Karri Ramo (Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Goaltender Karri Ramo is going to be one of the hottest netminders on the free agent market should he get that far. There's little doubt Ramo could end up back in Calgary should he so choose, but testing the market may be in his future.
As he heads towards unrestricted free agency and the biggest contract of his career, Karri Ramo is saying all the right things. The question is will he get intercepted along the way by Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving.
Ramo isn't the top goalie slated to become a UFA July 1 -- that distinction belongs to Minnesota's Devan Dubnyk -- but he will be in demand if he doesn't come to contract terms with the Flames. And the Wild have made every indication they intend to re-sign Dubnyk, which will play in favor of Ramo if he's still unsigned July 1.
"We'll see what is going to happen but I'm sure whatever happens is going to be good," Ramo said Thursday in a report. "(Calgary) has been our home for two years now. Change is always different at my age, this stage of my career -- I'm turning 29 -- there's still a few years left. But do I want to change again? I don't know. We'll see."
That sounds like code for: "I'd be a fool not to test the UFA market, especially if the offer coming in from Calgary isn't what I think is the best."
Ramo started the season on the light side of a platoon with Jonas Hiller. Treliving, in his first big move with the Flames, signed UFA Hiller to a two-year, $9-million deal. Hiller got the majority of starts early on, but Calgary coach Bob Hartley went with the hot goalie for various stretches during the season. That included prospect Joni Ortio for five straight games in mid-season when Ramo was injured.
Hiller got the nod when the playoffs started, but is was Ramo who stepped in partway through Game 1 in Calgary's second-round matchup with Anaheim and was a standout in a 4-1 series loss. So Ramo ended the season very much in the good books with Flames management and fans. Is that enough for Treliving to answer Ramo's contract demands when he already has Hiller and Ortio (on a one-way contract) set for next season and goaltender-of-the-future Jon Gillies turning pro in the AHL.
"A wise man one told me there's only one net," Treliving said in the report Thursday. "Carrying three goalies, you can do it for a short period of time, it doesn't make sense. I think all three goalies have shown the ability to play. I thought we had good goaltending, but we need time to decompress, push away and think clearly about what we think is our best decision."
So one of three options is likely to unfold here.
• Calgary lets Ramo walk as a UFA. Three teams are in need of a No. 1 goalie -- Buffalo, Edmonton and San Jose -- and all three have the cap space to offer in the neighborhood of $3 to $4 million per season on a multi-year deal. But the question there is do those teams have faith Ramo can be a capable No. 1?
• Calgary signs Ramo and trades Hiller this summer. The Flames have the cap space to retain some of Hiller's $4.5 million stipend and can get decent value in return if Buffalo, Edmonton or San Jose believe the 33-year-old hot-and-cold Hiller can be their No. 1 man.
• Calgary signs Ramo and goes with a three-goalie system until the market opens up during next season for dealing one of the three. Treliving has said he'd prefer not to go with three goalies, but allowed "you can do it for a short period of time." This option is the best for asset management, but no one is happy -- or comfortable -- in a three-goalie situation and in Treliving's time with the Flames, he's stressed a positive, upbeat dressing room.
In the end, it will surely be Ramo who becomes the most important decision maker here. Does he have faith Hartley and the Flames believe in him to be their No. 1 man -- provided a solid contract offer comes forth -- or does he take a chance in a new environment?