The Calgary Flames have a dilemma. Who should they put in goal moving forward?
Goaltending in Calgary wasn’t great at times last season. Each goaltender had their moments, but neither were stable or trustworthy. Smith ended the season with a 2.73 Goals Against Average (GAA) and a Save Percentage (SV%) of .898. On the other hand, Rittich fared a bit better, but still struggled at times. Rittch posted a 2.61 GAA and a .911 SV%.
If you look at the advanced stats, in the visual below (Created by Tyler Kelley of Puck77 and Pucks & Pitchforks, Data From CorsicaHockey.com), Rittich was clearly the better goaltender. His High Danger Save Percentage (HDSv%), Medium Danger Save Percentage (MDSv%) and Low Danger Save Percentage (LDSv%) were all better than Smith’s.
While Rittich did post better stats, the Flames weren’t comfortable putting him in net during the playoffs. Instead, Rittich sat on the bench. Sure, it doesn’t really make much sense as Rittich was better during the regular season. But, Flames head coach Bill Peters preferred to rely on the veteran goaltender, who has had a lot of experience manning the pipes in the playoffs. Unfortunately, Smith couldn’t hold down the fort against the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche led by Nathan MacKinnon shredded the Flames.
What Would I Do?
At this point, Smith isn’t trustworthy as a starting net-minder in the NHL. I’m sorry, but if you own a SV% under .900, it’s a major concern. My assumption is that any team that approaches Smith this off-season is looking to bring him on as a backup. He likely won’t be a starting goaltender next season. I also believe that he’s done in Calgary. The Smith experiment worked for a little bit in Calgary, but everyone knew that it wasn’t a long-term fix.
I would sign Rittich to a bridge deal. The Flames have a ton of contracts to sign this summer and I can only imagine that general manager Brad Treliving will be the most stressed out individual in Southern Alberta. Also, the Flames’ number one priority is re-signing pending RFA Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk is due for a massive payday. While he won’t get paid like Mitch Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs or Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets, he’ll still take home a decent chunk of change. So, with Treliving focused on Tkachuk, I would expect that Treliving will play it safe and give Rittich a decent chunk of change to take a short term deal.
In addition, I believe that the Flames will talk to Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky is a pending UFA and the indications are that he won’t be sticking around in Columbus. But, I believe that the Flames signing Bobrovsky is a long-shot. Instead, I believe that Treliving will open up the phone lines with the Washington Capitals.
Talking To Washington?
The Capitals will likely have to expose either Braden Holtby or Ilya Samsonov in the upcoming Seattle expansion draft. With Holtby only getting up there in age, I believe that Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan might be open to talking to other general managers about moving Holtby.
The only issue is that Holtby isn’t going to come cheap. The Capitals are going to demand quite a bit and no one will question that. The Flames will likely have to part ways with a couple of their top prospects such as Adam Ruzicka, Dillon Dubé and/or Jusso Valimaki.
Who knows how everything will play out, but Holtby should be on the Flames’ radar.
stats from hockey-reference.com, Corsica Hockey
visual from Tyler Kelley
featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler