Both had the Flames on their no-trade lists.
Brian Elliott’s nightmarish finish to the season precluded his relationship with the Flames from continuing, and Scott Darling became a Carolina Hurricane, making the list of possibilities even smaller.
The Calgary Flames entered the off-season in the market for a proven, starting goaltender and they found one in the desert Saturday when they came to terms with Arizona for a trade acquiring 35-year-old Mike Smith.
The price tag was reasonable, the term remaining on his contract is suitable and his resume dictates he’s a worthy fit on a team looking to start contending for more than just a playoff spot.
"Mike Smith is not a consolation prize," insisted Flames GM Brad Treliving, who worked with Smith’s as a former assistant GM of the Coyotes.
"We scoured the market and looked at every goaltender out there and we felt this was the best fit."
Steve Mason didn’t interest the Flames, nor did 36-year-old Ryan Miller.
They landed instead on an aging player the rebuilding Coyotes were anxious to dump, offering to pay 25% of Smith’s $5.66 million cap hit on the last two years of his deal.
As backstop on one of the worst outfits in the NHL the last several years, throw out the stats Smith has toted.
As Flames fans saw when the Coyotes played Calgary, Smith is still capable of single-handedly stealing games.
He did so plenty in the spring of 2012 when he carried the Coyotes to the West Conference Final, earning him a six-year, $34 million deal and a third-string nod for Team Canada’s gold–medal winning Olympic team in 2014.
In 2015 he went 10-0 at the world championships to carry Canada to gold, finishing the last three games with shutouts.
When he gets hot, the six-foot-four, 215-pound Kingston, Ont. native is tough to beat.
"He might be the best athlete I’ve ever been around and it shows in his game," said Treliving.
"He’s fit, an athletic freak. He can slam dunk a basketball. He takes batting practice with major league teams and hits the ball out of the park. He’s a big guy who takes care of himself and he has low miles on his odometer. He’s been really good given what he’s had to face."
Like last year when Treliving acquired Elliott, the price tag for Smith is relatively cheap to solve the biggest issue the Flames faced this summer.
Boston University senior defenceman Brandon Hickey, who the Flames risked losing for nothing next spring, was tossed into the deal, as was a conditional third-round pick. Should the Flames make the playoffs next year it becomes a second rounder in either 2018 or 2019 – the Flames’ choice.
The Flames have at least three other blue line prospects ahead of Hickey in Oliver Kylington, Rasmus Andersson and Harvard’s Adam Fox.
Pending UFA Chad Johnson was included in the deal so the Coyotes could protect a goalie one hour before the Las Vegas expansion draft roster freeze. The Calgary product could still theoretically be re-signed by the Flames as the backup, although there are plenty of options.
The move keeps the door open for top goalie prospects like Tyler Parsons, Jon Gillies and David Rittich to continue developing in the minors the next two seasons.
"It sets up our future," said Treliving of the gap Smith will be bridging to buy time for his young goalies to emerge.
"It allows them to develop at a good pace."
And it gives the Flames a proven, dependable, puck-moving netminder capable of helping this team win now.
Smith is indeed the most prudent and capable option the Flames had in a thinning market they needn’t wade through for several years.