Goaltending Top Off-Season Priority in Calgary
The disappointment of the 2015-2016 has really brought to light some glaring problems in Calgary. The most obvious is goaltending. The Flames uncharacteristically started the season with three goaltenders signed to one-way contracts. All three goaltenders had promising futures, but unfortunately none of them stepped up to be a full-fledged starting NHL goalie.
Coming off a very impressive playoff run in 2016 the Flames future looked very bright. This years struggles have brought the rebuild back to reality. With a strong defensive pair in Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie in tact for the future, and a strong offensive core the features young stars Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan (both of which are restricted free-agents, but are both likely to be resigned) the future looks bright in Calgary. The one glaring and I mean glaring problem is goaltending. This poor goaltending topic has been acknowledged by Flames general manager Brad Treliving.. It was recently confirmed by Eric Francis of he Calgary Sun that Treliving stated “finding a starting goaltender is top priority in the offseason.” “No ifs, ands, or buts.”
It is very unlikely that the Flames will sign any of the three pending unrestricted free-agents Jonas Hiller, Niklas Backstrom, and Karri Ramo . Their careers as Flames look to be done, and as for young goalie Joni Ortio the future is yet to be determined. The pending restricted free-agent will probably be resigned to a short contract, and will likely fill the back-up role in Calgary next season.
With future goaltender prospects such as Jon Gillies, and Mason McDonald working their way though the junior and minor hockey ranks the Flames need an NHL ready starter for next season. So who is available, and who will the Flames go after?
The unrestricted free agent goalies are more plentiful than most years. San Jose Sharks goaltender James Reimer heads the list of possible goalie targets for the Flames. The aging Cam Ward has also been mentioned, but he is a little less likely of a target. Alex Stalock, Jhonas Enroth, and Jonas Gustavsson are potentials, but none of them fit the NHL ready starting goalie tag the Flames are looking for.
There is also the opportunity for trade options. Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen heads that list. Andersen looks to have all the skills and capabilities of filling the Flames needs. Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning is also rumored to be available. The level of play performed by Andrei Vasilevsky just may have the Lightning convinced he is the goalie of the future, thus making the services of Bishop expendable.
It will be interesting to see if the Flames pursue a trade or opt for the free-agent route. If they choose the free-agency route I look for them to go after James Reimer very hard. If they go for the trade route I look for them to pursue Frederik Andersen of the Anaheim Ducks. I do know that the Flames are taking this problem very serious, and changes will be made this off-season. Good teams are built from the net out, and this problem will be addressed.
* Photo Credit - USAToday Sports Images