Last season, the Flames ran with David Rittich and Cam Talbot in Calgary, then had Jon Gillies and Artyom Zagidulin in Stockton, and had Tyler Parsons playing in the ECHL alongside Nick Schneider.
Going into this season, the Flames lost Talbot to the Minnesota Wild, Gillies to the St. Louis Blues system, and Nick Schneider, who is currently looking for a new home. The Flames also brought in Jacob Markstrom and Louis Domingue, and retained Rittich, Zagidulin, and Parsons. This still leaves one goalie playing in the ECHL. Who should that be?
We know that as it stands now, Markstrom and Rittich are both going to be in Calgary, which leaves Domingue, Zagidulin, and Parsons to fight for the two AHL spots. Here is how all three fare.
Another ex-Vancouver Canuck, Domingue was brought in to Calgary because of the condensed season and to help push the other goaltenders. Known to GM Brad Treliving from his days with the Arizona Coyotes, Domingue has been a very average goaltender throughout his career, who has struggled to hold down an NHL job and has just as many wins as losses.
Between Arizona, Tampa Bay, New Jersey, and Vancouver, Domingue has had varying degrees of success. His time in Arizona sums it up perfectly: he outplayed Anders Lindback to earn the starting job while Mike Smith was injured, but was then placed on waivers after losing six straight starts.
Having played both AHL and NHL games over the last three or four seasons, he is a guy with lots of experience playing professional hockey. David Rittich has a history of suffering one fairly substantial injury a season, and Markstrom lost a number of games to injury last season as well; the Flames need someone who can play relief minutes should one of their goalies go down with injury. With no NHL experience for either Zagidulin or Parsons, Flames brass likely don’t trust them at the NHL level just yet.
Having a reliable NHL calibre goaltender in Stockton next season will help push the Flames’ other guys, and hopefully serve as a mentor to the lesser experienced ‘tenders as they continue to develop. Expect Domingue to be playing in the AHL to start the season.
Brought into Stockton after putting up a .924 save percentage in the KHL, Zagidulin came in to play a 1B role to Jon Gillies, but due to injury ended up playing 30 of the team’s 55 games. He went 16-7-4 and finished with an 0.898 save percentage.
While not the most impressive of save percentages, these numbers are cratered by a handful of really bad starts in which he was pulled midway through the game. He was able to steal games for the team a number of times throughout the season in relief, and earned the nickname “Big Snag Zag” for his work.
The number of games he played last season coupled with his often strong play means he likely has the inside track to be playing in Stockton again this season. The Flames probably feel strongly that Zagidulin has the skill to be an NHL goalie, and wouldn’t want to bury someone they brought over from Russia in a third-tier league.
Of all the Flames’ goaltenders outside of Calgary, he is also probably the most NHL ready. With KHL and AHL experience, the Flames likely want to see him perform in a 1A capacity this season before they decide what the future may hold for him. Domingue will likely be the one pushing him to see if he is ready.
Update: Per Ryan Pike of Flames Nation, the Flames are nearing a loan agreement for Zagidulin with HC Metallurg until such time as the AHL resumes.
A second round pick, the former London Knights star was once deemed the goalie of the future for the Flames, but injuries and off-ice issues coupled with struggles to string wins together relegated him to the ECHL for all of last season.
Playing in 25 games for Kansas City, Parsons finished with 0.911 save percentage, good for 21st in the league. Definitely not a good sign when you are being outperformed by goalies who went undrafted and have never signed an NHL contract. Playing in the ECHL is a hard fall from winning the Memorial Cup, but getting a lot of regular game action may be just what he needs.
The Flames have brought him back for one more season. This is the year Parsons needs to show them that he can still be what the Flames thought they had in him back in the 2016 draft. While he has had numerous issues with both his mental and physical health, if he can put together a strong campaign in the ECHL and prove he belongs in a better league, the Flames would want to give him every opportunity to succeed in Stockton. If that happens, things will get more complicated in the organizational crease.
Could there be a trade?
Barring there being a great deal on the table or a major over-performance from a player somewhere in the middle, I am skeptical.
The Flames will not be moving Markstrom anytime soon. It doesn’t make sense to move Rittich at this point either considering there is no other NHL calibre goalie in the system.
Could the Flames move one of their three minor league goalies? It’s possible, but none have any significant trade value; the Flames tried and failed to trade Gilles last season.
Outside of Markstrom, the Flames have zero goalies signed past next season with any form of professional experience in North America. This is a contract year for Rittich and he’ll have to show that he can be an effective backup to Markstrom.
With Dustin Wolf and newly signed Daniil Chechelev knocking on the door in Stockton as early as next season, the trio of Domingue, Zagidulin, and Parsons all have big years ahead of them as well.
Unless they really impress, the Flames will probably move on from all these goalies to ensure there is space for the new talent coming up soon. This will be a big year for Flames goaltenders at all levels.