As it stands right now, the Calgary Flames have six goaltenders in main camp: Brian Elliott, Chad Johnson, Jon Gillies, David Rittich, Mason McDonald and Tyler Parsons. They also have Nick Schneider, who was one of their first cuts, under contract.
Because of a few factors – some of their doing, some outside their control – the Flames have a ton of decisions to make in the next few months.
Let’s walk you through them.
They Need Two Veterans
The Las Vegas Desert/Night/Snow/Whatever Hawks begin play with the 2017-18 season, and there will be an expansion draft in June to fill out their roster. As a requirement of the expansion process, the Flames need (a) a signed goaltender for the 2017-18 season to protect in the expansion draft and (b) either a signed goaltender to expose or one that will be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2017.
Right now, the Flames have neither of those things in their system. The recent murmurs that Brian Elliott’s agent has begun early contract talks with the Flames could satisfy the first requirement, but the second requirement is a bit tricky.
They Have Three Goalies Signed Already
The Flames have four pro goalies on the books for 2017-18, all of which will be 20+ and thus will have their deals running regardless of where they play:
- David Rittich
- Mason McDonald
- Nick Schneider
Joining these guys will be Jon Gillies, who’ll be a restricted free agent following this season but can’t be exposed in the expansion draft because he’s only played two pro seasons under the terms of the CBA. (It’s the same weird quirk that allowed Johnny Gaudreau to be an RFA that couldn’t be offer-sheeted.)
Now, Schneider can be sent back to junior as an overager, but Rittich and McDonald will definitely be in the pro system somewhere.
What Is Jon Gillies?
The trickiest thing in the goalie progression is Gillies. He’s highly touted and has been great in college and quite good in a small AHL stint, all hampered by a hip injury. Now that he’s healthy, the sky may be the limit. But will he be ready for NHL backup duty in 2017-18?
If he’s not, you probably look to re-sign Chad Johnson… and then probably expose (and potentially lose) him in the expansion draft. If he is ready, then you still need to grab somebody to expose in the expansion draft, but it has to be somebody cheap enough that you don’t mind burying them in the AHL.
And given how crazy the goalie market usually is in terms of acquisition prices, you probably need to know what Gillies can do by Christmas or the All-Star Break so that you can wheel, deal and re-sign the pieces you need to have for 2017-18 (both for the expansion draft and to ice a competitive hockey club).
Tyler Parsons Is 20 Next Year
One more wrinkle: Parsons is a 1997 birthday and can play pro next season. Or he can go back to the OHL as an overager. The Flames retain his rights by merely offering him a contract by June 1, 2017, and he doesn’t actually need to be inked until June 1, 2018. But because of his age and his performances thus far in junior, he might push for a pro gig as early as next season.
A Lot Of Things To Decide
- Is Brian Elliott the guy they want to go forward with for the next few seasons?
- Is Jon Gillies good enough to be an NHL backup? If not, then who?
- Do they keep Chad Johnson just to expose him in the expansion draft?
- Is Nick Schneider going to be pro-ready next year? (Is Tyler Parsons?)
These are all questions that probably need answering by Christmas or the All-Star Break so Treliving can figure everything out well in advance of what will likely be a tumultuous summer of 2017.