2020-21 Calgary Flames Season Preview
NHL Roster: Jacob Markstrom (6 years, $36 million), David Rittich (1 year, $2.75 million)
AHL Roster: Louis Domingue (1 year, $700k), Tyler Parsons (1 year, $735K), Artyom Zagidulin (1 year, $700k)
Juniors: Dustin Wolf (3 years, $2.4 million)
PTO: Garret Sparks
The Flames overhauled their goaltending situation this offseason by signing former Vancouver netminder Jacob Markstrom to a hefty six year deal, in effect making him the Flames undisputed #1 goalie. That signing bumped David Rittich out of the top spot, but that really shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise. While a steady presence in goal during his time with the Flames, Ritter was surpassed by Cam Talbot’s play down the stretch last year and lost his starting job for the playoffs. The Flames were clearly in the market to up grade the position as time with Calgary’s “core” group is dwindling. It’s looking like the organization wants to push forward and signing Markstrom is a major key to that success.
Markstrom has never been asked to really carry a heavy duty goaltending load until the 2017-18 season where he played in his first of two back to back 60 games seasons with the Canucks. He had a solid .912 Save% and never had a GAA over 2.77. When finally getting more work, Markstrom’s game picked up. He started 43 games for Vancouver last year, winning 23 of them and posted a career best .918 SV%. He also started 14 games for the Canucks in the playoffs in 2019-20, winning eight times and allowed 40 goals on 491 shots (.919).
David Rittich will most likely settle in to a back up role with Calgary this season, if not finding himself as trade bait come the deadline. Rittich is a keeper who runs hot (play and personality) and when he’s on he’s good, but when he’s off he’s off. The Flames added Markstrom to stabilize the crease, but Rittich can still play. He’s 59-32-14 in his time with the Flames and would probably start on a few other NHL squads. It will be interested to see how he handles being relegated to a #2 role and depending on how well Markstrom plays he could end up seeing the ice very little. Still, as a backup option, I think most teams would be thrilled to have him wearing the baseball cap.
As for the rest of the stable, the AHL level has been revamped as well, with Jon Gillies moving on the Bluest this offseason. The Heat will have Louis Domingue and Tyler Parsons battling it out with Artyom Zagidulin pushing for time as well. Domngue is the only player with any NHL experience, having 139 games under his belt. Parsons once looked like the future of the organization, but he’s quickly been surpassed by the upstart 18 year old in Dustin Wolf. And speaking off Wolf, he’s young and yes, goalies always develop at different rates, but right now he appears to be the a star in the making, having backstopped the Everett Silvertips for the past three seasons, compiling a record of 88-31-6 over that span.
To wrap, the Flames are once again rotating their NHL goalies for the millionth time since Miikka Kiprusoff left for retirement. The one difference coming into this season is Calgary has inked a goalie for a long term. The Flames haven’t had anything more than a stop gap or a used bandage for a long time and they are betting on Markstrom anchoring himself in that net and guiding the Flames to greatness. There’s no way they sank that term and cash into a player with the hopes he’ll “hold the place” until a younger player is ready. As for the rest of the group, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if Rittich plays well enough to find himself as trade bait and someone from Stockton (most likely Domingue) ends up as Markstrom’s backup in Calgary. Parsons and Wolf are still too raw to even consider being close to NHL ready, so it’s Jacob Markstrom’s position and for the first time in a long time, the Flames actually appear to have a true #1......at least on paper.