Home / NHL / Calgary Flames make head-scratching deal in acquisition of Mike Smith

Calgary Flames make head-scratching deal in acquisition of Mike Smith

Mar 16, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes goalie Mike Smith (41) makes a save in the first period against the Detroit Red Wings at Gila River Arena.  Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of the trade freeze and the eventual expansion draft, the Calgary Flames have added a starting goaltender, acquiring Mike Smith from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for prospect Brandon Hickey, a conditional third-round pick and goalie Chad Johnson.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman adds that the third-round pick becomes a second should the Flames qualify for the postseason, while the Coyotes retain 25 percent of Smith’s salary.

This is the third offseason in a row the Flames will enter camp relying on a veteran goaltender—with Jonas Hiller carrying the bulk of the load in 2015-16, and Brian Elliott (acquired in a summer deal with the St. Louis Blues) splitting duties with Johnson last year before taking over the starting role.

On the surface, the deal is a massive overpay by the Flames.

First, Mike Smith isn’t very good. Among qualified goaltenders who played at least 1,000 minutes over the past three seasons, Smith’s .924 even-strength save percentage ranks 43rd, behind the likes of Ryan Miller and Ondrej Pavelec. Playing in Arizona didn’t help his cause, but there’s little reason to believe he’s capable of carrying Calgary between the pipes.

Plus, the 35-year-old is well past his prime and has two years remaining on his deal. Even with cap savings, the Flames now owe Smith $ 9 million over the next two years.

Secondly, the Flames gave up the better—at least in terms of value—and younger goalie to bring in a more expensive one. Johnson’s .921 even-strength save percentage over the past two seasons isn’t that much lower than Smith’s. Additionally, as a UFA who’s likely to see a salary much smaller than that of his replacement, he’s much much cheaper. As a backup, Johnson is more cost-effective.

That’s all without mentioning Elliott, whose $ 2.5 million cap hit dwarfs Smith’s. Despite a rocky start in Calgary, where Elliott finished with a .921 even-strength save percentage, there’s plenty of reason to believe the former St. Louis Blues goalie is still a starter. With such a small cap hit, the Flames easily could have ridden with Elliott to better results and spent the money elsewhere without giving up the assets. Instead, they’ll likely deal Elliott and watch him succeed elsewhere.

Speaking of assets, a conditional third-round pick on top of Johnson’s rights is silly, and making it a second-round pick if the Flames make the playoffs is worse. Arizona should have had to pay a team to take on Smith’s bloated contract, but wisely, GM John Chayka found a desperate team and fleeced it.

Calgary didn’t need to make this deal, let alone give up real assets to do so. Smith won’t help a team that was already OK in net. Now, the Flames downgrading, adding term and giving away picks to get worse. It’s not a great day for Flames fans.

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