Ramo Must To Be Odd Man Out For Calgary
Calgary upset the apple cart somewhat last season, topping the Kings and Sharks to claim 3rd place in the Pacific Division, booking their first post season berth since 2009 in the process.
Understandably the Flames were keen to retain as much of that successful roster as possible, as they looked to build on last years success. But re-signing Karri Ramo is already proving problematic for the organisation, who are struggling to fit three capable netminders in to two nets – but the reality of the situation should be clear, there is only one solution to this problem and that is to move Ramo, by hook or by crook.
This is not meant to run Ramo down as such. The 29-year old is a capable netminder. He’s just not as good as Jonas Hiller, nor does he have the upside 24-year old Joni Ortio has.
And that’s why he is the odd man out in Alberta. The one the Flames must move to resolve this situation.
Hiller is a proven NHL goaltender, with 379 NHL regular season games under his belt and a further 33 playoff appearances. He was the ‘1A’ of last year’s tandem and is the type of netminder able to thrive in the Flames system – where possession numbers are not always on Calgary’s side.
While Ramo has the ability to excel, his aggressive style can leave him vulnerable on ‘off’ nights meaning Hiller’s consistency is also a significant benefit the 33-year old Swiss brings to the table, posting better numbers than his Finnish counterpart across the board last term as a result.
Then we come to Ortio, widely considered to be the Flames future #1 (with good reason). A restricted free agent next summer, many believe Ortio is ready to make the next step in his development and is well placed to add to the 15 games he has played for the Flames over the past two seasons.
Could he benefit from a little more time with Adriondack in the AHL? Sure. But the kicker here is that, while other clubs have been able to send their prospect netminders down to gain further experience like Boston did with Malcolm Subban, Calgary do not have this luxury – Ortio would have to clear waivers.
Joni Ortio would not clear waivers.
There is talk of trading Hiller, who becomes an unrestricted free agent in July, Calgary does not need to move his $4.5 million salary; so why this suggestion is even a thing is hard to fathom.
Perhaps it is simply that Hiller is, theoretically, the more moveable of the Flames two veteran goaltenders being the better puck stopper and a UFA next summer (ergo a great short term fix for a team in need). But again, the Team Switzerland netminder is simply the better of the two, this can’t be stressed enough. Why would you make that trade if you’re a bubble team feeling good about your chances of becoming a regular playoff team again? Why move your best goaltender?
Calgary created a rod for their own back by offering Ramo $3.8 million for his services this season – a price many would, rightly, balk at.
Fortunately for them, a potential solution might have presented itself in Buffalo, where Robyn Lehner is out for 6 to 10 weeks due to a high ankle sprain.
If the Sabres have any appetite to compete this season – unlike last year – they may pick up the phone to Calgary General Manager Brad Treliving, with Chad Johnson and rookie Nathan Lieuwen currently manning Buffalo’s crease. The Sabres also have $9.8 million in cap space with which to absorb Ramo’s contract until next summer, when he become an unrestricted free agent and Buffalo can let the former Tampa Bay netminder walk.
Calgary might even get something in return – a low pick, the wry ‘future consideration’ or maybe just some old practise pucks. Any of these solutions is preferable to losing Ortio for nothing via waivers or giving up your #1 netminder.
With Providence Friars alumni Jon Gillies signed to a three-year entry deal last spring, the Flames still have that all important third option available to them; and leaving the situation to fester is likely to become detrimental at some point – either to Ortio’s development or the atmosphere in the Flames dressing room.
A third choice netminder you can promote and demote between NHL and AHL as required is great, what the Flames have now is not.
A trade would be preferable, because the Flames can probably negotiate some kind of return for an asset, but Calgary needs to figure things out sooner rather than later – and by figuring it out, we mean move Ramo.