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Calgary Flames acquire Mike Smith from Arizona Coyotes

Calgary Flames acquire Mike Smith from Arizona Coyotes

Leading up to the Vegas Golden Knights Expansion Draft and the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, many transactions were expected as teams shuffled their lineups. That time has officially come, with a recent explosion of moves leading up to the 3 PM ET June 17th roster freeze.

The Calgary Flames have reached out to acquire veteran goaltender Mike Smith from the Arizona Coyotes for prospect defenseman Brandon Hickey, the rights to goaltender Chad Johnson, and a conditional 3rd-round pick.

The reaction to the deal has been somewhat mixed, as Smith is already 35 years old and set to make $5.6M over the next two seasons, though as Friedman noted the Coyotes will still pay 25 percent of that, so the Flames are only on the hook for a $4.25 salary cap charge. Smith is also coming off an injury-plagued 2016-17 season but he still managed to appear in 55 games and post a .914 save percentage.

Smith had a horrendous season in 2014-15, which stands out in a lot of peoples minds. His goals-saved-above-average was in the negatives by over 20 goals allowed that year, and many thought he would not be able to recover. The next season he rebounded to finish in the top-5 in the league in that category:

With two years left on his deal, Smith provides the Flames, who didn’t have any NHL experienced goalies under contract for next season, a No.1 goalie to be a stop gap until one of Jon Gillies or Tyler Parsons become NHL-ready. Both are exciting prospects, and one will certainly turn into Calgary’s goaltender of the future. The question some are asking amid expectations of lots of wheeling and dealing before the Expansion Draft, is whether Smith was necessarily the best fit to fill that gap until the kids are ready in Calgary.

In addition to potential 1B Expansion Draft-and-trade targets like Annti Raanta of the New York Rangers or Phillip Grubauer of the Washington Capitals, experienced No.1 goalies like Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings were believed to be in play.

According to sources, however, Fleury wasn’t willing to waive his no-trade clause to come to Calgary and seems destined to stay in Vegas as an experienced goalie with a proven track record as a No.1, good teammate and a mentor. The price for Raanta was apparently too steep, implying the Rangers might have a deal in place with Vegas to keep him as a perfect safety net for Henrik Lundqvist. As for Howard, word continues to circulate that the Red Wings would prefer to move Petr Mrazek instead.

All of which leaves the Flames with Smith, whose raw and 5-on-5 save percentage over the past four seasons rank in the bottom third of goalies to play at least 150 games, including well behind Brian Elliott, an impending free agent who won’t be back after struggling in the playoffs. But Smith’s numbers improve when adjusted for shot quality, including outperforming Raanta in 2016-17:

Smith’s numbers also compared favourably to Elliott last season:

Smith continues to show a willingness to evolve at age 35 (look for more here at InGoal Magazine in the coming days on the addition Smith made to his down movement last season), and talked about improved health playing a big role in improvements last season.

“I’ve tried to maintain and more survival mode than it has been to try and build,” Smith told InGoal midway through last season. “It’s been more maintaining and it’s hard to get better when that’s your mentality. So it was a huge summer, it felt like I was fixed and strong and could train properly with Gary (Roberts) and my game has felt as solid as it has been for quite some time … a long while.”

It’s also interesting to note Johnson does not solve help Arizona in terms of the Expansion Draft unless he is signed to a new contract, and there was no word that happened before the roster freeze came into effect at 3 p.m. EST on Saturday. As a pending unrestricted free agent, Johnson cannot be exposed or protected, leaving Louis Domingue as the Coyotes only eligible goalie to be exposed to Vegas.

In fact, many believe Johnson could still end up back in Calgary as a free agent:

About The Author

Greg Balloch

Greg Balloch is a Vancouver-based writer for InGoal Magazine, broadcaster for Sportsnet 650, and goaltending coach. His career began in Hamilton, Ontario with the Junior 'A' Hamilton Red Wings, before moving to Vancouver to cover the Canucks on the radio and work with the Surrey Eagles of the BCHL. A lifelong goaltender, he has been teaching the position for over a decade.