Ramo is probably not a starter on any team right now, but he’s had some hot streaks and has been serviceable in recent seasons, posting a .912 save percentage in 33 games last year. Last year’s save percentage improves to .918 at even strength and an adjusted save percentage of .922.
His .879 save percentage through three games this year probably isn’t an accurate reflection of where he’s at right now as much as it’s a reflection of how poorly Calgary has played through the first five games of the season.
1. Buffalo Sabres
While the team has made a commitment to Robin Lehner as the team’s starter, he’s out for a while longer after being injured in the first game of the year. The team’s goaltending situation started off on rocky ground, but with Lehner out, it’s even worse. Chad Johnson is now serving as the team’s starter. While he’s had some flashes — particularly during the 2013-14 season with the Boston Bruins — it’s tough to see him making a big impact for the team. Behind him is 24-year-old Nathan Lieuwen. Given Lieuwen’s age and that he has yet to see a start this season, it may make more sense for the team to have him in the AHL getting reps. In the end, Ramo’s $3.8 million salary this season, in the final year of his deal, and that Lehner isn’t expected to be out all that long, may mean that Ramo doesn’t fit with Buffalo.
2. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets are a historic mess right now. Though a look through their underlying numbers shows that, outside of the mental collapses that keep happening after they allow a goal, the team’s biggest problem is goaltending. Starter Sergei Bobrovsky has been a mess, telling reporters that he has “zero confidence.” Curtis McElhinney hasn’t been better. Bringing in a new coach doesn’t fix the goaltending problem at hand. Though, while the goaltending is a mess, let’s not underestimate how much of that mess can be set at the feet of a weak defensive group that Jarmo Kekalainen did little to improve during the offseason.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins
If the Penguins want to make a run, they can’t overwork Marc-Andre Fleury, who has started all six games so far this season. Back-up net minder Jeff Zatkoff has some experience and has played ok, but there seems to be a lack of trust in his ability to keep the team in the game. Rao would be an upgrade over Zatkoff and could provide some stability behind Fleury. The problem? Cap space. If the Penguins claimed Ramo, they’d need to make another move to stay under the cap. Their desire for a more reliable back-up isn’t likely to be that great. If it was a trade for future considerations with retained salary, that may make more sense.
4. Washington Capitals
Phillip Grubauer is arguably a better back-up than Ramo, and has a bright future, but it’s likely that the Capitals will ride Braden Holtby like they did last season. If that’s the case, then the team may be better served getting Grubauer in the AHL so he’s playing games. In that instance, Ramo could make some sense, providing a reliable back-up and development opportunities for Grubauer. But the Caps have even less cap space than the Pens and there’s next to no chance a team is looking to make a lateral move for a new second string goaltender that involves moving roster players, even if it was a trade where the Flames retained salary. (And the Flames haven’t given any public indication, other than waiving Ramo, that this is on the table.)
5. Nashville Predators
They’ve always been a little thin behind Pekka Rinne. Carter Hutton has been the main back-up there for a few years now and has played ok, but his numbers hide that he’s playing behind one of the best defensive groups in the NHL and that’s boosting his numbers as much as the garbage play in Calgary hindered Ramo’s. The 29-year-old Hutton is the man there when Rinne needs a rest, but their lack of confidence in him a couple years ago when Rinne was out for an extended time makes you wonder if they wouldn’t be interested in an upgrade. During the season where Rinne was largely out, they turned to Hutton more than any other goaltender, but the carousel indicated that they weren’t entirely happy about it. Marek Mazanec was given 25 games, they traded for Devan Dubnyk and gave him a pair of games, and even gave a start to Magnus Hellberg.
Where’s He Headed?
While there are a few places where Ramo could improve a team, the most likely scenario is that he’s headed to the AHL. His $3.8 million contract makes it a big commitment for a team, even though there’s just one year left on the contract.
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.