Yzerman, Sather, Murray finalists for GM of the Year


The NHL GM of the Year award has come down to Tampa Bay’s Steve Yzerman, the New York Rangers’ Glen Sather, and Anaheim’s Bob Murray.

For Murray its an opportunity to become the first general manager to win the award twice since it was first given in 2010. Anaheim won its division for the third straight year and is fighting the Chicago Blackhawks for a berth into the Stanley Cup Final.

Murray helped bring the Ducks to the next level in the playoffs by acquiring Ryan Kesler from Vancouver in the summer of 2014 in exchange for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, and two draft picks. Kesler had a solid campaign and has been a big help in the postseason with four goals, nine points, and a 61.2 faceoff winning percentage in 12 contests. Perhaps the biggest move was the one Murray didn’t make though. He let goaltender Jonas Hiller walk as a free agent and rather than replace him, Murray put his trust in the idea that one of his two young netminders, Frederik Andersen or John Gibson, would be able to fill the void. So far that’s worked out for Anaheim.

Yzerman’s Tampa Bay Lightning had a 50-24-8 record in the regular season and advanced to the 2015 Eastern Conference Final. Yzerman inherited Steven Stamkos, but he’s done a great job of building a strong team around the superstar. The Lightning have a number of young offensive weapons, including Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat, all of which were acquired during Yzerman’s watch. Kucherov was a late second round selection in 2011 while Palat slipped all the way to the seventh round of the same draft. Johnson meanwhile was never drafted and Yzerman instead lured him over with an entry-level contract in 2011.

The Lightning general manager also acquired a vital piece of the puzzle in 2013 when he sent Cory Conacher and a fourth round pick to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Ben Bishop.

Sather has been running the Rangers’ front office since in 2000 and oversaw their Presidents’ Trophy-winning 2014-15 campaign. He’s made a habit of trading for or signing high-profile players with varying degrees of success. The most recent example is defenseman Keith Yandle, who he pried away from Arizona in March. Some of the other big names he’s acquired in recent years include Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, and Dan Boyle.

Ortio wants to ‘steal that No. 1 job’ in Calgary next season


In his end-of-year media availability, Flames GM Brad Treliving had this to say about his goalie situation, which currently features Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller and Joni Ortio:

“A wise man one told me there’s only one net.

“Carrying three goalies, you can do it for a short period of time, it doesn’t make sense. I think all three goalies have shown the ability to play.

“I thought we had good goaltending, but we need time to decompress, push away and think clearly about what we think is our best decision.”

The most obvious — and perhaps easiest — solution to slaying the three-headed goalie monster is letting Ramo walk when he becomes a UFA on July 1. While Ramo played well at times for Calgary this season and probably still has some good years left (he turns 29 this summer), the club has Hiller under contract through 2016 and, next season, can’t send Ortio down to the AHL without subjecting him to waivers.

Ortio, 24, is a pretty intriguing player. He went 4-2-0 with a 2.52 GAA and .908 save percentage in a brief six-game cameo with the Flames this year and, in the AHL, went 21-13-1 with a 2.69 GAA, .912 save percentage and four shutouts. He was named Adirondack’s MVP and could conceivably be Calgary’s goalie of the future.

Or maybe the present.

“No one wants to back up. Everyone wants to play,” Ortio said recently, per NHL.com. “That’s what I’ll be looking to do next September in camp, trying to steal that No. 1 job.”

Under normal circumstances, Ortio would likely be in line for a full season as the backup, to gain valuable experience and learn how to perform at the NHL level. But Flames head coach Bob Hartley doesn’t take a very normal approach when it comes to his goalies — he’ll play whomever gives him the best chance at winning, like this postseason; Hiller was great against Vancouver for most of Round 1, but it was Ramo that came on in relief in the deciding Game 6 and recorded the victory.

In Round 2, against Hiller’s former Ducks team, Hartley threw his support behind the Swiss netminder… only to tab Ramo as the starter just one game into the series.

In light of this, it’s easy to see why Ortio thinks he can be the No. 1 next year.

“The opportunity is going to be there,” Ortio explained. “It’s just up to me to grab it. No one is going to give it to me. I need to go take it myself.”

For Ducks, Gibson’s injury might’ve been blessing in disguise


Prior to tonight’s Game 2 against Chicago, Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau had some interesting remarks about Frederik Andersen’s emergence in these Stanley Cup playoffs.

“Fortunately for us, or unfortunately, [John Gibson] got hurt in early April and Freddie ran with it a little bit,” Boudreau explained. “He’s gotten better and better and better.

“I think it’s taken the worry out of Freddie’s game and it’s taken the worry from us about him being able to handle playoff pressure.”

Gibson, the club’s 21-year-old goalie of the future, got hurt while battling for Anaheim’s playoff starting gig, and his injury all but took the decision out of Boudreau’s hands — which, hindsight being 20/20, could’ve been the best thing that happened to the Ducks.

Why? Well, the “worry” in Andersen’s game, as alluded to above, was partly due to Boudreau’s (ahem) colorful dealings with his goalies.

Like last spring, for example, when Anaheim became one of the few teams in NHL history to start three different netminders — Gibson, Andersen and Jonas Hiller — in a single postseason. Andersen opened as the playoff starter in Round 1 against Dallas, only to cede the job to Hiller, who eventually closed out the Stars in Game 6.

Hiller then opened Round 2 against the Kings, lasting just two games before Boudreau went back to Andersen — but when the Andersen got hurt, it was Gibson, not Hiller, who took over, as the Ducks eventually fell to L.A. in seven games.

Unsurprisingly, Boudreau’s handling was met with negative reviews. Hiller called the situation “frustrating” after leaving in free agency; in March, Andersen all but assumed he’d be embroiled in yet another “who’s the starter?” saga heading into the playoffs.

“I know we both have to battle for it,” he told the O.C. Register. “I know it’s going to be a long season. You saw it last year. We had three goalies playing due to different circumstances. I know that.”

Boudreau’s penchant for flip-flopping predates his time with the Ducks. In Washington, he yanked Jose Theodore in favor of Semyon Varlamov during the 2009 playoffs; a year later, after vowing “there is no short leash” for Theodore, Boudreau yanked him in favor of Varlamov.


So it’s easy to see why, this year, Andersen (9-1-0, 1.86 GAA, .930 save percentage) isn’t as mentally taxed. The notion of yanking him in favor of Gibson isn’t constantly looming; in fact, of all the goalies to play at least six playoff games, only Andersen, Carey Price, Henrik Lundqvist and Pekka Rinne have been in net for the entirety.

And it seems all that uninterrupted action is paying off.

“I think [Andersen’s] getting more confidence,” Boudreau explained. “He’s played through two rounds now. He’s seen the pressure that comes with it.

“You don’t win unless your goaltender in any playoff series is really good. You need it.”

Giordano extension ‘No. 1’ priority for Flames; decision pending on Ramo


With their season over, the Calgary Flames now face questions about a number of veteran presences — specifically, captain Mark Giordano and goalie Karri Ramo.

On Tuesday, GM Brad Treliving shed some light onto where both fall on the priority chart.

Giordano tops it, per Treliving, who said getting the captain signed to a contract extension is his No. 1 job — once Giordano is eligible to sign a new deal on July 1. The 31-year-old, heading into the last of a five-year, $20.1 million deal, missed the final quarter of 2014-15 (and all of the playoffs) with a torn biceps tendon but is universally regarded as the Flames’ leader and best player. Giordano was also widely considered to be a Norris Trophy frontrunner at the time of his injury; he still managed to finish 13th among d-men in scoring this year, with 48 points, despite missing 21 games.

“Everybody in this room knows what Mark means,” Treliving said. “On the ice, we all know. He’s a culture-setter for me. We plan to get to work at it [contract extension] and have done some preliminary work at it, but it’s one we want to get wrapped up real quick this summer.”

As for Ramo, his future is murkier.

The Finnish netminder had a pretty good season, essentially splitting starting duties with Jonas Hiller (Ramo had 32 starts to Hiller’s 44.) That trend carried over to the playoffs, where Hiller was the No. 1 against Vancouver, only to cede the gig in Round 2 versus Anaheim, when Ramo took the job and played well; in Calgary’s Game 5 elimination, the 28-year-old stopped 44 of 47 shots, many of the highlight-reel variety.

Ramo, though, is a pending UFA and the Flames have both Hiller and highly-touted AHLer Joni Ortio under contract for next season. What’s more, Ortio now requires waivers to be sent down to the American League, and Treliving hinted that a three-goalie rotation wasn’t something the club wanted to mess around with.

“We’ve got a young guy Ortio who’s pushing, knocking on the door,” Treliving explained. “[Ramo] is a decision we’ve got to make over the course of the next few weeks, we’re just not there yet.

“A wise man told me there’s only one net. Carrying three goalies, you can only do it for a short period of time.”

As for the club’s other key free agents — RFAs Lance Bouma and Mikael Backlund — Treliving said “we expected to get both of them signed.”

Quick switch: Flames name Ramo Game 2 starter versus Ducks


Jonas Hiller is out, and Karri Ramo is in.

Flames head coach Bob Hartley announced the starting goalie change on Friday afternoon — less than 24 hours after a 6-1 whipping in Game 1 of the Calgary-Anaheim series — opting to bench Hiller after he starred in an opening-round victory over Vancouver.

The decision probably won’t sit well with the Swiss netminder. Hiller had spoken at length prior to this series about relishing the chance to exact some revenge on the Ducks, who let him walk last summer after seven years with the organization. Hiller also finished the Canucks series with a sparking .931 save percentage, allowing just 11 goals on 159 shots.

But the end of the Canucks series proved the beginning of his downfall.

Hiller was hooked in the decisive Game 6, with Ramo stopping 17 of 19 shots in relief for the win. That led to questions about who would start the Anaheim series, ones that Hartley emphatically shot down by saying there was “no question” Hiller was the No. 1.

But last night, Hiller allowed three goals on 14 shots and was hooked early in the second period. Ramo fared slightly better, allowing three goals on 21 shots.

While the change might be seen as a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, it really shouldn’t be. The Flames employed a goalie timeshare all season long, with Hiller starting 44 games to Ramo’s 32 (Joni Ortio got six.) That’s another reason why Hartley was asked about his starter for the Anaheim series; while he made a pretty definitive statement that Hiller is the No. 1, he also acknowledged he’s more than willing to turn to Ramo if need be.

“I’m very conformable with both goalies,” he said.