Potential offseason goalie targets for the Flames, and a suggestion of what to do if they win the draft lottery.
CALGARY SUN: Eric Francis notes the Flames will need a goaltender next season, perhaps two. This season’s tandem of Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo are pending UFAs in July and aren’t expected to be re-signed. Addressing the Flames shaky goaltending will be a priority for GM Brad Treliving. Francis suggest Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop, Arizona’s Mike Smith, Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen, Detroit’s Jimmy Howard and Vancouver’s Ryan Miller as trade options, while San Jose’s James Reimer, Carolina’s Cam Ward and Arizona’s Anders Lindback as free-agent targets. Francis also doesn’t fully close the door on the Flames bringing back Ramo for another year.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning could move Bishop, who’s eligible for UFA status in 2017, if they have faith in backup Andrej Vasilevskiy taking over as the starter next season. I haven’t seen anything in his performance this season that suggests he’s ready for that role, so rule out Bishop as a trade option. Coyotes GM Don Maloney claimed last year his club was wedded to Smith and his contract, so taking Maloney at his word, he’s not available. Given Smith’s contract and injury history, I doubt Treliving would be interested. Howard could be an option, but I’m guessing Treliving would want the Red Wings to eat part of his $5.29 million cap hit. I don’t expect the Canucks will move Miller unless they’ve got a suitable replacement lined up first.
Of the free agents, Reimer’s the best of the bunch and the guy I expect the Flames to target this summer. Ward is well past his best-before date and will likely be seen as a backup option this summer. I don’t see Lindback as a suitable option and I doubt Ramo returns, as they’ll likely promote Joni Ortio into the backup role.
SPORTSNET: Jonathan Willis also weighs in on the Flames goalie situation, ranking Reimer, Los Angeles’ Jhonas Enroth, Buffalo’s Chad Johnson, Boston’s Jonas Gustavsson and Anaheim’s Anton Khudobin as the best UFA options based on their median .919 save percentage in five-on-five play since 2013. He feels Reimer, though not perfect, is the best of the bunch.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Willis’ take on Reimer as the best free-agent target. Yeah, he’s not perfect, but he provides more consistency than the others on this list and has starter experience.
Using the same metric, his trade options include the New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss, St. Louis’ Brian Elliott, Philadelphia’s Michal Neuvirth, Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky, Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov, Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen, Detroit’s Jimmy Howard and Toronto’s Jonathan Bernier. He notes the obvious red flags like Greiss (usually a backup), Neuvirth (ditto), Elliott (plays for strong defense in St. Louis) and Bobrovsky (expensive, injury history). While he thinks Varlamov could be a good fit if the Avalanche aren’t committed to him, Andersen may be the best bet.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt the Avalanche are ready to cut ties with Varlamov yet, as they obviously understand they must improve their defense. If they’re going the trade route, Andersen is definitely the best bet. However, there could be concerns over his consistency. Howard, as I noted, could be an option if the Wings are willing to pick up part of his salary, but he also has consistency issues. I don’t believe Bernier is on Treliving’s radar.
Francis, writing for Sportsnet, muses on what winning the 2016 NHL Draft lottery could mean for the Flames, who are among this season’s worst teams. While adding top prospect Auston Matthews would provide the Flames with two good young scoring lines by pairing him with Sam Bennett, Francis also wonders if Treliving would dangle the first-overall pick to the Arizona Coyotes. Matthews is an Arizona native, making him a marketing bonanza for the Coyotes. “Perhaps the Flames could swap their first pick for Arizona’s top pick and also acquire a top prospect or two — or maybe even Max Domi — in a deal,” muses Francis.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For that matter, perhaps the Coyotes would come calling with an offer for that pick? Perhaps their first-round pick and a couple of prospects for Matthews, but I don’t see them parting with Domi.
Of course, this is all purely speculation on our part. Given the Flames position in the standings, however, they have good odds of winning this year’s lottery. If they do, I daresay a number of clubs will come calling. Treliving could listen to offers, especially if they include a good young goaltender. However, it’ll take a real sweetheart deal to pry that pick away from him. He’d be better off keeping Matthews and pairing him with Bennett as Francis suggests.