39Chad Johnson
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

The clock is ticking for the Flames to find and protect a goalie

Ever since Miikka Kiprusoff retired, the Calgary Flames’ goaltending has been in a state of flux. It’s gone from Karri Ramo to Jonas Hiller and back and forth to Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson and back and forth, without any one guy ever really cementing himself as a starter long term.

Ramo’s three straight seasons and 159 games is the longest tenure the Flames have experienced – and he was a .911 goalie over that time. That’s not good enough, not for the direction the Flames are heading. The hope when Elliott was acquired was that he would establish himself as the new starter, but after a very up-and-down season, that appears to be in question, as well.

With both Elliott and Johnson approaching free agency, the Flames have another chance to get a completely fresh start in their goaltending. But they may have just a handful of days to get it sorted out.

The expansion draft looms

The NHL has a trade deadline just before the expansion draft. It’ll kick into effect at 1 p.m. on June 17, just two hours before protection lists are to be submitted to the NHL, and the day before both Vegas and the public find out who will be available for the taking.

If the Flames want to make use of the expansion draft to pick up a goalie – and they should – then they have just under 12 days to do it.

Calgary is in a unique position in that it’s the only team without a single NHL-level goaltender signed for 2018. (Buffalo is almost in a similar position, except their netminders are set to become restricted free agents, while the Flames’ will be unrestricted.) The Flames are the number one buyers for a goalie out there, and they aren’t exactly facing any competition from other teams in a bidding war. If you need to offload a goalie, Calgary is the place to do it.

If it weren’t for the expansion draft, most teams wouldn’t need to do this. Why would the New York Rangers trade Antti Raanta, who’s signed to a sweetheart deal and has been an ideal backup for them, if they didn’t risk losing him for nothing? Why might Washington or Colorado possibly sweat over giving up Philipp Grubauer or Calvin Pickard if they weren’t put in a position where they may be forced to? And why lose an asset for nothing if you have someone right there who could help you out and turn it into a win-win situation? Even if the team losing a goalie isn’t getting much of a win, a small asset is better than nothing at all.

Having both Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray has proved helpful to the Pittsburgh Penguins this postseason – but that’s a luxury they likely will not be able to keep as soon as it’s over.

So if the Flames wish to make use of the expansion draft to solve their goaltending woes – and considering how it’s given them the leverage, they very well should – then we might just know who the Flames intend to have starting between the pipes within a matter of days.

Someone has to be protected

According to the NHL, the Flames can’t get away with just not protecting a goalie.

Tom McCollum was signed in order to fulfill exposure requirements, but he isn’t going to be protected. His signing did solve one problem for the Flames, but after the way the 2016-17 unfolded, they still have another one: they have to decide who to protect.

There are a few options available.

The first one is, of course, taking advantage of the expansion draft and trading for a goalie. If it’s going to be executed, it’ll be relatively soon. If they’re waiting on the Penguins to make a deal, the earliest the Stanley Cup can be over is June 8, while the latest is June 14, meaning the Flames could have mere days to actually get something done.

If, however, they end up not taking advantage of the expansion draft, then the Flames can simply go ahead and protect one of Elliott or Johnson, even without re-signing him. Teams are allowed to protect upcoming UFAs, even if it seems silly to do in practice. If they truly cannot get a deal done in time for expansion – or if they are, say, waiting to maybe even make a deal with Vegas after the draft – then they’ll have to protect Elliott or Johnson, and then can simply let him walk.

Or, of course, they could decide to re-sign the goalie they decide to protect. It’s not a given the Flames are done with their 2016-17 goalies.

One way or another, though, we should have some insight as to what the Flames are thinking for their future in net within the coming days. The clock is ticking.

  • Backburner

    I’m a bit confused.. The Flames have said on record that they meet all of the expansion draft requirements.. so who are they protecting? Or is this a new rule?

    • Ari Yanover

      They meet all requirements as things currently stand.

      If we’re talking exposure requirements, they’re good on that front: McCollum counts as the goalie they will expose. All teams must expose at least one goalie signed through 2017-18 with enough professional experience that he wouldn’t be automatically exempt; McCollum is that guy.

      If we’re talking protection requirements, they meet all of those, too, but as things currently stand, they’ll have to protect Elliott or Johnson in order to meet them. If they want a different goalie, though, then it’s in their best interests to trade for him before they have to submit their protection list. Hence, the clock is ticking: they could default to Elliott or Johnson, or, if they want to take advantage of the unique circumstances of the expansion draft, they have just under two weeks to do that.

  • deantheraven

    If Rittich doesn’t have to be protected, and Johnson can be protected but still unsigned, I say sign him and wait to see who makes the best offer for an offload. Some of those teams really wouldn’t want to lose a quality goalie for nothing. Hopefully at least one is willing to take something next to that.

  • TheWheeze

    I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. Maybe the reason we’ve had suck ass goaltending so many years, could be the goaltending coach. Maybe he’s the one that has to go

    • L.Kolkind

      I’ve seen this brought up before and the commenter when I asked also provided no evidence, can you?

      Blaming this season on the goalie coach is one of the silliest ideas I’ve seen on Flamesnation. The start of the season Elliot was garbage along with the entire team. New team, new goalie coach for Elliot and he was unlikely to repeat his performance from the prior season. I’m not surprised at the bad start.

      Johnson then comes in and carries the team for a stretch. Any credit given to the goalie coach here?

      Once Johnson cools off Elliot comes alive and stays hot all the way up until playoffs. Elliot lost his confidence and I think GG is just as much to blame, as GG was far too reluctant to switch to a goalie that wasn’t playing horribly. Elliot didn’t look good in any of the playoff games and GG kept putting him in. It’s the same as keeping Brouwer on the PP, despite the horrible results.

    • Shoestring

      How long has the current goalie coach been a part of the organization?? Who was the coach with Kiprusoff? Did he coach post Kiprusoff?? Can you name a better goalie coach? Can you name any current goalie coach in the league?

      • Cheeky

        David Marcoux was Kippers coach. He last coached for Carolina. If you want good goalie coaches try Washingtons. There was a great article a couple weeks back on hockeybuzz (carolinas I think) about good goalie coaches and most were from Washington system…I try to link article. Goalie are unusual as it is, sometimes their coaches aren’t a good mix Sigalet has been with org since Hillier/Ramo…there is a theme)

    • BlueMoonNigel

      I’d rather we got rid of you than Jordan Sigalet. The man’s a hero and an inspiration on top of knowing the ins and outs of playing net at the NHL level. What the blazes have you ever done?

      • Shreddyfender

        The defense with consistently positive numbers, and literally carrying play? No I’m pretty sure it’s the awful goaltending. This team needs a tender with a little brass between the ears.

  • Flamethrower

    The best move for the Flames to make is not one at all. But they do have to expose someone. There is so much made of looking for another goal tender. Why go out on a limb for another so called starter…the two we presently have can be retained for reasonable contracts and also have something to prove to the Flames and the fans that they are the right goalies to be here. These guys are professionals and I’m sure last season didn’t sit well with them either.
    Time and money could be better spent on other positions with the Flames. Starting with defence to give our goalies support of which last year they had little of.
    Tre needs to just concentrate on loosing the remaining bad contracts…Bouma and Brouwer.

    • Eggs Bennett

      Understand the concept of leverage and market timing… you buy in a season when prices are depressed. We are in the rare opportunity of negotiating in a position of strength, why would you sit back and do nothing? Whether that means landing the next Cam Talbot in Graubauer or Raanta or offloading Brouwer for Fleury, you do it because there’s no way these trades are possible at any other time.

      • L.Kolkind

        You’re not saving money when you go shopping at a sale, especially when it’s something you already have. Buying $130 headphones for $100, when your headphones are only a year old and aren’t too bad didn’t save you $30 it cost you $100.

        Johnson will likely be willing to sign for cheap, Rittich is ready to be an NHL backup and with his AHL results, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a very solid backup. Johnson provided reasonable goaltending last season and when the coach rode him like a starter is when he really excelled. He could take off as 1A goalie tandem with Rittich.

    • Skylardog

      An hour before the deadline teams with exposed and likely picked up goalies will be desparate to get anything for a goalie they will lose for nothing. The longer the time drags out the cheaper the goalies we should look at will get.

      • L.Kolkind

        How cheap will Grubbrauer, or Raanta go? I doubt any falls low enough for the Flames to afford it, Treliving traded our 2nd and 3rd. The best trade I could hope for is Rittich and a 4th for either of those two.

        • freethe flames

          I could see Raanta going for a switch of first rounders. Or even the third rounder we keep if we don’t resign Elliott. Speaking of Elliott there are many here who have said we should resign him; after his playoff melt down I would suggest he does not have much bargaining power but with a desire to prove himself; he could be very cheap and a team with a starter might like his rights. So swap firsts with the Rangers and the rights to Elliott.

    • Digit19

      I agree totally. Elliott wasn’t great to start the year but the team defends was awful. He was hung out to dry several times. Now that he’s comfortable with the system and has a year under his belt he can be our guy for the next couple years.

      Resign Elliott, he has something to prove and will be awesome.

  • Stu Cazz

    Tons of rumours starting to develop…I heard this one today….Flames have offered the Capitals Bennett, Kylington and two first rounders for Ovechkin….

  • MarbledBlueCheese

    I’m rather afraid that a deal hasn’t happened yet because rather than the sensible move to go after Raanta or Grubauer, Treliving is waiting for the playoffs to be over so he can overpay for Fleury. The market was set with the Darling trade; a Rittich and a 4th or a 5th should do it, or next year’s third. Hopefully Grubauer is traded for tomorrow and this post looks real dumb.

  • Kent Nilsson

    Nashvilles backup goalie now Juuse Saros, possible future before Rinne started looking solid would be a good young goalie to sign and keep for the future. Our history of drafting and developing goalies isn’t great and here is a goalie with a huge upside and has played some games and showed well with a .923 sv pct. Fleury is not a goalie we need.

    • Stu Cazz

      Totally in agreement Kent. This is the guy the Flames should be targeting. He is the most impressive young goalie in the NHL. Vegas would jump on this guy so important the Flames trade for him.

  • Just.Visiting

    I think that we need to be cautious that we’re not out chasing the next new shiny thing, as it’s a leap to say that we will necessarily find the next Talbot with one of those guys. I’d stay away from Elliott, as I don’t think it’s feasible to bring him back because of the loss of confidence by the fans, by the staff and by Elliott himself in what would be a fairly unforgiving environment. I have no problem in bringing Johnson back, with Gillies or Riitch as backup and seeing how that unfolds to start the season.

    • Puckhead

      If you were paid big money to manage the Flames would you honestly be content to sit back and see “how that unfolds to start the season.”

      Maybe just don’t have any goalies, roll with 6 players, and see “how that unfolds to start the season.”

      Best of luck!

  • Flint

    Just realized this. Maybe we need to find another McCollum. Hear me out.

    You have to have an eligible goalie to expose: for us McCollum.

    You have to have one to protect: ok protect an unsigned Elliott ot Johnson.

    BUT…so do all the teams we want to trade with. If Raanta, Grubauer etc are traded to us, do those teams have another goalie to expose? They’ll have one to protect (Holtby, Lundkvist etc.) But maybe they need the backup for exposure req’s.

    Maybe we’re trying to find another McCollum type to send back in the trade to those teams?

  • BlueMoonNigel

    So if MAF returns to the Pens’ net and wins 2 of the next 3, his price goes through the roof.

    I maintain MAF goes to Toronto and ready Freddy will be your Flames starter in 2017-18.

  • freethe flames

    If being compliant to rules is all that needs to be done then protect Johnson by all means but I see the expansion draft as an opportunity to get better. If Raanta is available at a reasonable price he is worth the gamble. At $1m he is a proven capable back up; cheaper than even Johnson was last year; even if he does not pan out as the next Jones/Talbot back up to starter then you are not out anything significant. But if he turns out to be like either of Jones/Talbot type then he can be signed for still less than MAF makes. With a budget between $21-22m BT has lots of work to do; sign 2 NHL goalies and if he can do so for less than last years tandem ($4.2m I believe) then that leaves him more wiggle room to add players that we need. He has a number of RFA who need to be signed most note worthy being Ferland and Bennett; then Lazar who should be less than $1m and then he has to decide what to do with Chaisson and Versteeg (UFA). Ideally he needs to find an upgrade to the top 9 forward ranks (again something I believe is available prior to the expansion draft). The he needs to add 2 defenders after the expansion draft one of which has to be able to round out the top 4. Along the way he also has to decide how he is going to deal with the infamous $10m line that weighs this team down. Good luck BT.