Mike Smith is Calgary’s new No. 1 netminder, but he’s already a familiar face within the organization.
Just ask the Flames’ former goalie, Chad Johnson.
Johnson was part of Saturday’s trade between the Arizona Coyotes and Flames, with his rights heading to the desert along with defence prospect Brandon Hickey and a conditional third-round pick in 2018 in exchange for Smith.
The goaltenders have crossed paths before during Johnson’s single season in Pheonix in 2012-13. Though he suited up for just four games with the team during that lockout-shortened season, Johnson learned plenty about Smith and shared his scouting report during a radio interview on Sportsnet 960 The FAN on Monday.
“I think the first thing that you notice is that he’s a big guy and he plays the puck really well,” said Johnson, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. “I think as an opponent playing with him, too, you know that teams will change their approach to games. I know defencemen love him. He controls the puck back there, guys don’t have to work as hard, really, to get back and get the puck, so I think the transition game is obviously better too.”
The team’s familiarity with Smith extends to the front office, too.
“He’s been a guy that a team’s put a lot of faith in. A lot of the guys that are here now in Calgary now are the guys that gave him the opportunity to be a starter there and have really played him every night in Phoenix,” he said. “It makes a lot of sense why it happened.”
Flames general manager Brad Treliving was the assistant general manager for the Coyotes during Smith’s tenure there and was part of the management team that signed Smith to his six-year, $34-million deal. Don Maloney was the Coyotes’ GM at the time—he’s now a pro scout with Calgary.
“They’re the ones that really turned [Smith] into the starter, when you think about it, gave him the big contract there,” said Johnson.
Smith, 35, has two years remaining on that deal after spending the past six seasons in Arizona, while Johnson is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Treliving’s trading partner, Coyotes GM John Chayka, told Hockey Central at Noon on Monday that the trade was a good fit for all involved.
“[Smith] had a good year, he performed really well and helped his team a lot. And when players perform like that, then people start calling,” Chayka said. “I took a number of calls on Mike and obviously Brad [Treliving], with his familiarity with Mike, had some interest with his goalie situation there. With expansion here, it kind of came to a head in some ways. We talked about a lot of different opportunities, of course keeping Mike was one of them. I just decided that for Mike, for the organization, it was a good move for everybody.”