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Fantasy spin: Mike Smith could be top 20 goalie for Flames

Veteran has potential to win 30 games, provide sleeper value after trade from Coyotes

by Ben Zweiman @BZweimanNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

Mike Smith has the potential to be a top 20 fantasy goaltender with the Calgary Flames next season.

Smith, 35, was traded to the Flames by the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday for goalie Chad Johnson, defenseman prospect Brandon Hickey and a conditional third-round pick.

Given the amount of starts he's expected to get with the Flames, and the team he'll be playing behind, it's not unreasonable to think Smith can win 30 games and finish with his best goals-against average and save percentage since 2011-12.

Smith was 19-26-9 with a 2.92 GAA and .914 SV% in 55 games this season for the Coyotes, finishing 297th in Yahoo's rankings for standard leagues. He hasn't reach 20 wins in each of the past three seasons, but that is more of a testament to Arizona's struggles rather than Smith's play.

Video: MIN@ARI: Smith gobbles up Coyle's chip shot

NHL.com Senior Fantasy Editor Pete Jensen has Smith ranked 236th in his top 250 for the 2017-18 season, though he'll likely move up that list following the trade.

The Coyotes ranked 27th last season with 2.33 goals per game, whereas the Flames were 16th at 2.71, and were missing left wing Johnny Gaudreau for 10 games. Arizona also was poor at limiting shots, allowing 34.1 per game, second-most in the League. As you may have guessed, Calgary was much better in this department as well, allowing 28.7 shots per game (23rd).

Smith had respectable numbers (15-13-2, 2.64 GAA, .916 SV% in 32 games) in 2015-16, but missed 50 games because of injury. In his best season in 2011-12, Smith finished 38-18-10 with a 2.21 GAA and .930 SV%, and was fourth in Vezina Trophy voting. In that season, Smith was first in goals saved above average (34.63) and goalie point shares (16.7), according to hockey-reference.com.

The Flames had a carousel at goalie for much of this season, with Johnson (36) and Brian Elliott (45) splitting starts. Elliott was shaky, finishing 26-18-3 but with his worst GAA (2.55) and SV% (.910) in a full NHL season since 2010-11. Johnson was only slightly worse, going 18-15-1 with a 2.59 GAA and .910 SV%. Neither solidify himself as the No. 1 goalie.

Behind Smith will likely be 23-year-old rookie Jon Gillies, who made his NHL debut this season. He made 27 saves in a 4-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings on April 6, his only game. Despite Gillies promise, Calgary will likely ease him into the backup role, giving him around 20-25 starts.

Plenty of fantasy owners were high on the Flames' tandem heading into drafts last offseason. That thinking shouldn't change with Smith considering he'll likely be available late in your draft and will be expected to start anywhere from 50-60 games if he can stay healthy.

Going from a team that finished 27th in the NHL standings to a team that made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the tough Pacific Division could help revive Smith's career as a viable fantasy goaltender.

It's also worth noting the Coyotes' acquisition of Johnson, 31, who has played 81 games (76 starts) the past two season for the Flames and Buffalo Sabres. A career backup in the NHL, Johnson can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Should Arizona sign Johnson before then, he could compete for the No. 1 job with the Coyotes, though it's more likely he'd return to a similar time-share situation. This will depend on what Arizona thinks of Louis Domingue, and if general manager John Chayka decides to sign or trade for another goaltender.

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