Karri Ramo

Associated Press

Leafs are looking for ‘a good pro’ to be Andersen’s backup

14 Comments

The Toronto Maple Leafs have made a pair of trades involving goaltenders this off-season. They acquired Frederik Andersen from the Ducks and shipped Jonathan Bernier to Anaheim in a separate trade just a few weeks later.

The moves have given the Leafs what appears to be a legitimate number one goalie in Andersen, but they might not be done diving into the goalie market, according to head coach Mike Babcock.

“Acquiring [Andersen] was a big deal for our team,” Babcock said, per NHL.com. “We think it gives us a top-flight goaltender, gives us a starter.

“Now we have to find a good pro to come in and support him, and we’ll do that.”

The in-house options appear to be limited. The only goalie on the roster who has any NHL experience is Garret Sparks and he’s played just 17 games at that level. The 23-year-old will likely continue to develop in the American Hockey League instead of sitting on the bench with the big club.

So, what are the realistic options for Toronto?

Jhonas Enroth is still on the free agent market. He spent last season as Jonathan Quick‘s backup in Los Angeles. The 28-year-old played just 16 games in 2015-16 and is looking for an opportunity to play a little more. He won’t be the starter if he signs with the Maple Leafs, but he’ll likely play more than 16 games.

Karri Ramo has played 111 games with the Calgary Flames since returning to the NHL from the KHL back in 2013. He has plenty of experience and could be one of those “good pros” that Mike Babcock is looking for.

The Leafs might also look to one of their rivals to find their next backup goalie. Could Mike Condon be available in Montreal? The 26-year-old got off to a great start last season, but like his team, he faded as the season wore on. He’s under contract for one more season at a reasonable cap hit of $575,000. Montreal will have a healthy Carey Price next season and they signed Al Montoya on July 1st which means they could part ways with Condon.

Report: Flames to sign Czech League goalie Rittich

Getty Images
1 Comment

Calgary has inked David Rittich, a 23-year-old goalie out of the Czech Extraliga, per various reports — including this one from hokej.cz.

Rittich spent last season with BK Mlada Boleslav, posting a .919 save percentage and 2.50 GAA in 48 games. He stands 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, but doesn’t have a huge resume, and has little to no experience representing the Czechs at any major international tournaments.

That said, the signing is still interesting.

For one, it continues in an offseason in which the Flames already snagged someone out of the Czech League — power forward Daniel Pribyl, who’s aiming to open the year on the club’s top line next to Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.

Secondly, Calgary’s lack of depth in net means any goalie signing is intriguing.

Jonas Hiller is gone, having signed in the Swiss League. So too is Niklas Backstrom, having signed in Finland. It’s unclear if Karri Ramo will be brought back after suffering a season-ending ACL tear in February.

Joni Ortio is still in the mix, but he’s the lone guy with NHL experience (and still needs a new contract for next season). Prospects Mason McDonald and Jon Gilles still need a fair bit of seasoning, and presumably won’t be rushed to Calgary — all of which could open up an opportunity for Rittich to see some minutes next year.

According to a Calgary Herald source, the organization is “high on Rittich’s skill set, and feels he has potential.”

Jonas Hiller signs three-year deal with EHC Biel of Swiss League

Associated Press
3 Comments

Jonas Hiller‘s NHL days are over for the foreseeable future. The veteran netminder has signed a three-year deal to join EHC Biel of the Swiss League, the team announced.

The move to Europe doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Earlier this month, word got out that the Flames weren’t interested in bringing Hiller back next season.

The 34-year-old was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. After he posted a 9-11-1 record with a 3.51 goals-against-average and a .879 save percentage in 2015-16, his NHL options would likely have been limited at best.

He enjoyed way more success last season, when he had much better numbers and led the Flames to the postseason.

Hiller will join former NHLers Maxime Macenauer, David Moss and Robbie Earl with EHC Biel.

Biel was the worst team in the Swiss-A League this season, according to Hockey DB.

As for the Flames, they’ll have to make some changes in goal if they hope to make the postseason again. Calgary’s four “main” goalies are all free agents going into the off-season.

Niklas Backstrom, who they acquired from Minnesota at the trade deadline, is 38-years-old and likely has no future with the team. Karri Ramo suffered a torn ACL during the season, but he wasn’t overly impressive in 2015-16 either. Joni Ortio is the youngest of the bunch and he’s an RFA. There’s a good chance he’ll be the only one back next season.

There won’t be a ton of quality goalies available in free agency this summer, so the Flames may have to bring one in via trade. Veteran free agents like Cam Ward or James Reimer could make sense at the right price.

Flames parting ways with Hiller

AP
11 Comments

No huge surprise here, but it is official — veteran goalie Jonas Hiller won’t be back with the Flames next season, per the Calgary Sun.

Hiller, 34, struggled mightily this season after a ’14-15 campaign in which he backstopped Calgary to the playoffs a year ago. He went 9-11-1 with a 3.51 GAA and .879 save percentage, getting sporadic playing time.

In the last of a two-year, $9 million deal, Hiller could be in tough finding NHL work next season. He was largely panned for his body of work this year and — following an ugly 8-3 loss to Anaheim, in which Hiller allowed three goals on five shots — head coach Bob Hartley offered a frank assessment.

“You give them a few freebies from the start, and you know it’s going to be a long game,” Hartley said, per Yahoo. “Our goalies had a tough night. Nothing to take away from the Ducks, but in order to beat them you need a few saves here and there.”

As for Calgary, moving on from Hiller figures to be part of a major overhaul in goal.

Karri Ramo, who suffered a torn ACL in February, said he’s spoken with management — “we’ll see which direction the organization is going to go,” he said — but, given he turns 30 in July and is coming off a major knee injury, he doesn’t look like a long-term option.

Niklas Backstrom, acquired in the David Jones trade, is gone, which leaves Joni Ortio to (presumably) battle with whomever the Flames acquire via trade, or free agency.

The club has been tied to San Jose’s James Reimer (pending UFA) and Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen (pending RFA). But it sounds as though Calgary’s options might expand beyond those two — in March, Flames GM Brad Treliving said the club will “cast a wide net” to find a goalie.

Flames will ‘cast a wide net’ to find a goalie

13 Comments

OK, so it’s not exactly news that the Calgary Flames will have to address their goaltending this summer. Their team save percentage is a league-worst .894, both Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller are pending unrestricted free agents, and there isn’t an obvious replacement starter in the minors.

Just don’t expect the Flames to limit their options to James Reimer and Frederik Andersen, the two names that get mentioned the most as potential candidates. (Reimer is a pending UFA and Andersen is a pending RFA whom the Ducks may not be able to afford.)

“We will leave no stone unturned and see where we go,” GM Brad Treliving told the Calgary Sun. “It’s obviously a critical position and we’ll cast a wide net.”

The Sun lists 10 potential targets, including Reimer and Andersen, but also Ben Bishop and Jimmy Howard. (The Bolts only have Bishop under contract for one more season, with young Andrei Vasilevskiy waiting in the wings; Howard, with poor numbers and a big contract, has become the No. 2 in Detroit behind Petr Mrazek.)

We’ll add a couple of more names to the Sun’s list — the Wild’s Darcy Kuemper and the Blues’ Brian Elliott.

So there are definitely options for Treliving to pursue. The question is whether he can identify the right one.