The goaltending situation in Calgary has been the best it’s ever been for a long time. Arguably the best since 2003-04, the last time they had three goalies with over .900 SV%. The Jonas Hiller-Karri Ramo-Joni Ortio hydra between the posts has undoubtedly been one of the key reasons the Flames continue to overachieve, and an obvious upgrade from the Karri Ramo-Joey MacDonald-Reto Berra hydra from the previous season. All three goalies have starter capability, but they don’t have space for all of them. Given the Flames’ current situation right now, Karri Ramo is the odd one out.
Ramo is an unrestricted free agent this year, and there’s very little to no chance they re-sign him. Hiller is the default number one in any circumstance, as we’ve discussed before. He’s probably one of the untouchables come trade deadline. So is Ortio. His contract structure indicates that he is the goaltender of the future. This contract year, he is on a two-way deal, but beginning next season that turns into a one-way contract. This makes Ramo expendable. While he is a good goalie, there’s just no room for him moving forward. The Flames have to trade him.
Most of this article was written before today’s news that Ortio will be out 6-8 weeks. I had to delete it all and start again, simply because this changes everything. If Ortio was healthy, the Flames could easily trade Ramo, call up Joni, and everything would be hunky-dory. Now that’s not an option, and the Flames have to hold on to Ramo since there’s really no one left.
The Flames could call up Brad Thiessen, Adirondack’s goalie, but that is counterproductive in two ways. Firstly, it robs Adirondack of their last capable goaltender. As the baby Flames’ backup, Thiessen has been pretty mediocre. With Ortio out, he's the last option for Adirondack. The other is Douglas Carr, who is posting a .888 save percentage in the ECHL. Four points out of a playoff spot, Adirondack needs all the help it can get. The AHL postseason gives a few more games of development to the prospects, which is never a bad thing.
The second reason Thiessen doesn’t work in Calgary is also because of the playoff race. If this happened 365 days ago, it wouldn’t have mattered. Now that the Flames are duking it out for playoff contention, it is important to have a backup goaltender for the remainder of the season. Thiessen has really never been successful at the NHL level, having only played five games back in 2011-12. Ortio’s injury keeps him out until the end of the regular season, assuming he doesn’t need additional surgery or recovery time. That’s the remaining 23 games on the schedule, plus the first few games of the playoffs. That stretch includes four back-to-backs. At the very minimum, that’s four games Thiessen has to start, not to mention the few games where he has to start in wake of a bad performance by Hiller.
Not to say that every game started by Thiessen is an automatic loss, but even if these games are decided by a coin flip, those are points the Flames can’t afford to give up. Given this teams’ propensity to give up a lot of shots and rely on unworldly goaltending, most games with Thiessen in net won’t be 50/50 games. He’s an AHL goaltender, and he’ll perform like one in the NHL. That’s not what the Flames need heading down the stretch.
It’s simply not to Calgary’s benefit to trade Ramo just because he is an expiring UFA. The only situation where a trade could benefit the Flames is a one including an NHL goalie and a pick or prospect. Any other scenario won’t work out. A straight up Ramo for goalie swap will solve nothing, as the acquired goalie will be gone from the team come next season anyways. There are very few backup goalies teams want to trade who are on Ramo’s level, so any swap for a goalie will result in the Flames getting an inferior goalie. An asset in return, pick or prospect, is necessary for the Flames to trade away Ramo, but he simply isn’t worth that much. Unless the Flames can pull off another Reto Berra-type trade, Ramo’s with us until the end of the season.
It’s a tough pill to swallow to allow such a useful goalie to walk away for free, but unfortunate circumstances made it happen. If Treliving manages to trade him away and get the Flames good things long-run and short-run, then it’s a miracle. But don’t expect it.