On paper, the Calgary Flames have upgraded their goaltending from worst to one of the best. Now comes prove-it time for Brian Elliott.
The Flames acquired the efficient Elliott from the St. Louis Blues on Friday for a second-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. Elliott has one year remaining on his contract, setting up what could be his most compelling regular season yet from a fantasy standpoint.
Among goalies with at least 50 games played since 2011-12, Elliott ranked first in goals-against average (2.01) and second in save percentage (.925). Elliott also ranks second in shutouts (25) in that span behind Los Angeles Kings starter Jonathan Quick (28) -- an amazing feat considering Elliott was locked into time-share situations for much of his St. Louis tenure.
He finished 52nd among all players in Yahoo's performance-based fantasy rankings this season, eighth among goalies. Each of the seven goalies ranked ahead of him was a full-time starter. He was tied for second in even-strength SV% (.934) among goalies with more than 40 games played behind Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers (.937).
As for the Flames, their combination of Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller, Joni Ortio and Niklas Backstrom had a League-worst .892 team SV% in 2015-16. Elliott gives the Flames a huge boost in their greatest area of weakness, but here's the big question: Can he take after Cory Schneider and translate his success to a much heavier workload after a draft-day trade?
Video: SJS@STL, Gm1: Elliott denies the Sharks on a rush
Elliott has never played more than 55 games in a regular season. That said, Hiller and Ramo could become unrestricted free agents July 1, so it looks like Elliott will have the crease to himself in his new home. Barring injury, fantasy owners can expect his career high in appearances to be broken -- especially after he showcased his durability in leading the Blues to the Western Conference Final. The 31-year-old started 18 of the Blues' 20 games in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, going 9-9 with a 2.44 GAA, .921 SV% and one shutout.
He has played 55 games twice in his NHL career, but not with the Blues. He did it in 2009-10 with the Ottawa Senators, going 29-18-4 with five shutouts but a mediocre GAA (2.57) and SV% (.909). He reached the same games total again in 2010-11, which he split between the Senators and the Colorado Avalanche, but had far worse results (15-27-9, 3.34, .893, three SO).
But there's no debating Elliott was a huge reason the Blues had the most regular-season wins in the NHL (230) over his five seasons with the team. The inconsistent usage never affected his performance.
Ranked 12th in NHL.com's most recent fantasy goalie rankings and 74th overall, Elliott now becomes a breakout candidate of sorts even with years of strong statistical performance on his side. The opportunity for him to round out his fantasy profile with 30-35 wins could finally push him into the top-five goalie realm.
The Flames have one of the best 1-2 punches in the NHL with Johnny Gaudreau, who finished tied for sixth in the League in scoring (78 points in 79 games), and Sean Monahan, who finished tied for 28th (63 points in 81 games). Each could become a restricted free agent July 1.
Assuming each signs a new contract to remain in Calgary, Gaudreau and Monahan will be the foundation of its up-and-coming offense. The Flames also have young forward Sam Bennett as a secondary scorer and a defense that features puck-moving threats Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie. The Flames have a lot of work to do in deepening their lineup, but have plenty of offense to support Elliott in his transition.
Fantasy owners should see how everything plays out the rest of the offseason, but it's absolutely fair game to begin targeting Elliott in the fifth round of standard-category, 12-team drafts this fall.