After a fairly uneven season from the club’s depth goaltenders, the Calgary Flames seem to be starting to make some changes. TSN’s Darren Dreger is reporting that the club is close to a deal with KHL netminder Artyom Zagidulin.
Calgary Flames are closing in on signing 23 year old KHL prospect goalie, Artyom Zagidulin. Not done yet, but expected to get done.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) March 29, 2019
It would be a one-year entry-level deal for Zagidulin, who turns 24 in August.
Zagidulin is a product of Magnitigorsk, Russia, and has played on and off with his hometown Metallurg Magnitigorsk since he was a youngster. This season was his big breakout in the Kontinental Hockey League after cups of coffee with Metallurg and Kunlun Red Star in 2015-16 and 2016-17. He spent this entire season with Metallurg, posting a 1.96 goals against average and .924 save percentage in 25 games. He also played three games for his club in this year’s Spengler Cup.
Zagidulin is a pretty good KHL netminder, with his goals against average ranking ninth among regulars and his save percentage 17th. But he’s a free agent now, and otherwise stuck behind veteran (and Olympic gold medalist) Vasili Koshechkin in Metallurg’s pecking order. Rather than try to catch on with another KHL outfit, it makes a lot of sense to try his hand in North America to see if he can carve out his own path.
European hockey writer Aivis Kalnins offered his thoughts via Twitter on Zagidulin:
This fellow is very good at hockey. But on a more serious note – pretty athletic for his size. Overall calm goalie. I would call him a great project. Not sure if he has the ceiling to be an NHL starter but if developed properly he should be an amazing 1A/1B option.
— Aivis Kalniņš (@A_Kalnins) March 29, 2019
All in all, it seems like a really low-risk move for the Flames. But with minor leaguers Jon Gillies, Tyler Parsons and Nick Schneider under contract through next season (and Mason McDonald a pending restricted free agent), this anticipated signing suggests other moves in the offing.