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Curtis McElhinney, Flames draft pick and longtime NHL backup goaltender, retires

After playing 249 NHL games over 13 seasons and winning two Stanley Cups with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Curtis McElhinney has retired from hockey at age 38. McElhinney announced his retirement on Instagram.

The Calgary Flames selected the London, ON-born goaltender in the sixth round (176th overall) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. After a four-year career at Colorado College, McElhinney joined the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights in 2005–06 and emerged as the Flames’ full-time backup goaltender in 2008–09.

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After spending parts of three seasons with the Flames, amassing a 4-12-1 record with an .889 save percentage, McElhinney moved on to the Anaheim Ducks during the 2010–11 season as part of a trade that saw the Flames acquire Vesa Toskala. He spent two partial seasons in Anaheim before making brief stops in Ottawa and Phoenix.

McElhinney spent most of the 2011–12 season and all of 2012–13 in the American Hockey League before resurfacing with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2013–14. He spent four seasons in Ohio, by far his longest tenure with any NHL club, and went 26-33-8 with a .909 save percentage in 85 games.

The Toronto Maple Leafs claimed McElhinney off waivers from Columbus during the 2016–17 season. McElhinney proved to be a shrewd addition for the Leafs, helping the club clinch its first playoff berth since 2013 with a miraculous stop on Sidney Crosby during a critical late-season relief appearance.

McElhinney spent the entire 2017–18 season in Toronto and, at age 34, posted the best numbers of his career. His 11-5-1 record and .934 save percentage helped the Maple Leafs return to the postseason for the second consecutive year.

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With Fredrik Andersen and Garret Sparks in line to occupy the Leafs’ two NHL goaltending spots in 2018–19, Toronto placed McElhinney on waivers at the end of its 2018 training camp. The Carolina Hurricanes swooped in to claim him off waivers and proceeded to deploy him in a tandem role alongside Petr Mrazek.

In 2018–19, McElhinney appeared in a career-high 33 games and won 20 of them. He posted a .912 save percentage in the regular season and helped the Hurricanes return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008–09.

At age 35, McElhinney made the first four playoff starts of his career and won three of them, including the team’s series-clinching game against the New York Islanders in the second round. He posted a sparkling .930 save percentage in five playoff appearances with Carolina en route to the club’s loss in the Eastern Conference Final.

As a 36-year-old unrestricted free agent, McElhinney signed a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning on July 1, 2019. The one-way deal carried a $1.3 million average annual value, marking the first time of McElhinney’s career that he would be compensated with a seven-figure salary. He appeared in 30 regular-season games with the Bolts over the duration of the contract but exclusively rode the bench behind Andrei Vasilevskiy during the team’s back-to-back Stanley Cup runs.

In 249 NHL games with Calgary, Anaheim, Ottawa, Phoenix, Columbus, Toronto, Carolina, and Tampa Bay, “McBackup” posted a 94-95-20 record along with a .907 save percentage.