful October, but no flame other than Gaudreau had a good one. The only hesitation is that Ortio would be expected to play 30 games, as Elliot has never played more than 46ish games a season. Cmeither Ortio would have to step his game up and be consistent through 30+ games, or Elliot has to play like a #1 goalie for 55+ games

  • Baalzamon
    1. Gaudreau – Monahan – ???
    2. Colborne – Bennett – Connolly
    3. Ferland – Backlund – Frolik
    4. Bouma – Stajan – Chiasson

    The ??? could be anyone among Tkachuk, Shinkaruk, Poirier, Pribyl, or even Jooris. And yes, I really want Connolly for various reasons. Not at all interested in the big name free agents, Mikkel Boedker in particular. Brouwer too.

    Backup goalie? Well, Ortio would be nice, but if the Flames don’t feel like he can handle the workload… well, they don’t know so they should try. Ortio gets my vote, but I’m biased.

    • freethe flames

      Where does this put us in regards the cap? While I like Colborne if the price is right an alternative if he wins the job is Shinkruk. Also I’m interested what Pribyl will bring to the table and might he not be the RW on the first line. All we really need is a complimentary piece on that line, someone who can score and help them defensively. He does not need to be a star in his own right. I still hold out hope that we can acquire Hayes.

        • Nighteyes

          Yea he might slot in, but I think he is going to be too expensive. Is probably going to want to a raise–maybe to around 4 million. Not too crazy about signing but he could be useful depending on his role.

    • everton fc

      I’d put Tkachuk on LW w/Bennett and give Shinkaruk a go w/Gaudreau and Monahan. And I like Connolly “on the cheap”, as well. I don’t think they’ll re-sign Colborne. But I see Tkachuk in the “A”, and Shinkaruk on the left-side of Bennett. Which leaves 1st line RW open.

      Not sure how Prybil fits – isn’t he coming off surgery? Is their intent to play him w/Gaudreau and Monahan??

      I could live w/Ramo as our #2 goalie, if he comes in cheaper than Johnson. Ortio playing 30 games… Uncharted ground. But he would come for