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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Three options to partner with David Rittich next season

While his contract has yet to be signed, we know David Rittich will make up half of Calgary’s goaltending tandem in 2019-20. What remains to be seen is who will share the Flames’ crease with him for the coming season. Rittich is the team’s best chance at a long-term number one since Miikka Kiprusoff, which is why he deserves a good chunk of starts for the coming year. As such, Calgary is likely in search of a crease-mate comfortable with a time share, and potentially playing second fiddle.

We went through this exercise recently on Sportsnet 960 and targeted a few solid, yet realistic, options. If the Flames hand Rittich between 50 and 55 starts next season, his partner would finish between 27 and 32. Let’s roll through three potential targets Calgary could explore in the coming weeks.

Mike Smith

There’s a segment of Flames fans very vocal and adamant Smith should be back for a third season with the team. In fairness, Smith’s playoff performance should influence opinions, because his five game performance against Colorado was impressive. Of course, the overall body of work last year wasn’t of the same caliber.

GS Record SV%
40 23-16-2 0.898

“I think you always want to be the guy,” Smith said at locker clean-out in April. “I’m a competitive guy, I’ve played a lot of games throughout my career, and you always want to play.”

Perhaps I’m reading too much into Smith’s answer about playing time, but everything I’ve been able to garner suggests he’s not looking for a job as a backup or tandem-mate. Now, the market may dictate otherwise, which would probably force Smith to change his mind. In that case, a return to Calgary would make more sense.

“That’ll be something that’ll be talked about,” Smith said. “Ritter had a great season this year. Both guys want to play, so it’s a good problem to have.”

I’m not anticipating Smith to be back next season, but as we wrote in April, it definitely isn’t going to happen with an expectation of being number one. I don’t believe Smith is Calgary’s priority this summer, but if other options don’t pan out and he’s still available, the door isn’t closed on a return.

Curtis McElhinney

Curtis McElhinney

It would be quite the full circle if the artist formerly known as McBackup returned to where his NHL career started. Drafted in the sixth round back in 2002, McElhinney played parts of his first three seasons with the Flames before embarking on a journeyman tour around the league. Now 36, McElhinney enters free agency with the most leverage he’s ever had and a chance to cash in for the first time in his career.

McElhinney is coming off his best NHL season for a few different reasons. He started a career-high 33 games with Carolina and helped them clinch a playoff spot for the first time in a decade. Then, following an injury to Petr Mrazek, McElhinney stepped in and shut the door in his first ever playoff appearances. In five postseason games, McElhinney went 3-2 with a 0.930 SV%.

What makes McElhinney attractive for Calgary is his proven ability to perform at a high level despite a lower number of starts. A look at his last three seasons underlines McElhinney’s consistency as a backup, even if he was elevated a little beyond that this past season.

Season Team GS SV%
2016-17 TOR/CBJ 15 0.917
2017-18 TOR 15 0.934
2018-19 CAR 33 0.912

If 55 starts is a realistic target for Rittich, the Flames could be very confident in McElhinney picking up the slack in those 27 other games. It’s pretty much all he’s done since leaving Calgary partway through the 2009-10 season. McElhinney has been one of the NHL’s best backups over the last half-decade, which is why he’ll be playing somewhere next season.

I know McElhinney is 36, but that doesn’t bother me the same way it does others. The Flames are in a competitive window, so if a guy can play and help the team win, his age is immaterial. I feel the same way about Smith, but the difference is he’s not a career backup. McElhinney is, and even with all this newfound leverage, no one is going to confuse him as a starting option.

I see no reason why Calgary wouldn’t be comfortable with an incentive-laden one or two year contract for McElhinney. The problem might be how many other teams feel just as comfortable going down the same road.

Cam Talbot

Cam Talbot

I know the mere mention of Talbot’s name makes some Flames fans irate. After all, he played for the enemy Oilers most of the last four seasons and is coming off a very mediocre 2018-19 campaign. But, looking at it objectively, Talbot’s poor season is the only one he’s had over the course of his NHL career.

Season Team GS SV%
2013-14 NYR 19 0.941
2014-15 NYR 34 0.926
2015-16 EDM 53 0.917
2016-17 EDM 73 0.919
2017-18 EDM 67 0.908
2018-19 EDM/PHI 32 0.892

There’s no doubt Talbot fell off a cliff last season and was passed on the depth chart by Mikko Koskinen as a result. In every other season of his career, though, Talbot has been serviceable at the very least; most of the time been better than that. Was his most recent season a sign of things to come, or just an uncharacteristic down year?

From Calgary’s perspective, targeting Talbot would make a lot of sense. He’s performed well as a backup in the past and, knowing how things went last year, would likely be okay signing in a secondary role. Talbot will be 32 for next season and doesn’t have the same type of leverage as McElhinney, which points to a good bargain deal.

The Flames would be banking on last season being a misnomer for Talbot, which does have risk attached. However, it’s the only sub-0.900 season of his career; if Talbot can have even a modest bounce back, he’d be a solid addition to Calgary’s goaltending fold.

  • FLT

    That’s a pretty uninspiring list. Hopefully Tre has some other ideas up his sleeve. I’d probably be ok with a 1-2 year deal for Talbot, but for the oiler stink all over him.

    • Kevin R

      I have no problem with Talbot either, I think he is closer to a 1-B option & get his cap hit at a reasonable number. We can be attractive to him as well because Ritter is un unknown commodity & leaves him a pretty solid opportunity to become the 1A guy. 2 year deal would suffice as I am not sold on Gilles & I think Parsons needs at least 2 years in the minors to get his game. Unless Flames pull off a trade for a young guy, I see Gilles & Parsons back in Stockton come next fall. Hopefully one of them can step up.

      • Rudy27

        Not to mention that Talbot had the 3 player Oilers team playing in front of him. That’s got to be depressing! Maybe a new life in Calgary can get him playing back up to his potential.

    • oilcanboyd

      Thanks to SNWest we were able to watch a fair number of oiler games. Not impressed with Talbot’s play the last two seasons. Bad goals at bad times. Actually a downgrade over Smith. Only difference is you may get Talbot for a song, but going on the cheap is not the answer.

  • Squishin

    Hmm, yeah. Personally, I don’t see Smith as a good option.
    a) He’ll want starts most of the time, and the Flames can’t give him that.
    b) His form has looked worse and worse over the last couple seasons. Too much flopping! The best goalies are those who stay calm and play positionally very smart (see Price).
    I think Talbot would be just fine. They hung him out to dry in Edmonton just a wee bit. We often forget that the Oil doesn’t really have a defence.

    • FlushedOut

      Yes flopping never got Dominik Hasek anywhere. Structure is good but you have to change up the way you play shooters from time to time. If you play shooters the exact same way all the time they figure you out and rip you to shreads.

  • Raffydog

    To bad Treliving didnt address this issue years ago when it was painfully obvious the Flames have no nhl goalies or prospects. Instead, in typical BT fashion, he waits until every team has him backed into a corner, and bending over to find a goalie. Now the Flames face the very real probability of heading into next season with no proven #1 goalie. This team is such a disaster. Rebuild with a competent gm please!!!!

  • everton fc

    If these are my choices, I take Talbot.

    Semyon Varlamov is another I keep my eye on. Not sure about him, though – seems the Avs will go with Grubauer and Francouz, next season.

    • oilcanboyd

      Smith as well as a number of other goalies figured out the equipment issue. Smith was trending up in the second half of the season and Rittich down. FN Writers seem to lump all the games with Smitty and with an 0.898 SV% surmise he had a total bummer of a season. Talbot was worse when he went to Philly.

  • Bawcos

    If Talbot gets a mulligan on last season then why not Keith Kincaid? Same case as Talbot. One bad year after many good seasons as a backup/ 1B/ became the starter in 2018. Bad team in front of him every year but would be even cheaper (also younger) than Talbot. 2 years dirt cheap could be a reasonable option given the alternatives.

  • freethe flames

    Both Mac and Talbot should be cheap enough. Talbot on a Lehner type contract; @1.5m to prove he still has it. Mac has been a good back up last number of years and knows that role. Personally I think there will be some other movement; Reimer out of Florida is likely, Kuemper out of Arizona is possible but less likely.

  • Franko J

    The options for the Flames in between the pipes is pretty bleak. I have no clue who Treliving has in mind. That being said, I would target Campbell from LA. I just don’t know what it would take to pry him from LA.

  • Baalzamon

    A guy on twitter was talking about the possibility of Smith playing for the Oilers and Talbot for the Flames next season. But “Cam Talbot” autocorrected to “cantaloupe” in his tweet.

    If the Flames sign Talbot (I doubt they will, personally) I propose Cantaloupe as his new nickname.

    • Bawcos

      Really it works to be a 2 trade deal. But the gist of it is – PK goes to Van for Demko and Pearson (or Baertschi), Brodie goes to Nashville for Saros. I think CGY was to get a mid to late round pick but basically it’s Saros + pick for Brodie on draft weekend. Not a super reliable source, but kinda makes sense other than BT loves his insurance policy(to an extent, so do I).

      • Mitchell

        I dont think those trades make sense for Nashville though. If you think about it saros is a young goaltender that has the potential to be an NHL starter. Pekka Rinne is going to be 37 in November, and is likely going to regress soon just because all older players do at some point. In a way saros is Nashville’s insurance policy in net after Rinne regresses. Demko while a good prospect only has 10 NHL games under his belt, and is only a few months younger than saros. Brodie is a serious downgrade from PK, and I dont think an injury prone baertschi + demko are even remotely enough for him. Maybe add Canucks first round pick this draft, and it might be a start.

        • Bawcos

          Not wrong. And I’m not saying it’s a done deal. But I will say NAS is looking to unload PK. Demko is a good target if they have to unload PK (replaced by Brodie) but have to include Saros (as previously stated, not sure if and where picks are involved). Plus they would get Pearson to play middle 6 LW. Which they need. Really every team gets what they want except maybe CGY. Are they really going to go deep end on Andersson? Not BT style. So never-mind Polle or Benning I think BT is where this becomes no go. Worth a look though isn’t it?

  • oilcanboyd

    Posters are assuming Rittich is the number one goalie next season and all we are looking for is a backup. Suppose Rittich comes out flat and in goes the el cheapo goalie. Flames season lost. I would rather have Rittich win the job over Smith…

    • BlueMoonNigel

      As things stand, all they can afford is the el cheapo goalie. Can’t overpay Rittich to be the #1 because he has never been a #1 in the NHL except for stretches of a season. He is also unproven in the playoffs.

      Tre needs to find a guy who is either a vet looking to rebuild his value or an aging youngster who is looking for a chance to strut his stuff like you know who in St. Lou.

      Wonder what it would take for Dallas to part with Khudobin? He’s 33 and has a year left at $2.5M. Dallas needs scoring. Flames have heaps of scorers. Why not Jimmy Neal back to Dallas? ^^

  • Getpucksdeep

    The Flames have 2 players, Frolik and Brodie who have value and could be traded to relieve cap space. I would be looking for a trading partner who can give us a strong skating heavyweight to add some physicality regardless of scoring ability. I’m not saying straight across by any means. The team has to able to take on more cap space than we take back. Maybe toss in a Czarnik and get a draft pick back as part of a potential deal.

    Player age hits Status
    Girgensens LW 25 6 2 207 72 144 5 goals RFA
    B Jenner C 25 6 2 206 77 158 15goals 3.75 3 years
    Ritchie RW 25 6 3 207 53 126 4 goals RFA
    Lemeiux LW 23 6 1 210 63 129 10 goals? RFA

    I know others have mentioned Lemeiux.

  • Loud_voices

    I feel like if you ask any goalie what they want, they would say “I want to be the #1 guy” so I really don’t think you can hold that against mike Smith. I also believe Mike Smith has to understand (whether he actually believes it or just thinks that’s how people see him) his years of being a bona fide #1 is over so I can definitely see him signing for a discount to stay with the team. I would prefer this over McBackup anyday. But he’ll probably see if their is any offers from other teams and if the flames offer anything before he makes any decision.