The Achilles’ Heel of Calgary’s 2016-17 season was undoubtedly their goaltending. Chad Johnson did what he could early in the season, but his play trailed off, and Brian Elliott was infrequently able to capture the level of play he enjoyed in St. Louis. It seemed inevitable the Flames would try to remedy this. Their attempt to remedy this was trading for Arizona goaltender Mike Smith for Johnson, prospect defenceman Brandon Hickey, and a conditional third-round draft pick. Arizona will retain a quarter of Smith’s salary, while the third rounder becomes a second should the Flames reach the postseason.
For those wanting to read up on Hickey, there are observations available here from Dobber Prospects.
Johnson is an unrestricted free agent who can probably be signed for cheap. Should he remain with the Coyotes, he would appear to be the backup to Louis Domingue. It doesn’t feel like Arizona is done trading before free agency, however, so having those two as their goaltending tandem for 2017-18 seems like far from a sure thing.
This trade is all about Smith and the Flames.
Even for those thinking Smith’s numbers over the last few years have been hampered by his team, there are very few, if any, metrics which discern him as anything other than an average goaltender at best. Whether it is by using adjusted goals saved above average or adjusted save percentage from Dispelling Voodoo, five-on-five save percentage, or all-situation save percentage, hoping for anything other than league-average goaltending from Smith is hoping for too much.
With that said, league-average goaltending would be a big improvement for Calgary. They finished in the bottom-third of the NHL as a team in five-on-five save percentage in 2016-17, and 20th in all-situations save percentage. Finishing in the middle of the pack should help them save some goals.
The question, then, is if Smith can be league average next year. He turned 35 years old in March. The list of goalies who started the majority of the games for their team over the last four seasons at that age is short; it’s basically Roberto Luongo and Ryan Miller (and Tim Thomas, but he's out of the league now). Players don’t age well, goalies age worse.
He will, however, get every available opportunity to be the number-1 goalie for Calgary in the upcoming season, and he’s undoubtedly in a much better position to succeed than he was had he remained with his now-former franchise. Being league average as the regular started should lead to 30 wins and a goals against average under 2.50.
Fantasy-wise, Smith’s situation has improved dramatically. It’s all up to him as to whether he can be decent enough to remain the starter. He has the opportunity to be a top-24 goalie in fantasy, which means a starting spot in two-goalie, 12-team leagues.
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