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Flames Add Elliott As New No.1; Blues Hand Reigns to Allen

Flames Add Elliott As New No.1; Blues Hand Reigns to Allen

The St. Louis Blues appeared set to go into a third-straight season with a goaltending tandem of Brian Elliott and Jake Allen before splitting up their job share – and the controversy that came with it – by trading Elliott, perhaps at his own request, and declaring Allen their new No.1.

The Blues dealt Elliott to the Calgary Flames on the first day of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, getting a second round pick in 2016 (35th overall) and a conditional third-round pick in 2018.

That conditional pick will head to St. Louis if Elliott re-signs with the Flames when his current contract ends after the upcoming 2016-17 season. Considering that contract paid Elliott a bargain $2.5-million in the final year despite being one of the NHL’s top statistical stoppers over the past three seasons, and the fact he just backstopped the Blues to the Western Conference Final, it’s worth asking why St. Louis traded him at all.

They may not have had a choice:

It’s hard to blame Elliott for doing so. The Blues traded for Ryan Miller to play ahead of him in the 2014 playoffs, added Martin Brodeur to the rotation during the 2014-15 season and handed the playoff starting job to Allen after a late-season hot streak later that year, then switched to Allen again during their Conference Final loss to the San Jose Sharks this season.

It wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of faith in a goaltender whose numbers have been among the NHL’s best for a while now.

Regular Season Stats:

Save %GAAGSAAEven Strength Save %Adjusted Save %High Danger Save %
.9302.0716.76.938.931.874

During the postseason, InGoal took a look at what Elliott brought to a playoff series with his advanced numbers, and while this was admittedly one of his best seasons to date, it still provides a significant upgrade over last season’s goaltending tandem in Calgary of Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller. Elliott put up a .938 save percentage at even strength, which was one of the best of all the goaltenders who made it to the postseason this year; if the Flames can maintain moderately good defense in front of him, they should significantly improve from last season. As others noted, Elliott’s strong play last season didn’t come out of nowhere:

Elliott plays a reactive game but with more conservative positioning and better rebound control than Ramo. At 31, he isn’t likely to see his numbers get any better in coming seasons but if he can even maintain his performance of the past few years, it buys the Flames at least one season while the heir apparent, Jon Gillies, gets NHL ready.

Of course, Elliott may only be a one-season solution for the Flames, who were also in on Frederik Andersen before he was traded from the Anaheim Ducks to the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier this week, but Elliott’s impending free agency in 2017 was one reason the price to acquire him was smaller than it would have been for other options like the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury or the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Ben Bishop.

The Flames received permission from the Lightning to talk to Bishop, but there were reports the big Tampa Bay goalie, who is also a free agent next summer, would only waive his no-movement clause if it came with a contract extension worth $7-million a season. The Penguins were reportedly looking for a higher first round pick for Fleury, who has three years left on a contract worth $5.75-million and must be protected in next summer’s expansion draft for Las Vegas because of a no-movement clause, so the Flames used the sixth pick to draft Matthew Tkachuk and instead spent their high second-round pick to acquire Elliott instead.

“You see his game, he’s sort of a late bloomer,” Calgary general manager Brad Treliving told TSN writer Frank Seravalli. “Maybe he doesn’t get the fanfare of a lot of other guys, but when you dig into the numbers, he’s one of the best goaltenders in the league for the last number of years.”

So what does losing “one of the best” mean for the Blues? Do they go ahead with a less experienced Allen? St. Louis has a strong prospect pool, one of whom might well be ready to step into limited time in the NHL. Pheonix Copley posted a .909 in 37 games with the Chicago Wolves last season, but did better the previous season with the Hershey Bears. He also made his NHL debut with the Blues in 2015-16. Still, it’s hard to imaging a team with hopes of contending for the Cup manage with two inexperienced young goaltenders, so it’s no surprise general manager Doug Armstrong indicated they may test free agency instead.

Armstrong made it clear that shopping list would be for a backup. Allen is his No.1, and he plans to sign him to a contract extension:

The Flames may be doing the same. Elliott is the only goaltender the Flames have under contract at the NHL level. Karri Ramo will become a UFA on July 1 and Joni Ortio will be an RFA. Both were disappointing last season, though Ramo’s season was marred by injury. While it is possible that one or both will return to the fold, the Flames’ aggressiveness in the market over the past few weeks indicates some level of reluctance. They may still dip their toes in the UFA market this summer. One name that has been floated is Carter Hutton. who will be leaving the Nashville Predators.

In any case it seems possible that more moves could be in the cards for both of these teams. As for Fleury and Bishop, there aren’t a lot of teams left looking for a No. 1.

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