The Western Conference playoff matchup between Calgary and Anaheim received a lot of attention last night due to the outright collapse of the Flames. Not only was Calgary already down in the series 3-0 to a smoking hot Ducks team, but in general, the Flames played with as much fervor and dignity as a drunk, middle-aged, beer-league team. Our friends over at Matchsticks & Gasoline seemed to agree.
What a thoroughly demoralized team and effort. Disgusting.— Matchsticks&Gasoline (@MatchsticksCGY) April 20, 2017
The Flames were gifted with a potential resurgence with Game 4 on home ice in a must-win situation, but instead of using that firepower to light a match (so many puns) underneath the players, drive to the puck on every possession, and show the hometown crowd that they still had some fight left in them, goaltender Brian Elliott let Anaheim winger Patrick Eaves slip one in from a tough angle within the first five minutes of the period. Anaheim took the 1-0 lead, and the wind was completely knocked out Scotiabank Saddledome.
That was enough for Head Coach Glen Gulutzan, as Elliott was pulled immediately after the Ducks’ goal. Right around then was about the time folks in the hockey world started making trade talks and asking questions – the most popular being, “who’s playing goalie for the Flames next year?”
Loads of speculations and conjecture led me to considering this point: what about a deal with Marc-Andre Fleury? Does getting swept open any doors for the 14-year veteran to grab a spot in the summer with all the struggles Calgary experienced with the goalie position in the postseason? Is it even possible? Let’s break it down.
Instead, the organization could retain up to $2 million of Fleury’s salary in a trade (if need be) and only see money pouring out for two years, rather than the four a buyout would take.
Right now, Brian Elliott is making $2.5 million to get pulled in the playoffs just five minutes into a must-win playoff game.
Sure, that’s only about half of Fleury’s $5.75 million to ride the Penguins’ bench, so I could see why it would be a hard sell. General Manager Jim Rutherford has a habit of asking too much for MAF – just reflect back to last year when there were reports of him asking for Calgary’s first round draft pick. Even the Flames’ backup goaltender Chad Johnson is only making $1.7 million; why would the higher-ups ever agree to this?
The kicker is that both Elliott and Johnson are pending Unrestricted Free Agents, and Calgary desperately needs a better goalie. A better goalie could’ve stopped the team from getting embarrassingly swept in the playoffs.
Just as well, the Flames don’t have another goaltender to protect in the expansion draft, and are grooming 19-year-old Tyler Parsons down with the their AHL affiliate Stockton Heat. Parsons is a decorated and talented player that recently won the Memorial Cup with the London Knights, a junior hockey team from the Ottawa Hockey League. He also nabbed the series’ Most Outstanding Goaltender award and Dave Pinkney Trophy for the lowest team goals against average. This season, Parsons had a .925 save percentage (best in the OHL) and won a gold medal with the United States during the 2017 World Junior Championships.
On the other side, Pittsburgh is simply looking for any decent deal to feel good about letting Fleury go. All signs seem to nicely point to #29.