Karri Ramo (Derek Leung/Getty Images)
The Calgary Flames have finally made a decision when it comes to their goaltending situation. Karri Ramo was waived Wednesday and has been sent to the AHL’s Stockton Heat and the Flames will roll with Jonas Hiller and Joni Ortio between the pipes.
The Calgary Flames goaltending situation finally has some clarity.
Netminder Karri Ramo has cleared waivers and was subsequently demoted to the AHL’s Stockton Heat Thursday. Ramo, 29, signed a one-year, $3.8-million deal with the Flames in the off-season and was supposed to challenge for the starting job in Calgary this season. Instead, he’s gotten off to a horrific start which led to the Flames placing the netminder on waivers Wednesday afternoon.
Flames coach Bob Hartley had publicly lamented the fact neither of his netminders, Ramo nor Jonas Hiller, was able to show they outright deserved the starting gig. Monday Hartley hit his most frustrated point, telling CalgaryFlames.com’s Aaron Vickers he wanted one of his two top goaltenders to step up.
“I’m sick and tired of the musical chairs,” Hartley told Vickers. “One has to make a statement somewhere, plain and simple. You play okay as goalies … it’s not good enough. We’ve been singing the same tune for a short time now, but those guys were good for us last year.”
Following Hartley’s comments, Ramo got the nod in Tuesday’s game against the Washington Capitals. In little more than half a game’s work, Ramo allowed four goals on 18 shots and was yanked in favor of Hiller. The next day, Ramo hit the waiver wire.
That no one took out a claim on Ramo isn’t surprising considering through three games this season he has posted an ugly 4.38 goals-against average and .879 save percentage, although a team with a tough goaltending situation — the Buffalo Sabres, for instance — could have taken a chance on Ramo.
Ramo was the clear-cut choice for demotion for the Flames considering they had Joni Ortio waiting in the wings. Ortio couldn’t be sent back to the AHL without clearing waivers and the Flames weren’t prepared to lose the 24-year-old netminder for nothing. In THN’s 2015 Future Watch issue, Ortio was ranked as the top goaltending prospect in the Flames’ system.
The Flames had 30 days to demote Ramo to the AHL, but chose instead to demote him Thursday and run with the tandem of Hiller and Ortio in goal. The Flames will only save $950,000 of Ramo’s $3.8-million deal by demoting him to the AHL, which means he still counts for $2.85 million against the Flames salary cap. Even with Ramo’s demotion, though, Calgary still has nearly $2.5 million in cap space.
Through the whole ordeal, Ortio has been the odd man out, watching from the press box night in and night out as Ramo and Hiller battled for the top spot. This could be the chance Ortio needs to cement himself as the future netminder of the Flames.
"It's not fun, but it's part of the business. Something happens, and there's nothing you can do about it. The only think you can control is the way you conduct yourself," Ramo told CalgaryFlames.com’s Torrie Peterson Wednesday. "There's so many things you can't control, so there's really no reason to waste any energy on those things. You focus on your only thing — there's enough challenges in that."
Ortio had a decent season with the Adirondack Flames in 2014-15, posting a 21-13-0 record in 37 games of action, which went along with four shutouts, 2.69 GAA and .912 SP. But Ortio also got a brief stint in the NHL last season. In six games, Ortio went 4-2-0 with one shutout, 2.52 GAA and .908 SP. While not great numbers, they’re much better than what Ramo was able to produce this season.
When Ortio gets his first start for the Flames this season is yet to be determined, but the Flames do play three times in the next five days. With a back-to-back in New York against the Rangers and Islanders coming Sunday and Monday, look for Ortio to get his first shot in one of those contests.