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Flames exploring all avenues for new goaltender

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- Gone are the questions about the next head coach of the Calgary Flames.

Still present are the questions about their next starting goaltender, though.

And while Flames general manager Brad Treliving crossed off a big item on his to-do list in hiring coach Glen Gulutzan on Friday, Calgary’s crease conundrum still requires plenty of attention.

It’s getting it.

“It’s safe to say we’re looking at all our options right now,” said Treliving, who identified goaltending as an offseason priority at exit meetings back in April following a disappointing 35-40-7 season.

“From a trade route, there may or may not be goaltenders available. We’ve been exploring that for a number of weeks. We’ll see exactly who may be on the market, what those acquisition costs are, what may be a fit or what may not be a fit for us, and then keeping an eye on free agency … if players get to that point. Free agency is a little bit of an unknown at this point. We know who may be there, but there’s still time for players to re-sign with their teams and those types of things.

“We’re following all paths.”

The 2016 NHL Draft runs June 24-25, with the Flames possessing three second round picks -- valuable currency in the trade market.

Free agency opens at 10:00 PM MT on July 1st.

“I think we all realize that we have to address the goalie situation. We’ve had a number of discussions about that internally with our pro scouts and (goaltending coach) Jordan Sigalet," assistant general manager Brad Pascall said.

“We’ve built a list of players that might come free, players that we might be able to acquire. I’m comfortable that we have a good barometer of where we want to go with that. I think over the next number of weeks we’ll make those final decisions and ensure that we have a good tandem in goal here moving forward for the start of the year.”

But it’s not quite that easy.

And the Flames, who surrendered an NHL-high 257 non-shootout goals and had the worst team save percentage in 2015-16, are almost assuredly receiving a complete makeover in net.

At a cost.

“In a cap world, in a cap situation where we’re at, you have to get the best players you can … not only in goal but across the board … and make them fit into your cap. It’s too early to say, ‘We want this guy’ because he’s free versus via trade,” Pascall said. “It’ll all come out here as we approach July 1 and get a better idea of what the market holds, and then how that player fits and where we have them ranked.”

Calgary’s goaltenders, including Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller, Joni Ortio and Niklas Backstrom, combined for an .892 save percentage last season.

Ramo led Calgary with 37 starts, and his team-high .909 save percentage was 49th among the 69 goaltenders who made at least 10 NHL appearances. Hiller, who went 9-11-1, finished dead last at .879, and Backstrom posted an .881 mark in four games.

All three are unrestricted free agents, and Hiller and Backstrom have already signed new contracts to play in Europe next season; Hiller with EHC Biel in Switzerland, and Backstrom with HIFK in Finland.

Ortio, a restricted free agent, posted a 2.76 GAA and .902 save percentage in 22 appearances. He has yet to be re-signed.

Gulutzan, who spent the past three years in the same division as an assistant coach with the Vancouver Canucks, is well aware of the concerns.

“The obvious one is out there … is the goaltending,” he started. “You can prepare the best PP meeting, the best PK meeting, the best 5-on-5 meeting, and the best three practices leading up to the game, but if you don’t get goaltending you’re not going to win.

"That’s an issue.”

The Flames have 22-year-old Jon Gillies, who is recovering from season-ending hip surgery, and newly signed David Rittich under contract. Neither is a viable NHL option. Yet.

Which leaves Treliving and the Flames still searching for their next netminder.

“There was goaltender movement last year. I think there will be goaltender movement this year,” Treliving said. “We know it’s an area we need to address with our team. We’re looking at all potential available opportunities.”

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