Earlier today the Calgary Flames made the signing of goalie Tom McCollum official, bringing the total number of goaltenders under contract to seven. Granted, Nick Schneider is currently with the Western Hockey League’s Medicine Hat Tigers (and has an impressive 5-1-1 record thus far), but that still leaves six bodies in various levels of professional hockey.
So what are the Flames going to do with all these goalies?
- Brian Elliott: 31, contract expires following 2016-17 season, will be a UFA
- Chad Johnson: 30, contract expires following 2016-17 season, will be a UFA
- Jon Gillies: 22, contract expires following 2016-17 season, will be an RFA
- David Rittich: 24, contract expires following 2016-17 season, will be an RFA
- Tom McCollum: 26, contract expires following 2017-18 season, will be a UFA
- Mason McDonald: 20, contract expires following 2018-19 season, will be an RFA
- Nick Schneider: 19, contract expires following 2019-20 season, will be an RFA
- Tyler Parsons: 19, doesn’t have a contract, must be signed by June 1, 2018 or else Flames lose his rights
So here’s the gist: Elliott and Johnson are on one-ways and barring something catastrophic, they’re Calgary’s NHL goalkeepers for this season. Gillies, Rittich and McDonald are on entry-level deals, which means the Flames can bounce them freely between the AHL and ECHL without a care. McCollum is on a non entry-level deal, so he can’t be sent to the ECHL without permission.
Gillies is the top goalie prospect at the moment and he’s the top guy in Stockton. McCollum can’t be sent to the ECHL without permission. Just about every other AHL club already has two good goalies, so loaning Rittich or McCollum to one of them probably isn’t an option. In other words: Rittich is probably going to the ECHL. For what it’s worth, the current plan is reportedly for the Heat to roll with three goalies for the time being.
Neither Schneider nor Parsons factors in this season, as they’re both junior-aged.
Currently with contracts for 2017-18: McCollum, McDonald and Schneider. The Flames will also retain the rights for Gillies and Rittich, presuming they qualify both of them. And presumably the Flames will try to retain at least one of Elliott and Johnson. Schneider will be 20 and able to go back to the WHL as an overager, but his contract will have already slid twice (so it’ll be running regardless of where he plays). Parsons will also be 20 (in terms of the CBA, the CHL/NHL transfer agreement and the AHL).
That’s a lot of goalies.
As we’ve previously mentioned the tough thing here is that the Flames essentially have to project what Gillies is going to be next season by December or January, because otherwise they’ll have to figure out what they need in terms of an NHL backup.
The current working theory is that the Flames will extend Elliott and probably roll with him and Gillies in the NHL (unless Gillies is awful this year). That would leave them with some combination of McCollum and one of McDonald, Rittich, Schneider and Parsons in the AHL and one or more of McDonald, Schneider and Parsons in the ECHL. And Schneider and Parsons could both simply go back to junior, kicking the problem of where to put them at the pro level down the field for another year.
Life would be easier if the Flames just decided not to qualify Rittich, but that also ignores the fact that he’s a free asset, he hasn’t played at all yet, and he might be pretty good.
IN OTHER WORDS
I think we’re destined to see a few moves in terms of goaltenders over the next year, with at least one body probably moving to another organization. There are simply too many bodies wearing big pads and cool-looking masks and too few professional jobs for 2017-18 to divvy up among them.