Calgary Flames Free Agents: What To Do With Karri Ramo?


The most exciting part of the Calgary Flames offseason is quickly approaching, as the NHL Draft on June 26th and the opening of NHL free agency of July 1st provide a plethora of stories to talk about. This time of year leaves fans eagerly anticipating the opening of the next season so they can get their first look at new signings and recent draft picks.

Before the draft and free agency begin, the Flames will make a few minor ripples on the news front by re-signing, or deciding not to re-sign their pending free agents. Chief among the RFAs is probably two way center Mikael Backlund, but the pending UFA who had the biggest impact on the team last year was certainly goaltender Karri Ramo.

Ramo joined the Flames organization in 2012 in a deal that also brought Mike Cammalleri back to Alberta and sent inconsistent winger Rene Bourque and a 2nd round draft pick to the Montreal Canadiens.

Ramo was in the third season of a four year stint in the KHL at the time of the deal. He posted dominant stats in the last three seasons of his KHL journey, matching or bettering a save percentage of .925 for three consecutive seasons with Omsk Avangard.

The Finnish netminder finally returned to North America in time for the 2013-14 season and teamed up with Reto Berra, Joni Ortio and Joey McDonald to provide okay, but far from great goaltending for the Flames. Calgary ultimately fell to 27th in NHL standings, though it couldn’t all be blamed on Ramo as he started 40 games, posted a record of 16-15-4 and had a respectable 2.65 GAA and .911 SV%.

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The Flames made a goaltending upgrade a priority in the summer of 2014, and signed former Anaheim Duck Jonas Hiller to a two year contract in the opening hours of free agency. Even though Hiller was brought in to be the number one, Ramo battled him toe to toe all season for starts. At the end of the season, Ramo had started 34 games, had a record of 15-9-3 and again notched solid stats with a 2.60 GAA and a .912 SV%.

Hiller was the starter for the opening round of the postseason, and helped lead the Flames to a six game series victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Ramo took over between the pipes against the Ducks in round two, and played fairly well for the overmatched Flames, but they ultimately fell in five games.

May 8, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

With Hiller set to make $4.5  million next season and Ramo’s two year deal with a cap hit of $2.75 million complete, the Flames have to make the decision on whether or not to bring Ramo back. The 28 year old has been solid, but unspectacular in two seasons with the Flames, but provides a great backup option.

Looking at the big picture that is the Flames goaltending next season, they have Hiller locked up at $4.5 million but also have 24 year old Joni Ortio signed for next season at just $600,000. Ortio played well in six games with Calgary this season, and looks to be ready to take over the backup role from Ramo.

Jon Gillies will be making his professional debut this season after an extremely successful NCAA career with Providence that included a National Title this season and an appearance at the World Junior Hockey Championship as Team USA’s starting goaltender in 2014. He likely won’t be in Calgary this season, but should get the bulk of starts in the AHL, which means it makes little sense to have Gillies and Ortio in the minors together.

May 3, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at it from Ramo’s perspective, you would have to think that free agency is an intriguing option that would be difficult to pass up. Sure, he could re-sign in Calgary at a reasonable contract and battle with Hiller again, or he could test the market. Free agency always sees teams overspend, and with a weak goaltending market this summer, Ramo would get more money, and probably more playing time if he finds a better fit via free agency.

Maybe the Buffalo Sabres, Edmonton Oilers or San Jose Sharks think Ramo is an upgrade on their current situation and offer him the chance to play 60 games next season. He won’t get that option in Calgary unless Hiller is traded and that seems unlikely at this point.

So, it makes the most sense for the Flames to let Ramo walk away and hand the reins to Hiller and Ortio next season while Gillies starts nearly every game for the Stockton Heat of the AHL. It also makes the most sense for Ramo to leave as he would get more money and more playing time elsewhere.

I’m not saying Ramo is a bad goaltender, but I think it makes sense to everyone involved if Ramo and the Flames part ways this summer. I wouldn’t expect a contract extension and my guess is Ramo signs with the Buffalo Sabres in July.

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