It’s been a musical chairs kind of season for the Calgary Flames’ goaltending depth. Four goaltenders. A high goals against average. Exactly what Flames fans expected entering into the 2015-16 season, right?
The Flames expected that one goalie would emerge as the go-to-goalie, but none produced results. Karri Ramo posted a 17-18-1 record with a 2.63 GAA and .909 save percentage, while Jonas Hiller posted a dismal .883 save percentage and 3.39 GAA. In wake of Ramo’s season-ending injury, Joni Ortio did not live up to expectations. Ortio could not produce NHL-calibre numbers, with a .901 save percentage and 2.87 goals against average in 16 games played. In two games with the Flames, NHL veteran Nicklas Backstrom has been unable to find his form, posting a 3.51 GAA and a .863 save percentage in just two games.
At 38 years young, Backstrom could find his game with eight games remaining in the 2015-16 campaign. However, the top priority should be to acquire a top goalie that can lead the Flames to success after an exciting 2015 playoff run. Who would be the Flames’ top candidates?
29 year-old Tampa Bay Lightning (2014 Vezina candidate) goaltender Ben Bishop could be the best candidate that the Flames could acquire. Bishop’s contract expires by the conclusion of the 2016-17 season, and could be moved with the emergence of Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning could choose one of two paths; trade his rights before July 1 (similar to San Jose trading Antti Niemi’s rights to Dallas) or let him walk. Steve Yzerman knows the smart move.
After an awfully slow start to the season, Jonathan Bernier has performed well in the month of March. With more structure in front of him, he has not faced the quantity of quality shots endured in previous seasons. Calgary could be that perfect suitor for Bernier, because of their weaker defensive coverage. Bernier is locked up until the conclusion of the 2016-17 season at $4.15M.
As Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston pointed out in his piece about the Anaheim goaltending duo, one of the two will have to be traded before next year’s potential expansion draft. Trading one of their goalies would be similar to the situation that Tampa Bay holds; gaining value in an aging asset. While Andersen is only 27 years young, his value will only increase as Anaheim is on the rise and could potentially go for a deep run in the 2016 playoffs. John Gibson might very well be Anaheim’s goaltender of the future, and Calgary could offer a number of assets in return.
Jimmy Howard and Cam Ward have been relatively good, but have not been studs such as the goalies mentioned above. Ward might be nudged out by Eddie Lack, while Howard has already been nudged out by Petr Mrazek.
Risk & Reward
Jonathan Bernier could be the best in terms of risk friendliness. The Toronto Maple Leafs will likely ask a lot for Bernier, but won’t receive a lot of value because of inconsistency and extremely slow start in the 2015-16 season.
Frederik Andersen and Ben Bishop are two proven starters that could hold the fort for the Flames. Both goaltenders have not shown a save percentage south of .915, a great value that the Flames see in the two.
It would be a low risk for the Flames to sign Cam Ward, whose contract expires at the conclusion of the 2015-16 season. Jimmy Howard is similar to Jonathan Bernier, who needs to find his game with a new team.