April 6 2017. It was a glimpse into the future of the Calgary Flames organization at the goaltending position.
Los Angeles, California - Jon Gillies made his NHL debut making 27 saves on 28 Kings shot to help the Flames pick up a 4-1 victory. Gillies looked very poised in the Flames net, shaking off an early goal to come back strong. He stayed calm, cool, and collected as the Kings blitzed him with 10 shots in a short time frame in the first. Among what was a dazzling debut by the Concord, New Hampshire product, no save was more spectacular than this one:
Erie, Pennsylvania - Flames 2016 2nd round pick Tyler Parsons has already won everything possible at the junior level. With a Memorial Cup and a World Jr Gold in the last year, Parsons knows what it takes to win.
That was on full display Thursday night as he made an astounding 46 save shutout in a London Knights 2-0 win over the Erie Otters. The Otters were the OHL’s best team in 2016-17, and averaged 4.7 goals for per game. Erie had also never been shut out this season which made the feat all the more spectacular. It’ll take quite a few more performances like this for Parsons if the Knights are to take down the Otters.
Gillies has been widely regarded as a goaltender of the future within the Flames organization, but Parsons emergence this season has already put him right in that conversation. In fact, many 2016 re-drafts have Parsons being ranked in the middle of the first round, so getting him at 54th overall looks like an absolute steal. Many sports networks project Parsons to be a #1 NHL goalie too.
With both young goaltenders shining so brightly last night, it had to give Flames fans a lot of hope for what the future could hold. Not since Miikka Kiprusoff have the Flames had a reliable #1 goaltender, although Brian Elliott has played himself into that conversation.
Speaking of Brian Elliott, this is where things could start to get dicey as big decisions could be coming down the pipeline as early as this offseason.
Moose has had a tremendous second half of the season after an abysmal start, and now is a prime candidate to be resigned. The issue is that the Flames now have a couple of goaltenders in that window of being 1-3 years away depending on the development path.
As veterans should, Elliott has every right to be seeking a four or even five year contract extension to lock down some stability in his career.
Whether or not the Flames should offer that is another question. There’s no doubt Elliott has been fantastic of late, and a great postseason could it seem even sillier not to resign him.
Lost in this is David Rittich who has put up really good numbers with the Stockton Heat this season in the AHL. Rittich is in the top ten in both save percentage and GAA. How could he factor into future plans?
Then there’s Chad Johnson who was amazing at times this season too, what do the Flames do with him. Johnson has shown flashes of brilliance this season and has been a pretty good backup at times with a few stinker games in between.
If the Flames can somehow get Elliott to negotiate down to a three year deal, then it could make sense as they could slowly integrate Gillies over the next year as a backup and then give Parsons another couple of seasons to start in the OHL or AHL.
Again, it’s going to come down to just how NHL-ready Gillies and Parsons will be by the end of this season. Goaltenders often develop very uniquely as some take many years to turn into stars (Jonathan Quick) or some who can jump right in (Marc-Andre Fleury).
The likelihood of Elliott taking a shorter deal is slim to me unless the Flames give him a lot of money in the deal. Would it make sense to not resign Elliott? The Flames wouldn’t have to give a 3rd Round Pick to the Blues in the 2018 draft if they don’t sign him.
If you’re Brian Elliott you have realize that the future of the Flames may not be you, and with other teams looking for a #1 in free agency this year, it could be time to strike a big deal.
A year ago, we had a goaltending core of Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo, Niklas Backstrom, and Jon Gillies was out for the season with an injury. Where the Flames are at today is a much better position to be in, but the decisions will be much tougher as a result.
Parsons may need a few more years to be fully NHL ready but he doesn’t have anything left to accomplish at the OHL level. Gillies looks like he can take the next step as early as this upcoming season.
Could a tandem of Gillies/Parsons being thrown into the fire next year make sense for the long term? It could. Both goalies are very calm under pressure situations, and both have shown the ability to be difference makers in crucial moments. Both know what it takes to win.
It’s an intriguing possibility. But big decisions loom for the Flames organization this summer.