The 2020-21 Calgary Flames season has been an utter disappointment to put it plain and simple. Even though there are a handful of games remaining in the team’s schedule, the odds of the team making a playoff push are essentially buried and pronounced dead. The future of this team remains extremely cloudy for the time being, but as it stands right now, the main priority would be to acquire as many potential assets as possible for the players on expiring contracts.
Asset management becomes the utmost importance for Brad Treliving and the Flames management, who have recently seen UFA players move on for nothing. Travis Hamonic comes to mind immediately and stings even more when looking at the acquisition cost. If there is a potential asset to be obtained, even if it is a sixth or seventh round selection, the team must move to get a deal done.
David Rittich is a prime example of a player that fits the bill for a trade for this upcoming trade deadline. It would be hard to say goodbye to the Czech netminder after being a staple in net for the past four seasons. Signing with the team in 2016, Rittich never quite fully established himself as the number one netminder, but put up some quality numbers during his tenure. Unfortunately the writing on the wall after the Flames signed Jacob Markstrom to a six-year contract last offseason, leading to the team’s current situation.
Possible trade destinations for David Rittich
Although he has only appeared in 15 games this season, Rittich hasn’t been terrible by any means. Sporting a 2.90 GAA, 0.904 SV%, and a -1.74 GSAA (all-situations stats from Natural Stat Trick), Rittich could provide depth goaltending for a number of contenting teams that are starting to look a little thin in net. Here are the most likely options:
Toronto Maple Leafs
Moving Rittich to a Canadian rival would not be ideal, but the Leafs are easily one of the top teams in the NHL that could be looking for additional help in net. Jack Campbell is fresh off setting the franchise records for wins to start a season with 10, but after that the team is looking at an injured Frederik Andersen and an inconsistent Michael Hutchinson.
The Leafs have been clear they would be looking to add at the deadline, but most likely in the form of an additional forward. Depending on the health of Andersen, Kyle Dubas may look towards a cheaper secondary goalie option just for insurance. Hutchinson would most likely have to come back in any potential deal, but a swap of two goaltenders on expiring deals makes a lot of sense.
The Capitals’ goaltending depth took a big hit prior to the season when Henrik Lundqvist was sidelined for the foreseeable future, leading to Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov to handle the bulk of the load. Both goaltenders have exceeded expectations, with Vanecek appearing in the majority of contests. That being said, heading into the postseason with two rookie goaltenders may not be the team’s ideal set up.
Rittich could provide the team with the short term depth that they need, but may be a trickier deal to work out if the Capitals don’t want to carry three goaltenders. This is probably the least likely option to occur, as Craig Anderson still sits on their roster, but would be an upgrade if they look to go down that path.
If there is one team that would learn from their mistakes, it would have to be the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs are getting phenomenal goaltending from Philipp Grubauer this season, having him appear in the most games among goaltenders this season.
Of course the same statement applied last season, but after losing Grubauer and back-up Pavel Francouz to injury during last year’s postseason, the team was forced to turn to Michael Hutchinson in net. Although Hutchinson was fine, the team would probably want to ensure they have other options with Francouz currently on LTIR.
The team recently acquired Jonas Johansson from the Buffalo Sabres, and also have Hunter Miska as an option, but there is no doubt having David Rittich would give an added level of security in net.
Potential returns for Rittich
Now depending on how other teams see themselves at the deadline, there could be a number of teams that look to shore up their goaltending position as they try to make a run. The Dallas Stars and Boston Bruins could be options, but probably look to add elsewhere at the deadline. That being said, there exists the question that if the Flames were able to find a partner for Rittich, what does a potential return look like?
When looking at past deadline deals for goaltenders, the results truly do vary. Robin Lehner was dealt last season in a package for Malcom Subban, Slava Demin, and a 2020 2nd round selection, but Lehner was on a much different level than Rittich would be.
More often than not, you see a number of smaller transactions for backup goaltenders that rarely move the meter. Hutchinson went to Colorado last season for Calle Rosen, Louis Domingue was swapped with Zane McIntyre, Jean-Francois Berube was sent to Philadelphia for future considerations. It’s nothing really to write home about at least at last year’s deadline.
Going back a bit further we saw Keith Kinkaid pick up a fifth round selection in 2019, Petr Mrazek went for a 3rd and 4th round pick in 2018, and Al Montoya went for a 4th round pick in 2018. Of course this was a much different market that wasn’t impacted by COVID and a flat cap, but this can clearly set a precedent for what the Flames could be aiming for.
Do the Flames make a deal?
At the end of the day, the Flames would need to try to get whatever they can for Rittich right now as it’s unlikely he would re-sign with the team in the offseason. I’m sure fans would love to see Rittich remain with the organization, but would also love to see him get an opportunity to finally be an established starter somewhere else.
If a deal comes to fruition, the Flames could be looking for a mid-draft selection based on previous trades. They probably would have to retain some of the $2.75M cap hit that Rittich has remaining on his contract, but could help teams tighter to the cap. The only downside team would have is his lack of playoff experience, with his only stats coming last year in his relief appearance in Game 6 against Dallas.
Based on what we have seen from Rittich over the past few seasons, a real opportunity in the right situation could be lightning in the bottle—well worth the acquisition cost for any team. And with Rittich’s UFA status, the possibility of a reunion in the summer for the Flames is not off the table, but it may be best to go down this path in the short term to benefit the organization.
Where do you wanna see David Rittich end up? Let us know in the comments below!
Photo by: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press