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Photo Credit: Bob Frid/USA Today Sports

Who should backup Jacob Markstrom next year?

If all goes according to plan, Calgary’s backup goaltender would start somewhere in the range of 25 games or so next season. But, knowing number one Jacob Markstrom has missed significant time in each of the last two seasons, the Flames would likely want a goalie they’re comfortable taking over for a stretch of time if needed. The team’s best bet seems to be looking externally, but let’s take a look at Calgary’s options in and out of the organization.

Internal options

The Flames essentially became a one goaltender team upon trading David Rittich to Toronto at April’s trade deadline. Markstrom started 14 of Calgary’s 15 post-deadline games, mainly because the team wasn’t comfortable with anyone else. Louis Domingue started one game in the team’s second last outing, but other than that, no one else got a sniff.

Player Team GP Record SV%
Louis Domingue Stockton (AHL) 3 0-2-1 0.859
Artyom Zagidulin Stockton (AHL) 6 3-3-0 0.911
Tyler Parsons Stockton (AHL) 1 0-1-1 0.800
Dustin Wolf Everett (WHL) 22 18-3-0 0.940
Daniil Chechelev HK Ryazan (VHL) 21 8-7-3 0.912

Unfortunately, none of the above seem like viable options as a full-time NHL backup next year. Domingue is a pending unrestricted free agent and unlikely to be back. Zagidulin’s status is uncertain as a restricted free agent; does he re-sign in North America or return to the KHL? Parsons is also a pending RFA, but he needs an injury-free season in the minors before even being considered for NHL work.

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Wolf is the most exciting goaltending prospect the Flames have had in a while and is set to make the transition to professional hockey full-time. After another stellar season with Everett, the 2019 seventh round pick needs to play a lot next season. Wolf should get every opportunity to do just that in Stockton, which will be huge for his development. The hope is Wolf is ready for NHL action soon, but it would be unrealistic and unfair to expect that to start next season.

External options

With no organizational candidates ready to step into an NHL crease next year, Calgary will be turning their attention to the external market. The first path to explore would be the UFA crop this summer, which has no shortage of journeyman goalies on offer. Here’s a smattering of the more intriguing names available.

Player Team GP Record SV%
Chris Driedger Florida 23 14-6-3 0.927
Jonathan Bernier Detroit 24 9-11-0 0.914
James Reimer Carolina 22 15-5-0 0.906
Jaroslav Halak Boston 19 9-6-2 0.905
David Rittich Calgary/Toronto 19 5-8-1 0.901
Scott Wedgewood New Jersey 16 3-8-2 0.900

Any one of the goaltenders above could be a fit for the Flames (yes, even Rittich), at least from a hockey perspective. Financially might be a different story. With Markstrom counting $6 million against the cap, a range of $1.5 to $2 million for a number two seems ideal. Trying to guess the backup goaltender market in a flat cap world is a little silly, but I think at least a few of the names above could be had in that price range.

Driedger seems the most unlikely based on his breakout season with the Panthers, but I figured I’d include him knowing his Calgary Hitmen ties. Knowing the league’s current economic climate, though, there’s a good chance we’ll see some team-friendly numbers for UFA goalies, including those listed above.

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Halak is the most interesting to me, as he’s settled nicely into a backup/1B role in recent years with Boston. While Halak’s numbers were down this past season, he posted save percentage totals of 0.922 and 0.919 in his first two seasons with the Bruins as a tandem-mate with Tuukka Rask. Additionally, Halak lost playing time to Jeremy Swayman down the stretch, which should add a bit of a chip on his shoulder heading into next year. At 36, Halak seems like a good candidate for a value contract this summer.

Aside from free agency, Calgary has a few trade options they could explore. For example, the Rangers and Blackhawks have three goalies under team control next year. Acquiring Keith Kinkaid from New York or one of Malcolm Subban or Collin Delia from Chicago wouldn’t be overly expensive or difficult. I’m not saying those are, or should be, desired options. Instead, it’s just a couple scenarios the Flames could explore from a trade perspective.

Regardless of what path Calgary decides to go down at backup, you can be certain it’ll be an external one. The internal options aren’t ready yet for regular NHL duty, although the hopes are high for Wolf in the next few years. As such, a reasonable one or two-year deal in free agency seems like the most likely outcome as the goaltender revolving door continues to spin.