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Examining potential backup options for the Calgary Flames

May 7, 2019, 12:06 PM ET [31 Comments]
Todd Cordell
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David Rittich is very likely to be re-signed by the Calgary Flames. At least he should be.

Though it wasn't always smooth sailing throughout the entirety of the season, Rittich posted really encouraging numbers – particularly at 5v5.

Rittich equaled Frederik Andersen, John Gibson, and Andrei Vasilevskiy with a .929 save percentage in that game state and bested the likes of Tuukka Rask, Carey Price, Braden Holtby, and Henrik Lundqvist.

Overall, he owned a respectable .911 save percentage in a year where goaltending numbers were down significantly across the board.

The 26-year-old showed at the very least he is capable of serving as a 1A option in a platoon, and the Flames will have a hard time finding a better option in his expected price range (unless they're trading for one which, well, costs assets).

The team is heading for a bit of a cap crunch but I think it's fair to assume they'll find a way to get Rittich locked up.

While I wouldn't completely rule out Mike Smith returning, he'd have to take a significant pay cut from the $4.25 million he was previously pulling in annually. The noticeable chunk of money is going to Rittich regardless if the team views them evenly. Simply put, the 26-year-old with a future is getting the money over a 37-year-old. That's just reality.

If Smith isn't willing to accept that, the Flames are going to have to go in a different direction.

This free agent class isn't exactly loaded with enticing options, however, there are some journeymen who could possibly, if not certainly, be had at a lower price. The two that stand out the most are Curtis McElhinney and Anders Nilsson.

Over the last two seasons, 50 goaltenders have logged at least 1,000 minutes between the pipes at 5v5. McElhinney ranks 4th(!) among them with a .931 save percentage.

After posting pretty underwhelming numbers for years earlier in his career, McElhinney has somehow turned into a really good backup in his early-to-mid 30s.

Notably, he has never earned more than $1 million in a season. While I expect that to change this summer, he will still be an affordable option.

It's possible he stays in Carolina, of course, but 23-year-old Alex Nedeljkovic might be ready for NHL duty, and I think the Hurricanes are more likely to hold onto Petr Mrazek than McElhinney if they believe that to be the case.

As for Nilsson, his numbers have been nearly identical to Smith's over the last three years – both 5v5 and overall.

At 5v5, Nilsson owns a .922SV% compared to a .921SV% for Smith. They have matching .911SV%'s across all situations during that same span.

If the Flames believe Smith to be a capable platoon and/or backup option, the numbers suggest they should feel the same way about Nilsson – and the latter is much younger, and would come cheaper.

Should the Flames, for any reason, move on from Smith, these are a couple of names worth monitoring.

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