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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

What would adding a goaltender cost?

Barring one goaltender going absolutely bananas, the conventional wisdom in the National Hockey League is that contending teams need to have two reliable goalies to succeed. The Flames have one reliable goaltender in David Rittich, but what would it cost them to acquire some insurance via the trade market?

The price of goaltending insurance depends on the degree to which the Flames are aiming to shore up the position. Looking at trades involving goaltenders made since the beginning of the 2017-18 season, they tend to fall into two general categories.

Trades for more options

Over the past few seasons there have been a handful of swaps where teams just needed another decent body in their system to help carry the load. The acquisition costs generally weren’t overly expensive.

  • Vegas trades Calvin Pickard to Toronto for Tobias Lindberg and 2018 sixth round pick [Oct. 7, 2017]
  • Montreal trades Al Montoya to Edmonton for a conditional 2018 fifth round pick [Jan. 4, 2018]
  • Florida trades Michael Hutchinson to Toronto for 2020 fifth round pick [Dec. 29, 2018]

None of the acquisitions were seismic, nor were the price tags, but they gave their club additional options that they didn’t have prior.

Trades to upgrade the position

If your thought process is that Mike Smith isn’t the best backup option for the Flames, but you’re not sure if Jon Gillies can carry the mail either, the price tag to upgrade the backup (or third string) position is a bit higher than just adding a depth body.

  • Arizona trades Louis Domingue to Tampa Bay for Michael Leighton and Tye McGinn [Nov. 14, 2017]
  • Detroit trades Petr Mrazek to Philadelphia for conditional 2018 fourth round pick and conditional 2019 third round pick [Feb. 19, 2018]
  • Los Angeles trades Darcy Kuemper to Arizona for Scott Wedgewood and Tobias Rieder [Feb. 21, 2018]

Obviously all these situations were a little different from each other, but two of them featured clubs trying to upgrade their depth by swapping an existing body (with a depth piece) for a better option.

The Mrazek swap might be most interesting to the Flames, in that they added a goalie on an expiring contract for a pair of conditional draft picks. The Red Wings got a fourth round pick just for giving up Mrazek, but the pick converted to a third based on Philadelphia making the playoffs (and Mrazek playing a specific number of games) and would’ve been bumped up to a second had they gone further. The other conditional pick was tied to Mrazek potentially re-signing with the Flyers. This might be up the Flames’ alley given their lack of high-end prospects beyond the NHL level these days.

Sum it up

What a goaltending trade would cost would obviously depend on how drastically the Flames wished to shake up the position. But based on recent history, adding depth would likely cost a mid-to-late draft pick, upgrading existing depth would likely have a similar price, while adding something more substantial (akin to the Mrazek trade last year) could involve conditional picks.

As far as potential trade targets, Pat Steinberg will be digging into them later this week.

  • Hakanloobies

    Stay the course. Rittich will take the starter net in the playoffs and if he happens to get injured or falters you have a 13 year NHL veteran who can potentially get hot at just the right time in Smith. Not sure how much adding a guy like McElhenney to backup Rittich really does at this point. Address goaltending via free agency or trade in the offseason.

  • Flint

    I think if you can get another goalie in the system without trading an NHL player and without trading a 3rd rounder or higher then you do it, otherwise, we live and die with Rittich and Smith.

    Oh…. and Carl Hagelin please.

    • Greg

      I dunno, I wouldn’t spend a 1st on a goalie insurance, but risking an entire playoff run to save a 3rd? The way this core is setup (age and contracts), we’ve got a 3-5 year window to take runs at the cup. After that, Gio will be more than done, Gaudreau’s contract will double, and all the other cap-friendly contracts we have will be finished, and we’ll be moving into a “how do we stay competitive” phase instead.

      Even if you are TBL good, your cup odds are only 10-20% percent, so if you’re in a contention window, you’ve gotta put all the cards on the table every year and hope you take the pot at least once.

  • deantheraven

    As we’ve seen often here these days, the “trade for a good back up” line neglects to mention what would happen to Smith. I can’t imagine a trade to move him (does he have a clause?), and there’s no way the Flames would send a guy like him down to the minors because, bad optics.
    Let me trot this one out:
    Goalies are voodoo. (I read it somewhere.)
    Maybe Smitty finds his game against a few lesser opponents and restores a level of confidence to go into the playoffs with him as BSD’s back up. Granted, it’s a big “if”, but the options available (trades we can afford to make) don’t look better. I’ll bet that Tre stays patient if Smitty shows any signs of returning to form, at least until the deadline.
    If there’s no improvement, it could force Tre’s hand. I hope not. I want Smith to go out on a good note, as I’m sure most fans and teammates do. If he can’t it would be sad…
    Either way, I hope the piling on doesn’t continue. Smith has given everything he has, and has earned the chance to prove himself again.
    (Play the video of “The Black Knight” in Monty Python’s “Holy Grail” ;>)

    • cjc

      The goalies are voodoo thing refers to drafting them – it’s hard to predict who will develop into a good nhl goalie from numbers in junior or college (except in rare cases).

      There are better options than Smith – not many, but a few. Smith has an 8 team NMC, so there is room to get something done. As I mentioned above, Elliott might be worth a look as Rittich’s backup. I am not saying Philly would do it or Smith would go there, but Smith and a conditional pick for Elliott might work. I know Elliott’s time here didn’t end well, but he’s a better stopgap than Smith at this point. Would also depend on how well he performs once he is back from injury.

    • Flint

      I don’t think anyone is suggesting bringing in a goalie to take Smith’s seat on the bench, it’s if Rittich gets hurt. We’d have Smith and Gillies then, holding all our playoff hopes in their very leaky hands…. yikes.

    • Stockton's Finest

      Dean, I have suggested to trade for a #3 goalie and leave Smith to play maybe 10 to 12 games. Currently Gillies is #3, Parsons #4, Schneider #5. If the Flames could package Gillies and (fill in the blank) for someone like Tristen Jarry or Spencer Martin that would work. Gives the farm a little more stable netminder who could, for a few games, fill in if Smith got hurt. That sets up a Rittich – Jarry (or Martin) tanden in Calgary next year while Parsons and Schneider handle the Stockton duties.