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Clock ticking on Calgary's goaltending, and Joni Ortio's future with the Flames

The Flames have three waiver-eligible goaltenders. Something has to give.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

If there's one single thing I want you, dear reader, to come out of this article knowing, it's what a one or two-way contract actually means, and why it doesn't matter to you or I, the common fans. Because they don't matter to us at all.

A one-way contract means a player gets the same salary, whether he's in the AHL or NHL. A two-way contract means a player receives a different salary depending on what league he's playing in.

For example, Micheal Ferland has a one-way contract. If he ends up playing in the AHL, he'll still make the same salary he would if he were in the NHL. Jakub Nakladal, on the other hand, has a two-way contract. He makes more if he's playing in the NHL than if he's playing in the AHL.

In 2014-15, Joni Ortio had a two-way contract. He spent the majority of his season in the AHL, and got paid substantially less because of it. This season, however, he has a one-way contract: no matter what league he plays in, he gets paid $600,000.

This doesn't matter to us. Chances are nobody reading this is Ortio's friend or family member; how much actual money he makes is of little concern to us. So when it comes to the terms "one-way" and "two-way" - stop using them, they're irrelevant.

What actually does matter to us is the fact that Ortio is, as of this season, waiver-eligible. If the Flames want to send him down, he needs to clear waivers. And considering how both Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo are also waiver-eligible goalies for the Flames, something has to give.

And if I'm interpreting the CBA correctly (I may not be, but I think I am), something has to give very, very soon. The season is just 14 days away. Via section 13.2 of the NHL CBA, the waivers period is just two days away from kicking in:

The "Playing Season Waiver Period" shall begin on the twelfth (12th) day prior to the start of the Regular Season and end on the day following the last day of a Club's Playing Season.

Sept. 25 is that day. The Flames' next preseason game is Sept. 24, with two more following on the 25th and 26th - but if the Flames want to keep all three of their goaltenders, they may not have a choice but to give Ortio just one more game to play in.

[UPDATE: Ortio will, indeed, play the entire Sept. 24 preseason game.]

It's something that goes heavily against the "always earned, never given" motto, but that motto is impossible to truly fulfil in a professional sports environment, for reasons exactly like this one. If you want to keep everyone, you can't be fair to everyone.

When the Flames decided to re-sign Ramo, their crease got overcrowded. Barring a trade, it remains overcrowded.

Hiller is the best goalie the Flames currently have, but at 33 years of age, he's not a long-term solution, and has apparently been a trade target for months now. Ramo has been a steady fill-in option, but at 29, he's not terribly likely to develop beyond his current level of extremely serviceable backup. And Ortio, at 24, is the weakest of the trio: but still growing, and the most likely to be the Flames' goalie of the future.

Based on where each goalie is in his respective career, you'd have to think the still-rebuilding Flames would like to keep Ortio. In order to do this, one of three things has to happen:

  • He needs to be sent down very, very soon.
  • One of Hiller or Ramo has to be traded (something they have been unable to accomplish all offseason).
  • The Flames enter the season with three goaltenders.

That last one is not a preferred option, and Brad Treliving knows it. The clock is ticking on the Flames' decision.

UPDATE, 09/24/15: Alright, I have since been informed that the suggestion I posited earlier - that it's possible to sneak a guy down to the AHL prior to the waiver period opening - is incorrect. There's no loophole; the Flames are currently stuck with the three waiver-eligible goalies, and the only options are to risk one to waivers, trade one, or keep all three.

There is a chance the Flames could still "sneak" Ortio through by sending him down as early as possible, while other teams are still trying to determine their goaltending situation. However, that not only directly contradicts "always earned, never given", but still creates a risk.

Re-signing Ramo has made for a very crowded camp - and one without an easy solution.