The Flames have a few UFA’s this upcoming offseason, and goaltender Karri Ramo has sparked a lot of conversation.
As he heads towards unrestricted free agency and the biggest contract of his career, Karri Ramo is saying all the right things. The question is will he get intercepted along the way by Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving.
Ramo isn’t the top goalie slated to become a UFA July 1 — that distinction belongs to Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk — but he will be in demand if he doesn’t come to contract terms with the Flames. And the Wild have made every indication they intend to re-sign Dubnyk, which will play in favor of Ramo if he’s still unsigned July 1.
“We’ll see what is going to happen but I’m sure whatever happens is going to be good,” Ramo said Thursday in a report. “(Calgary) has been our home for two years now. Change is always different at my age, this stage of my career — I’m turning 29 — there’s still a few years left. But do I want to change again? I don’t know. We’ll see.”
That sounds like code for: “I’d be a fool not to test the UFA market, especially if the offer coming in from Calgary isn’t what I think is the best.”
Ramo started the season on the light side of a platoon with Jonas Hiller. Treliving, in his first big move with the Flames, signed UFA Hiller to a two-year, $9-million deal. Hiller got the majority of starts early on, but Calgary coach Bob Hartley went with the hot goalie for various stretches during the season. That included prospect Joni Ortio for five straight games in mid-season when Ramo was injured.
Hiller got the nod when the playoffs started, but is was Ramo who stepped in partway through Game 1 in Calgary’s second-round matchup with Anaheim and was a standout in a 4-1 series loss. So Ramo ended the season very much in the good books with Flames management and fans. Is that enough for Treliving to answer Ramo’s contract demands when he already has Hiller and Ortio (on a one-way contract) set for next season and goaltender-of-the-future Jon Gillies turning pro in the AHL.
“A wise man one told me there’s only one net,” Treliving said in the report Thursday. “Carrying three goalies, you can do it for a short period of time, it doesn’t make sense. I think all three goalies have shown the ability to play. I thought we had good goaltending, but we need time to decompress, push away and think clearly about what we think is our best decision.”
So one of three options is likely to unfold here.
• Calgary lets Ramo walk as a UFA. Three teams are in need of a No. 1 goalie — Buffalo, Edmonton and San Jose — and all three have the cap space to offer in the neighborhood of $3 to $4 million per season on a multi-year deal. But the question there is do those teams have faith Ramo can be a capable No. 1?
• Calgary signs Ramo and trades Hiller this summer. The Flames have the cap space to retain some of Hiller’s $4.5 million stipend and can get decent value in return if Buffalo, Edmonton or San Jose believe the 33-year-old hot-and-cold Hiller can be their No. 1 man.
• Calgary signs Ramo and goes with a three-goalie system until the market opens up during next season for dealing one of the three. Treliving has said he’d prefer not to go with three goalies, but allowed “you can do it for a short period of time.” This option is the best for asset management, but no one is happy — or comfortable — in a three-goalie situation and in Treliving’s time with the Flames, he’s stressed a positive, upbeat dressing room.
In the end, it will surely be Ramo who becomes the most important decision maker here. Does he have faith Hartley and the Flames believe in him to be their No. 1 man — provided a solid contract offer comes forth — or does he take a chance in a new environment?
CALGARY, AB — Karri Ramo could be set to explore both sides of the fence.
The pending unrestricted free agent knows what he has should a return to the Calgary Flames fit both parties. The 28-year-old goaltender is also curious what could lie beyond a return to Calgary following the expiration of a two-year contract signed two summers ago.
“I haven’t really discussed it with anybody,” Ramo said following exit meetings earlier this month. “There’s been some kind of talks but everything is open, really. I haven’t thought about it. During the year, I thought everything will take care of itself and I just had to focus on hockey. It’s the same thing right now. We’ll see what’s going to happen. I’m sure whatever happens is going to be good.
“It’s been our home for two years now. Change is always different. At my stage of my career, I’m turning 29, so there’s still a few years left but do I want to change again? I don’t’ know. We’ll see.”
Ramo’s rights were acquired by the Flames in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens in January 2012 and he signed with Calgary after spending four seasons with Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League.
He played 40 games alongside Reto Berra and Joni Ortio in 2013-14, recording a 17-15-4 record with a 2.65 goals against average and .911 save percentage. He followed it up with a similar performance in 2014-15, splitting time primarily with Jonas Hiller and recording a 15-9-3 record with a 2.60 goals against average and .912 save percentage.
“I think I’m a lot better goalie than I was last year and that’s always the goal, to become better,” Ramo said. “I think I succeeded in that. I feel that there’s a lot of work to do. As a goalie I feel like I can improve a lot. I’m not an old goalie yet. I’m not done. I think I can become a lot better.”
Ramo is looking for a landing spot that will improve his minutes, too.
But he’s not seeking a guarantee.
“I think everybody wants to be the guy who plays 60 games,” he said. “That’s the goal. What I learned is that the NHL, things that are said today are not said tomorrow. Everything changes so quickly. It doesn’t matter if you start in the lineup. You might end up being in a couple weeks playing every game. Things change. I don’t know if you go into the season as a tandem. It might look like that. It’s up for grabs If you play good enough even in this type of situation the other goalie would play 60 games.
“Nothing is set in even us being a tandem. I don’t think that way. It doesn’t matter where I go. The way I prepare is going to be the same and the way I try to play is the same.”
Whether or not it’s the same team he is playing for has yet to be decided.
Whether it’s a third season with the Flames or a first with another club remains to be seen.
As an unrestricted free agent come July 1, Ramo is within his rights to negotiate elsewhere.
“We’ll see,” he said. “It’s tempting for everybody and it’s my first time I might have to choose where I want to go. It’s something new for me in my career. We’ll see. But it’s a long ways to go until that. We’ll see what’s going to happen.
“I don’t think I’m in a bad position. I’m definitely not in a position where I need to hurry to make a decision. Things will take care of themselves. I’ve done my job with playing games. I gave everything I have when I played. That’s the way you earned contracts.
“Now we’ll see what’s going to happen. Things will take care of yourself.”