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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

What should David Rittich’s next contract look like?

David Rittich will be part of a Calgary goaltending tandem next season, that much we know. What we don’t know is what his next contract will look like. Rittich is a pending restricted free agent this summer, which presents an interesting decision for the Flames. They could easily sign Rittich to a one-year “show me” deal, but there’s plenty to suggest a longer deal might make more sense in the bigger picture.

The body of work

GS Record GAA SV%
58 35-15-8 2.70 0.909

Rittich’s career NHL numbers above are solid, especially if you add a little context. Rittich was a solid backup during the 2017-18 campaign but struggled when handed the reins after an injury knocked Mike Smith out for a month. Last season Rittich saw significantly more playing time, but his year was a tale of two halves.

Stretch GS SV% EVSV%
Oct. 3 – Dec. 31 20 0.920 0.935
Jan. 1 – Apr. 6 22 0.902 0.910

We found out after the season that Rittich suffered an injury in a December 31st game against San Jose and played through it the rest of the way. It’s likely not a coincidence we saw a visible and statistical drop from that point on. Things dropped off considerably for Rittich in the second half of the season, while Smith saw his ice time increase and his overall play improve.

Let’s not forget how strong Rittich was in the first half of the season, though. With Smith struggling, Rittich took the mantle as Calgary’s number one and was one of the NHL’s best until January. It was a limited stretch, of course, but gave us a solid glimpse of what Rittich was capable of at the highest level. It was certainly enough evidence to convince me he should be part of the Flames’ goaltending fold going forward.

There’s no saying how much Rittich’s lingering injury affected him and his play in the second half. There could have been plenty of other things contributing, whether it be fatigue, a brighter spotlight, or the pressure of more important games. For me, though, knowing an injury timed up almost exactly to a decline in play is enough to give Rittich benefit of the doubt for a less impressive final few months.

The comparables

Rittich’s situation is somewhat unique. He’s got number one potential and is part of Calgary’s plans going forward, but Rittich’s leverage is limited due to a smaller body of work. How much, and how long, do you pay a guy with lots of potential but less than two NHL seasons under his belt? There’s no easy answer, but a look back at similar situations in recent years helps set a market.

Plotted below are five goalies in similar spots prior to signing their first “big” contract. For comparison’s sake, I’ve included stats in the two seasons they played prior to signing, excluding Dubnyk and Hammond. In those two cases, I included numbers after each guy burst onto the scene with their respective teams in the 2014-15 season.

Goalie Team Age Year GS Record SV% Contract
David Rittich CGY 27 2019 58 35-15-8 0.909 ?????
Juuse Saros NSH 20 2018 43 21-14-10 0.923 3 x $1.5 million
Petr Mrázek DET 24 2016 75 43-25-8 0.920 2 x $4 million
John Gibson ANA 22 2016 24 16-8-0 0.919 3 x $2.3 million
Devan Dubnyk MIN 29 2015 39 27-9-2 0.936 6 x $4.33 million
Andrew Hammond OTT 27 2015 23 20-1-2 0.941 3 x $1.35 million

Dubnyk is the high water mark and Minnesota’s risk has paid off in a big way. Despite having him for only half a season, the Wild saw enough in Dubnyk to sign him long-term while keeping his cap hit down. They made the right call; Dubnyk is a legit NHL number one and has given Minnesota a ton of cap flexibility. Getting quality work over 60-65 starts per season at $4.33 million is a bona fide bargain these days.

Interestingly, the Senators went in a different direction. While they rewarded Hammond with a three-year deal, Ottawa also seemed to realize he was more flash in the pan than future number one. That decision has also proven to be the right one; The Hamburgler isn’t even in the organization anymore and has returned to being a career minor leaguer.

Rittich falls somewhere in the middle of Dubnyk and Hammond, although I think he’s closer to the former than the latter. While his numbers come in below any of the goalies listed, Rittich has leverage that didn’t exist for the likes of Saros, Mrázek, and Gibson: he’s eligible for UFA status next summer. As such, it’s more difficult to use those three deals as straight-across comparables Rittich.

Conclusion

David Rittich

The Flames have a real opportunity to get Rittich signed to a team-friendly deal this summer, and it’s an opportunity I think they need to pounce on. Getting Rittich locked up for a few years at a decent number has the potential to give Calgary much needed cap flexibility. Sure, there’s risk involved; goalies seem to be more voodoo than science, so there’s risk involved with any multi-year deal signed these days.

Knowing what Rittich has done to this point, and knowing what he could be, I believe the potential payoff outweighs any risk assumed by the Flames. We’re talking about a team that hasn’t had a long-term number one since Miikka Kiprusoff retired in 2013; that’s six straight seasons of short-term plans and shots in the dark. Rittich isn’t a sure thing, but he’s the team’s first legit chance at a consistent number one in more than a half-decade.

So let’s talk turkey. A one-year deal makes no sense for Rittich, because it allows him to leave as an unrestricted free agent next summer. That could be a nightmare if he puts together a strong season in 2019-20; Calgary would have to pay a much higher premium in that case or risk losing him for nothing. For me, three or four years sounds a lot better.

Let’s plot Rittich somewhere between Saros/Gibson and the high bar set by Dubnyk. Factoring in numbers, cap inflation, and Rittich’s age/UFA eligibility, something like $2.5 per over three years or $2 million per over four years seems realistic. If it’s something Rittich’s camp is open to it, a deal in that range makes a lot of sense for the Flames.

Playing the long game isn’t always comfortable with goalies, but as the comparable deals above show, it can pay off nicely. Assuming risk goes along with the goaltending position, but if Rittich continues trending positively, that risk will be mitigated in short order.



  • Cheeky

    3 – 4 year contract sounds about right, not sure what the rate will be but around the $2.5 – 3 mil won’t hurt us. As said above, we need to stop the goalie carousel, and give Ritter the reins…

  • Kevin R

    Interesting to see that the Western Conference final has two teams, one with having the goalie tandem with the worst save percentage & the other having a 25 year old kid come out of their system & play lights out at the NHL level.

    Saying that, I have seen enough out of Rittich to feel he is an NHL level goalie. If the feeling that Tkachuk is our future captain, then I see quite the good relationship Matt & Ritter have as something we want to have in that dressing room as well. I would say give the kid a 5 year deal at 3.0 mill per. I would also like to see Treliving make a deal to acquire a mid twenties young goalie that looks NHL ready to backup BSD. Ive seen the likes of Tristan Jarry or another good candidate would be Lindgren of Montreal or Georgiev of the Rangers. Why I suggest these two is that both Montreal & Rangers both have incumbents in Price & Lundqvist that are signed for many more years & not going anywhere. If we can keep our goalie cap hit down under 4.0 mill for a few years, that will be huge for the Flames going forward. & yes, I dont really have a lot of faith in Gilles at this point.

  • deantheraven

    It looks to me like the perfect storm:
    Rittich, who shone early and maintained a league average average while he played through an injury in the second half of his second full season in the NHL, at 27 years old is coming into his prime.
    And the ‘Kid’, as somebody posted, is by all accounts the real deal as a teammate.
    The small sample size and poor comparables give BT fair points to keep the figure low.
    But that’s ok because Ritter really want to play here and win here with these guys.
    And that makes BT want him even more, and for a longer term!
    $3 mil for 4 years.
    And we ride the wave with Big Save Dave!

  • BendingCorners

    3×2.5 would be good. As to backup, the Flames played Gillies a lot late in the AHL season and he responded well. My guess is they’ve already made their decision and Gillies will get the backup gig.

  • Rudy27

    I’m optimistic that Rittich can be a number one goaltender in this league. He has great reflexes, but what I really like is his net presence. He always seems to know where his is at with relationship to his net, and does’t get caught it situations like Smith where he has to lunge and flop around to make the next play.

  • Cfan in Van

    I can’t remember who I was arguing about this with, but about 1/3 of the way through the season I said Rittich gets 2.5 for 2 or 3 years. I stand by that (3 years I hope).

  • The Flaming C

    I notice the greatest goaltending contract of all time was included. 3X4.5M with NTC and only half a season of work. I understand why it wasn’t put in though, it was just such a steal it can never be replicated

    • oilcanboyd

      Their number one guy MacKinnon was injured early in the game and that offside challenge was horsebleep. But Grubauer kept the game closer than it should have been.

  • Flamesforever

    Tsn’s latest mock draft has the Flames taking 6’4” 198lb RH German D-man Moritz Seider, personally I would love that pick. Who do you guys think we will take? Who do you guys have your fingers crossed will be available at 26th?

    • Getpucksdeep

      Theres a webpage with 8-9 pundits darft orders. No 2 are ever even remotely close after the first 2-3 picks and sometimes even then… Calgary’s amatuer scouts are first rate thanks to Feaster and Burke. Treliving inherited a good group and he knows how to appraise talent, something Feaster couldn’t do. All I know is their list is different from everyone else again. Bennett, Tkachuk and even Valimaki all dropped into our laps as our scouts had all 3 rated higher. Bennett is good and he’s an asset everyone seems to like for a guy who has yet to show real scoring prowess. Beartchi for the pickthat goot us Anderssen was just outright brilliant. Then there was the on the spot deal during the draft to move up and get Schillington. We can speculate all we want however I bet no one predicts our 1st round pick or any other pick.

      • super6646

        Bennett was a consensus #4 and isn’t exactly a bright spot for our drafting (granted, tre just got here at the time). Tkachuk was the obvious (and great) choice. Valimaki was the only one that had an element of decision making, as it was him or the rhd liljegren. Looking at it today, he made the right choice there.

        • Baalzamon

          Looking at it today, he made the right choice there.

          It was the right choice even in the context of the time. Until this past season (where he fell behind) Liljegren’s career had followed Oliver Kylington’s almost exactly. Kylington was a late second rounder (granted, he should have been taken earlier considering Jacob Larsson went in the first round for some reason, but nevertheless Liljegren has always been a bit overrated considering how little attention Kylington has gotten since the Flames drafted him).

  • Jobu

    Worse case, if Rittich cant cut it as a starter hed still make an excellent 1B. Those are worth at least 3M a year (i.e. Halak).

    So give him a 4 year contract for that much and hope he can take the reigns.

  • Getpucksdeep

    I’ve said it over and over here and everyone ignores the elephant in the room. 4 finalists. On those teams 3 feature home drafted, home developed goalies, Rask, Gibson and Binnington. IF Carolina wins the cup then a “traded for goalie” will win however I just can’t see Dougie and McIlhenney getting past the Bruins OR the Blues or Sharks. Could be wrong. Last 8 straight cups and 11 of the last 14 since the lockout have been won by goalies developed in house. How many “big brained” would be GMs here have insisted we should have traded for Bishop or Fluery and paid the 6 mil plus. Bishops a great goalie…who once again is NOT going to the cup final. Fluery won with the team that drafted him and was out in the 1st round this year with his new team.

      • Getpucksdeep

        My bad again, didn’t do ALL my homework. Forgot all about Jones and that LA/Boston/SJ deal. Still Rask may have been TO property but he never spent a single minute in their organization. Straight from Europe to Boston. FWIW I am pulling for the Blues simply because they are the only “2nd 6” team still in existence that hasn’t won the cup. The “North Stars” played 2 years after a merger of the the North Stars and the Cleveland Barons who were previously the Seals. 2 years later they moved to Dallas and won as the Dallas Stars. Phily, Pitts and LA all have cups. I think a guy on TV said St Louis played in 42 playoffs rounds over the last decades. Doesn’t alter the fact the Thomas in Boston was the last “traded” goalie to win it all. My hearts with St Louis even if the betting odds are SJ vs Boston.