The Arizona Coyotes and Calgary Flames were almost the first teams to break the ice on trades Saturday as the entire hockey community sits in anticipation, wondering what moves their respective teams will pull off. The Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres pulled off the first deal of the day though, sending Nathan Beaulieu to Buffalo for a third-round draft pick. In the second trade of the day, the Coyotes have sent goaltender Mike Smith to the Flames in exchange for prospect Brandon Hickey, a conditional third-round pick and goaltender Chad Johnson. Additionally, the Coyotes will retain 25 percent of Smith’s salary. The deal was originally reported by Elliotte Friedman without details and was later confirmed by Bob McMcKenzie to be awaiting the trade call confirmation.
Assuming trade call gets done, ARI to retain 25 per cent of Smith's salary. CGY will send rights to Brandon Hickey + conditional 3rd rder…
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 17, 2017
For the Flames, acquiring a goaltender seemed destined to be in the cards with both Johnson and starter Brian Elliott set to be unrestricted free agents as of July 1. While many were hoping that Marc-Andre Fleury from the Pittsburgh Penguins could be the Flames’ ultimate solution in net, the team obviously opted to go in a different direction with Smith from the Coyotes.
Flames Fixing Their Crease
Looking to fix their situation in the crease or the 2016-17 season, the Flames traded the 35th overall draft pick in 2017 as well as a conditional third-round draft pick in 2018. In his first season with the Flamed C on his jersey, however, Elliott did not fair well. For the majority of the year, Elliott posted abysmal save percentages, including .898 percent in October, .869 percent in November, .892 percent in December, .871 percent in March and a .880 save percentage in the first round of the playoffs, allowing 14 goals in four games. While Elliott general had a very poor season, he did excel in the months of February and March, posting save percentages of .922 and .936 respectively in those months while only allowing 45 goals in 22 games in that span. It was a weird turnaround for Elliott that ultimately crashed as the season concluded and the postseason started.
In the end, Elliott played in 49 regular season games and compiled a 26-18-3 record with a 2.55 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. Those totals aren’t the worst, but they also aren’t indicative of a premier starting goaltender in the NHL, especially coming off of a season where he went 23-8-6 with a 2.07 goals against average and a .930 save percentage in St. Louis just one year prior. Backing up Elliott for the Flames last season was Johnson. In 36 games with the Flames, Johnson went 18-15-1 with a 2.59 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. Similar totals to what Elliott posted, but Johnson did so while designated as a backup.
Smith an Interesting Choice
The deal is an interesting one for the Flames. On the surface, Smith hardly seems like an upgrade from either Elliott or Johnson. Smith compiled a 2.92 goals against average with a .914 save percentage while going 19-26-9 in 55 games last season and joins the Flames as a 35-year-old veteran. Still, Smith was playing in behind a Coyotes team that was leaving him responsible for backstopping the team to just about any win they may have gotten last season. While he could potentially improve with a new team, the Flames should till be weary of his career 2.70 goals against average and .913 save percentage as they absorb 75 percent of the $5.666 million per year contract that he’ll be earning for the next two seasons.
For the Coyotes, the addition of Johnson to the deal was a necessity as they would have been left with only Louis Domingue as a potential goalie to expose. As such, the team wouldn’t have met either the protection requirements or exposure requirements. The Coyotes can protect Johnson in the upcoming draft.