The Calgary Flames swift elimination from the opening round of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs likely spells the end of Brian Elliott's tenure as their starting goaltender.
Through four games against the Anaheim Ducks, the 32-year-old had a bloated 3.89 goals-against average and a .880 save percentage. After giving up a weak goal to Anaheim's Patrick Eaves in the first period of Game 4, Elliott finished the game on the bench.
Acquired by the Flames last June from the St. Louis Blues to stabilize their goaltending, Elliott struggled through this season. He was unable to regain the stellar form that carried the Blues last season to the Western Conference final.
The Calgary Sun's Eric Francis also believes Elliott's one-year tenure with the Flames is over. He expects backup Chad Johnston could return, but anticipates rumors linking the Flames to Los Angeles Kings netminder Ben Bishop will ramp up again.
Bishop, 30, was reportedly close to accepting a trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning last June to Calgary, but the Flames instead opted for Elliott. He was a finalist last season for the Vezina Trophy and backstopped the Lightning to the 2015 Stanley Cup final.
The Flames could revisit their interest in Bishop, but he could prove an expensive signing. Coming off a two-year deal worth an annual average value of over $5.9 million, he's the top goalie in this summer's free-agent market.
Bishop could seek a long-term deal worth $7-million per season. With his injury history, he could prove an expensive gamble.
Cheaper free-agent options for the Flames could include Steve Mason of the Philadelphia Flyers, Scott Darling of the Chicago Blackhawks and Mike Condon of the Ottawa Senators. All, however, lack Bishop's pedigree.
The Flames could have better luck in the trade market. The Pittsburgh Penguins could attempt to trade veteran Marc-Andre Fleury once the playoffs end.
Fleury, 32, carries a modified no-trade clause and must agree to the move. The Flames were reportedly interested in him last summer but the Penguins asking price of a first-round pick proved too much.
Flames management will also face stiff competition from other clubs searching for an experienced starting goalie.
The Winnipeg Sun's Ken Wiebe speculates the Jets could also turn to the trade market for help between the pipes. Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observersreports Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis could go goalie hunting this summer. The New York Islanders could be in the market if they buy out Jaroslav Halak and let J-F Berube depart as a free agent.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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