With the 2015-16 regular season winding down and a playoff spot out of reach, a feel-good 2014-15 campaign that saw the Calgary Flames advance to the second round is a distant memory for the struggling team.
“It’s going to be a long summer. An awfully long summer,” Flames head coach Bob Hartley told reporters in Toronto Monday. “No one will say they’re proud about our season.”
With a strong blue-line and a number of talented, young forwards to build around, the future’s not all doom and gloom for the Flames. However, when it comes to stopping pucks, things couldn’t be much worse for a Flames team that ranks ninth in goals for per game but dead last in goals against.
It’s no secret why Flames general manger Brad Treliving recently said finding a starting goalie is “priority No. 1 – no ifs, ands or buts.”
Current Flames netminders Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo and Niklas Backstrom likely won’t be back with the team next year and it doesn’t appear as though Joni Ortio is ready to be a starter, which puts the Flames in a desperate situation heading into next season.
Pending unrestricted free agents expected to hit the open market July 1 include James Reimer and Cam Ward, so the Flames could attempt to go down that road if they desired. On the other hand, trading for a starter might be the optimal scenario.
And with an expansion draft potentially looming, it could force the hand of several teams since each NHL team will only be able to protect one goalie. This could benefit the Flames.
“Their search got a little bit easier with the announcement of those rules because I do believe we’ll see movement directly tied to it this summer,” Sportsnet's Chris Johnston told Sportsnet 960 The Fan Monday.
Anaheim is one of those teams since the Ducks have John Gibson and Frederik Andersen. If they can only protect one of these netminders, it has been speculated they may consider trading the other in preparation for an expansion draft in order to get something in return for the asset.
“Freddy Andersen, to me, makes a lot of sense [for the Flames] because he’s still relatively young in the league,” Johnston explained. “I guess the problem is similar to what they had to do with Dougie Hamilton. You’re going to trade for him and give up assets and you’re going to have to give him a fair-sized contract before he’s even played a game for you or done anything positive. If you can secure that position, clearly it would be a big help. It would’ve been a big help to Calgary this year.”
Johnston also speculated that Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop could potentially be available in a trade. The Penguins have Matt Murray waiting in the wings, while Andrei Vasilevskiy appears to have all the tools to be an excellent successor to Bishop whose contract expires in 2017.
As mentioned above, the Flames have many quality pieces to build around. They’ll also have a high pick in this summer’s draft. In fact, the Flames currently have a 7.5 per cent chance at landing the first-overall pick. Those odds will fluctuate over the final 10 games of the season but it’s not outlandish to think they could end up with a top-three pick.
For fun I decided to give the ultra popular 2016 NHL Draft Lottery Simulator a whirl and here’s what the result was on the very first try. Just sayin'…
The present-day Flames have been a disappointment but regardless of where they end up picking in the draft the future can be bright and a quick turnaround is possible. They just need to sort out their crease conundrum.