The Calgary Flames announced yesterday that goaltender Dan Vladar had re-signed with the club on a two-year deal worth $2.2M annually.
Vladar was originally acquired via trade from the Boston Bruins on July 28, 2021 for a third-round draft pick in 2022. Since then, Vladar has served as the backup goaltender to Jacob Markstrom, providing excellent support both last season and this season.
The Flames’ goaltending situation
Markstrom has struggled out of the gate in 2022–23, and Vladar has played in two of the team’s first four games. This includes a full game against the Edmonton Oilers in which he backstopped the Flames to a 4–3 victory over their provincial rivals, and a relief performance last night against the Buffalo Sabres that ended in a 6–3 loss.
So far, it looks like the trade to bring Vladar to Calgary was a clear win for the Flames. Over his tenure in Calgary so far, he has put up respectable numbers in the backup role, and holds a 14–7–2 record. Here are his numbers over the course of his Flames tenure. Stats are from NaturalStatTrick.com.
The Flames’ decision to re-sign Vladar gives them a significant amount of flexibility on how they can handle their goaltending position in the years ahead. With Dustin Wolf coming off a sensational rookie season in the AHL, the Flames are no doubt looking for him to replicate and build upon his success in the minors before testing the NHL waters.
Vladar’s expected usage
In 2022–23, it is clear that the goaltending tandem will be Markstrom as the starter and Vladar as the backup. Of course, injuries could change things, but this is the plan from the Flames’ leadership.
In 2023–24, Vladar’s extension will kick in and presumably he will remain the backup on the NHL squad. What makes the most sense in my eyes is a similar situation to Edmonton’s crease last year. Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen were the NHL goalies at the start, but Stuart Skinner got into 13 games covering for injuries to both goalies and poor play from Koskinen.
Wolf won’t be eligible for waivers until likely 2025–26, so the Flames can have him come up and down between the Flames and Wranglers as much as they want. This seems like a good way for Wolf to get into a meaningful chunk of games in the NHL, while still developing in a very good AHL league on a very good AHL team.
In 2024–25, Vladar will be on the final year of his extension. This is where things get interesting. Assuming Wolf plays well in the NHL and plays well enough in training camp to earn an NHL shot, this could be the first time he grabs a full-time NHL role. If that happens, the Flames could easily move Vladar’s contract for a decent return as the AAV is low and the body of work is quite good.
If that doesn’t end up happening, no harm no foul, and the Flames roll with the same strategy as in the year prior, getting Wolf into 10–15 games and letting him develop at his own pace.
A good time to make a great move
Vladar’s extension shouldn’t be looked at as a blocker to Wolf playing in the NHL. Wolf will get plenty of opportunity to prove himself at the NHL level and if he’s ready for the challenge, the Flames will make room for him. Vladar’s contract is easy to trade if required, but having NHL-level goaltending depth is an absolute necessity nowadays.
At the end of the day, this extension is great news for both Vladar and the Flames.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire