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The Calgary Flames are in the market for a goaltender. With David Rittich qualified (and negotiations ongoing for a new deal for the Czech netminder), the Flames need a second person to tend the twine.

One possibility was taken off the market on Wednesday when the Philadelphia Flyers re-upped former Flame Brian Elliott.

Elliott’s one year, $2 million deal is an interesting bellwether in the secondary free agent goalie market – the “primary” market being established starters like Sergei Bobrovsky and Semyon Varlamov that are out of the Flames’ price range.

But for potential back-ups to Rittich, or someone intended to split starts with him, the marketplace is relatively small: Mike Smith, Elliott, Cam Talbot, Cam Ward, Keith Kinkaid and Curtis McElhinney. Here’s how the market stacks up, sorted by last season’s save percentage:

  • McElhinney: .912 in 33 games (36 years old)
  • Elliott: .907 in 26 games (34 years old)
  • Smith: .898 in 42 games (37 years old)
  • Kinkaid: .897 in 41 games (29 years old)
  • Ward: .897 in 33 games (35 years old)
  • Talbot: .892 in 35 games (31 years old)

You can make a good case that McElhinney is the best of the bunch (and he is), but signing a 36-year-old goalie to anything but a short-term deal carries inherent risks that likely drive his value down slightly. On a one-year deal, you can make a good argument that he probably doesn’t get much more than Elliott’s $2 million AAV. From then on down, there are goaltenders who under-performed in 2018-19 for various reasons and would be betting on themselves to have a bounce-back season.

If nothing else, if the Flames are interested in Talbot, it’s extremely difficult to justify paying him more than Elliott just got based on their respective ages, experience levels and recent performances. Talbot’s age might be an argument towards paying him similarly, but his past two seasons have seen his numbers erode to the point where he should be a pretty good bargain for whoever signs him.

Long story short: Elliott just put a cap on how much teams will likely pay goaltenders of his ilk, which should be good news for the Flames as they attempt to re-sign Rittich and put together a cost effective goaltending troupe as they try to bounce back from their playoff disappointment.


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