Two things stand out from the Flames’ 7-4 win over Dallas last night. One, that it was a hell of a quick turnaround from the 6-0 ass-kicking the Flames took in the same rink 48 hours earlier. And two, that it was done in front of a goalie who wasn’t the $6-million all-star the Flames usually rely on to turn things around for them.
Henrik Karlsson was hardly much better than Miikka Kiprusoff had been a couple of nights before – four goals in 21 shots is far from brilliant goaltending, and he looked very ordinary on all four of them. It’s hard to tell if Karlsson is Calgary’s goaltender of the future, but he still has a lot to work on before he’s more than just an occasional answer to their goaltending problems of the present.
However, his mere presence between the pipes is a reminder that it may be time for the Flames to go in a new direction in goal. It’s time to trade Miikka Kiprusoff.
No, I’m not jumping on this bandwagon because Kipper has had a couple of bad weeks. Granted, his mechanics against the Wild in that 6-0 loss were absolutely horrendous – overplaying shots, out of position, too deep in his net, bad glove hand, bad rebound control – but that’s not the issue for me. He’s a smart guy, he’ll recognize these flaws and make adjustments; much of what he’s doing right now is mental, it comes from trying too hard to do too much. (As a beer-league goalie, that’s my “expert” assessment.)
No, this is a conclusion I came to over Christmas, thinking about what Jay Feaster needs to do as the new GM to turn this ship around, and how to go about it. What I concluded was simply this: In Kipper, the Flames have an expensive, and valuable, asset that’s of little use to them.
If you had a team that was close to being competitive – to make the playoffs and maybe make a run – then it would be different. But given what we’ve seen this season, what is Kiprusoff really adding to this team? He can bring his A-game and they are still more likely to lose than win. Frankly, given the team’s many other deficiencies, it wouldn’t make much difference who was in the net.
One might be tempted to hold onto Kipper – after all, guys who have been as good as he has been, for as long as he has, don’t come along all that often in this league anymore – and to re-build the team around him and a couple of other key players. But let’s remember, this guy is 34 years old. By the time the Flames are able to re-build themselves into a serious contender again, it’s unlikely Miikka will still be young enough to be playing a major part of it, if he’s still playing at all.
In the trade market, on the other hand, there are contenders RIGHT NOW who might be a star goalie away from winning the Stanley Cup. Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Washington, San Jose – all are teams with A-list rosters but C-list goalies. All might like the idea of a big upgrade in the position heading into a run at the Cup.
That could make Kipper the kind of valuable commodity that could be the subject of a bidding war, and thus land Calgary the things they need in their rebuilding process – a serious centre (Tampa and Philadelphia are both deep in the position), a serious prospect and/or a high draft pick.
At the same time, dealing Kipper would trim $6-million off the Flames’ strained payroll, freeing up cap space to pursue a player or two to fill their future needs come this summer.
It would leave the Flames without a proven NHL goalie, but given where they stand in the NHL hierarchy, that won’t much matter for a year or two. Karlsson has shown he’s good enough for at least part-time duty, and on the farm, Leland Irving is proving a solid, reliable workhorse with good upside. Time to clear Kipper and his 70 games a season out of the way, so these kids can have a proper chance to show what they can do.
Not that I’d be thrilled to see him go; in fact, I’ve long been a Kiprusoff admirer. But frankly, the Flames no longer really have a need for a goalie of Kiprusoff’s calibre or price range – he’s a poor use of their resources at this stage of the team’s development. Frankly, he’s too valuable to keep, you’d just be squandering what value he still holds. Time to make a deal, Jay.