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What can the Flames do with Mason McDonald next season?

The Calgary Flames have a lot of goaltenders in their system. After the acquisitions of Eddie Lack and Mike Smith this summer, the Flames looked to have six goalies under contract for minor league jobs. Trading Tom McCollum to Detroit on July 1 eased the logjam somewhat, but at this juncture it appears that the organization will have Nick Schneider playing for the Calgary Hitmen and four goalies vying for time at two levels of hockey.

The odd man out right now seems to be 2014 second round pick Mason McDonald. The big challenge for the Flames between now and October will be answering one simple question: Where will McDonald play in 2017-18? The answer to that question probably lies in one of three scenarios.

The Flames put two goalies in Kansas City

The Flames have a shiny new affiliation agreement with the ECHL’s Kansas City Mavericks (formerly the Missouri Mavericks). Unlike their prior affiliation in Adirondack, the Flames don’t own the team and presumably are paying a fee to the Mavericks to place players there. That means they have a lot less freedom in placing players and probably don’t have a ton of say in how players are used – in comparison to Adirondack, where they helped hire the coach and had a hand in how things were run.

The Mavericks have qualified goalie Josh Robinson, an ECHL veteran who’s been with the club for three seasons (and has better ECHL numbers than McDonald). Presuming the Flames place Tyler Parsons there as starter, the Mavericks brass may want Robinson there as a veteran backup (and a known quantity in the community and league).

The Flames loan a goalie to another ECHL club

Let’s presume that the Mavericks won’t let the Flames put two goalies there or that the Flames want McDonald to play a ton: he’ll need to go to another ECHL club. There are three ECHL teams without an affiliate right now: the Adirondack Thunder, the Fort Wayne Komets and the Tulsa Oilers. That means that there are potentially three starting jobs out there.

The challenge right now is that there are seven NHL clubs (Arizona, Columbus, Florida, New Jersey, Ottawa, St. Louis and Vancouver) without an ECHL affiliate and four of them have three or more goaltenders projected to land in the minors leagues. That means that there are potentially at least four other teams jockeying with Calgary to find an ECHL home for their extra minor league goalies, making it really challenging for the Flames to find McDonald a home. And this all ignores the likelihood that (a) the parent-less ECHL clubs may find affiliations before camps open in the fall and (b) NHL clubs continue to sign goalies, both of which will likely make it even tougher to find a loan situation that works.

The Flames trade somebody

If you presume that the other two options don’t work, short of sending Parsons back to the OHL (which the Flames probably don’t want to do) it’s likely that somebody will be traded. At this point, arguably the goalie in the pro system with the most trade value is Jon Gillies: he’s still young, he’s had a pretty decent year or so in the AHL but still has room for improvement, and the struggles he’s had to this point can be written off as injury-related and not an indicator of how good (or bad) he is as a pro goalie.

  • OKG

    Loan makes the most sense. No point trading a 21 year old Goalie, it’s simply premature even if he’s hit a bit of a wall. I know I’ll get downvoted to hell for this by the sheep but I still think McDonald will have a better career than Jon Gillies when it’s all said and done.

    • Thunder1

      I apologize for my thimble comment on your last post, OKG. You have an opinion and have the right to state it. I just want to say both goalies are still worth a shot… it’s not like Treliving have a bunch of extra draft picks coming up in the next year or two to find a new kid to tend the pipes. In my humble… both Jon and Mason have earned another season to see what’s the ceiling for each of them. I side with Jon basically because of the size differential between the two. With the equipment changes coming full force this year and next, I think goalies are going to need to be big and athletic, rather than average and athletic. Jon Gillies is 1.98 metres tall… if you’ve met him, you’re looking up at him.

  • BendingCorners

    Jon is the only goalie prospect that has played a full game in the NHL, and he looked good doing it. Trading him would be silly. If there is no room for Mason in the ECHL then loan him to a European club. Since Adirondack is familiar with him though, my guess is that that is where he plays next year. He still has potential, it just isn’t clear how much. Europe might actually be better for him since the ECHL is a goal-happy league (i.e., defensive play is optional).

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Interesting…I am sure there are good reasons why we broke off our affiliation with Adirondack but it does limit our options. I am a big Parsons fan but I am at little surprised that he has been anointed the heir apparent without playing a pro game.

    I seem to recall that this same buzz followed Gillies when he broke into the AHL. I seem to recall that Gillies first Pro game was a shutout and he had a couple wins in his first 3 games before his season ending injury. I watched game 5 of the playoffs last year when Gillies replaced Rittich and was spectacular. Gillies has another gear that he rarely showed last year… Which could be a. Function of his injury.

  • Cheeky

    Maybe time to cut ties with both Schneider and McDonald. We need to recoup some picks so maybe look at teams needing goalie prospects….definately wont get a 2nd back though 😢

  • Atomic Clown

    Honestly, if we can package Hunter Smith and Mason MacDonald for like a 3rd and a 4th, do it. Especially of they’re 2018/2019 picks. Flames are short on picks next two years, it’s always nice to have ammo in your arsenal going into trade deadline. Maybe Andersson has established himself, and we can trade Stone for a bonafide top 6 winger