Former NHL goaltender Karri Ramo has his sights set on a return, but not across the Atlantic. Instead, Ramo is expected to remain in the KHL, but sign with former team Avangard Omsk in Russia. Ramo spent this season with Jokerit, a KHL squad in his native Finland, but Russian source Championat reports that Omsk will soon announce that they have brought back the talented keeper.
Ramo, 31, is coming off of such a strong season that there was speculation that there could be interest in the NHL even though he made only 18 regular season starts for Jokerit. Ramo shared the net with U.S. Olympian Ryan Zapolski this year, but made less than half as many starts as the veteran American. However, in his limited action, Ramo was easily the best “backup” in the KHL with a .930 save percentage and 1.94 GAA. Appearances aside, those numbers were good enough for thirteenth and seventh respectively in the KHL, yet somehow just a shade worse than Zapolski. Ramo’s time came in the postseason though; he was the hot hand and made six starts to Zapolski’s five and posted an incredible .954 save percentage and 1.31 GAA.
With Omsk, Ramo will return to the team that he starred for from 2009 to 2013. A sixth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, Ramo joined the Bolts as a rookie in 2006-07 and spent three years as the team’s primary backup. Ramo then left for the KHL in 2009 and quickly became on of the league’s top keepers, leading Avangard to four straight postseason appearances while posting a GAA of 2.11 or better in each season. Given his renewed value overseas, Ramo returned to the NHL in 2013 and split starts for the Calgary Flames for three seasons, but struggled to find the same success he had in Russia. In returning to Omsk, Ramo will be expected to solve the severe goaltending issues that plagued the team last season with the help of fellow new addition Igor Bobkov. Ramo will also reunite with former Calgary coach and recent Omsk hire Bob Hartley as the pair look to improve on a team that is lacking in high-end talent. A star goalie, strong defense, and experienced coaching could be all that Avangard need to make a run next season though.