The Flames came to Buffalo with a single-minded purpose and that was to get an NHL-caliber goaltender for next season, and they found one in Brian Elliott.
BUFFALO – There was a definitive St. Louis flavor to the Calgary Flames first round in the draft. Not only did they use the sixth overall pick to take Matthew Tkachuk, a product of the St. Louis minor hockey system and son of former Blues star Keith, they got the No. 1 goalie they’ve coveted when they traded for Blues goalie Brian Elliott in exchange for the 35th overall pick and a conditional third-rounder in 2018.
The Flames came to Buffalo with a single-minded purpose and that was to get an NHL-caliber goaltender for next season. They had permission to talk to Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning and that created a fair bit of traction. But in the end, the Flames were unable to come to terms on a contract extension and turned to Elliott, a player who has one year left on his contract with a $2.5 million cap hit.
The move solidifies the Flames’ goaltending situation, at least for one year. The Flames used four goaltenders last season – Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller, Joni Ortio and Niklas Backstrom. That’s got to be a first, four European goaltenders in the same season. Regardless of what their birth certificates said, they were all very difficult to hit and the Flames paid dearly for it. Their combined 5-on-5 save percentage of .911 was dead last in the NHL.
That’s a disastrous combination for a team that gives up as many quality chances as the Flames do. They need a steadying influence back there that can give them a fighting chance to play the high-risk, high-reward game they play. A classic big butterfly goaltender, Elliott has both the pedigree and disposition to provide a calming influence in Calgary when things get hairy in their own end. One problem is that he is prone to both hot and cold streaks.
The Flames hope they’re getting the goalie who replaced Jake Allen in January, then went 12-3-3 before missing 10 games with a lower-body injury, then picking up three straight shutouts and finishing the season by going on a 6-0-1 run. Elliott played well in the playoffs, helping the Blues finally exorcise their first-round demons by beating the Chicago Blackhawks, then the Dallas Stars. Elliott played the first three games of the Western Conference final, then seemed to wear down. He was pulled in favor of Allen for Games 4 and 5 and came back in for Game 6, which the Blues lost to end the series.
It’s a bit of a curious move for the Blues, who lose a very able goaltender on a team-friendly cap hit. Assuming they give the backup job to restricted free agent Anders Nilsson, the cap savings will only be in the $1.5 million range. The Flames, meanwhile, have solved their goaltending woes, but unless they sign Elliott to a long-term extension, it will be a quick fix that will need to be addressed once again next year.