2018-19 Flames goaltenders under contract:
David Rittich (RFA)
Cam Talbot (1 year, 1 way)
Jon Gillies (1 year, 1 way)
Tyler Parsons (1 year, 2 way)
Artyom Zagidulin (1 year, 2 way)
Nick Schneider (1 year, 2 way)
Dustin Wolf (2019 draft, Round 7, 214th overall)
What’s incredible about the numbers above, is that every single goaltender (except for Rittich, tentatively) is on an expiring contract. If there ever was a prove-yourself season for the team’s various prospects and experiments, this is it.
With 7 goaltenders in the system, varying from second round picks to undrafted gems, the Flames have everything from potential stars, to tantalizing trade bait.
The tandem for the Flames next year is fairly cut and dry. David Rittich is currently in the process of being brought back on a new deal, and is expected to garner the majority of starts this season. Cam Talbot was the team’s lone significant signing in this free agency period, and hopes to return to the success he had in the beginning of his career as a backup to Henrik Lundqvist.
Where things get slightly murky, is Jon Gillies. The former 2012 3rd round pick was at one time the Flames future starter, but injuries and a steep decline in performance has him as good as gone from the organization. When Gillies hit restricted free agency at the end of the 2017-18 season, he signed a two- year contract. The special condition on that contract was it would be a 2-way deal in the first year, and 1-way in the second year.
With a 3.55 GAA with Stockton last year, as well as Cam Talbot’s signing, it’s clear the Flames have no intention to have Gillies on the NHL roster next season. However, because he’s now waiver eligible, the Flames will likely try to use him as a sweetener in trade, as opposed to losing him for nothing. At only 25 and 6’6’’, Gillies offers a level of intrigue and still holds decent trade value.
After his incredibly prestigious junior career, it’s no surprise that Tyler Parsons has been the teams top goaltending prospect for a few seasons now. However, his open struggles with his mental health, as
well as injuries, have held Parsons back at both pro levels he’s played in. Parsons has played in just 27 AHL games over the past two seasons, and 55 pro games total. In the American League, he’s posted a 10-12-1 record with a 3.85 GAA and 0.895 Sv% across two seasons.
Consistency is the absolute key for Parsons this year, as he needs to play regularly and well if he’ll ever make it in the NHL. His borderline freakish athleticism and smarts are his biggest strengths, and has all the tools to be a starting goalie one day if he can make it all work.
The prospect no one is talking about enough is soon-to-be-24 year old Russian Artyom Zagidulin. The undrafted netminder was signed by the Flames on April 9th. Zagidulin just finished his first full season in the KHL with his hometown Metallurg Magnitogorsk, posting
a 12-7-3 record with a 1.96 GAA (8th in the KHL) and 0.924 Sv% and 4 shutouts in 25 games. The 6’1 goaltender will vie for starts with Parsons in Stockton, and his more experienced past likely makes him the third string goalie if and when Jon Gillies is dealt.
The Flames have found success in undrafted overseas goaltenders, as the man now known as Big Save Dave was signed in a similar fashion in the summer of 2016. Time will tell if Zagidulin can adapt to the North American game as Rittich did, but his numbers are nothing to sneeze at in what most would consider the second best hockey league.
Speaking of undrafted tenders, comes Stockton’s most succesful netminder last season. 21 year old Nick Schneider has been the victim of a crowded depth chart, and only saw minor
action in the AHL after spending most of his first two professional seasons with the Kansas City Mavericks of the ECHL. This past season, Schneider went 6-3 with a 2.45 GAA and a 0.922 Sv% with the Heat after injuries to both Parsons and Gillies. Unfortunately it appears the logjam has not eased, and Schneider will likely stick with the Mavericks again barring injury.
At only 22 years old, he offers some upside and a strong season could see him move up the depth chart, or be used as a trade piece.
The Flames lone non-pro goaltender is the potential steal of the 2019 draft, Dustin Wolf. Wolf lead the entire WHL in every significant stat including games played (61), goals against average (1.69), save percentage (0.936), and wins (41) this past season. The 18 year old fell all the way to the Flames with the 5th last pick of last months draft (214th overall), possibly due to his smaller
stature at 6’0. Wolf also ranked second in the WHL in Sv% and GAA last season, only falling to now NHL starter and former Silvertips teammate, Carter Hart.
Wolf still has a few seasons of junior left with the Everett Silvertips, but is certainly one of the organizations most intriguing prospects. Look for him to start for the USA over the next two winters at the World Juniors.
Which goaltender will you keep the closest tabs on this season?
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