On Wednesday, Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving made his second deal of the season with the Montreal Canadiens, acquiring goaltender Michael McNiven in exchange for future considerations. While this trade wasn’t anywhere near the blockbuster the Tyler Toffoli deal was, it gives the organization another young netminder, and for an extremely cheap price as well.
McNiven, 24, hasn’t had the season he was hoping for, recording an ugly 4.04 goals-against average (GAA) along with a .869 save percentage (SV%) in 11 games with the Laval Rocket of the American Hockey League (AHL). His struggles likely are due to the fact that he has not been happy in the organization for some time, something he voiced earlier this season. It was clear from his comments then that he was looking for a fresh start elsewhere. He now has that with the Flames organization.
Impressive Junior Hockey Career
Despite his struggles this season, McNiven is still a relatively young goaltender who has potential. He played three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Owen Sound Attack, all of which were very successful. His final season with the team, which came back in 2016-17, was his best. In 54 games, he put up an impressive 2.30 GAA, along with a .915 SV% and a sparkling 41-9-2 record.
During his third season in the OHL, he was able to pick up his 10th career shutout, which surpassed St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnginton for the most in Attack history. He added one more later in the season for good measure, and his 11 shutouts still stand as a record for his old club. He is also second behind Binnington with 77 regular-season wins, as well as second in playoff wins with 12, trailing only former NHL netminder Curtis Sanford in that regard.
McNiven’s First NHL Game Came This Season
Though he has yet to start a game at the NHL level, McNiven was able to get in some action with the Canadiens earlier this season. In a game just over a month ago against the Minnesota Wild, Habs goaltender Cayden Primeau was pulled after the second period with his team trailing 5-1. That meant McNiven was able to get into the first NHL game of his career.
Unfortunately, it didn’t go the way he had hoped, as he allowed three goals on just seven shots in what ended as an 8-2 loss. In his defence, the game was well over before he entered, and the Habs did him no favors in his brief debut, as he didn’t have much of a chance on any of the three he allowed. Despite the end result, it was good for him to be able to experience the NHL, and will likely help him with his nerves the next time that opportunity presents itself.
Finding a Fit With the Flames
The interesting part about this trade for the Flames is that they didn’t really need a goaltender right now. They have both Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar at the NHL level, and in the AHL with the Stockton Heat, they have what appears to be their future starting goaltender in Dustin Wolf.
One interesting thing to note is that behind Wolf they have Adam Werner, who isn’t having a great season with a 2.84 GAA and a .894 SV%. With both Werner and McNiven’s contracts set to expire at the end of the season, perhaps they will decide between the two in terms of an extension.
Whether or not this trade will ever impact the Flames at the NHL level remains to be seen. As mentioned previously, McNiven certainly still does have some untapped potential and has a shot to turn into an NHL netminder in the future. We have seen in the past that some players flourish with a change of scenery, and we could be saying the same for him a few years down the road.
If it doesn’t work out, there is no downside as Treliving wasn’t forced to part with anything in order to make the deal happen. It will be worth keeping tabs on the organization’s newest member to see both how much he plays, and how well he performs when given the opportunity.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.