After a hot start to salary arbitration season with three hearings, things have cooled off of late with a slew of contract resolutions. Add another to the list, as the Calgary Flames and goaltender David Rittich have come to terms on an extension. The team announced that the 26-year-old net minder has signed on for two years at an AAV of $2.75MM. Rittich will be an unrestricted free agent when the deal expires after the 2020-21 season.
The Flames now have their 1A goalie back under contract, as Rittich outplayed veteran Mike Smith last season, earning 42 starts to Smith’s 40. Rittich posted career-high numbers in his second season as a Calgary regular, recording a .911 save percentage and 2.61 GAA. Not only were these numbers a personal best and substantially better than Smith’s, they were also top-20 marks among goalies with appearances in at least half of their team’s games, showing that Rittich could hold his own as the Flames’ top option. Given his age and level of play, albeit in limited appearances, it still seems like Calgary got a good value on this $5.5MM pact.
Still just 26 and without a lot of tread on the tires as timeshare goalie in the Czech pro ranks for many years, Rittich has the potential to continue improving as well. He will certainly be pushed in the upcoming season, as Smith has been replaced by the younger and arguably more talented Cam Talbot. Talbot signed a one-year deal this off-season with a $2.75 AAV that matches Rittich’s. The salaries would suggest an even split in net, but the incumbent Rittich has the advantage in familiarity and longer-term investment and should get the preference early on. If he can again prove that he is the superior option to a respected veteran, Rittich could see even more appearances in 2019-20 than he did last year, and perhaps another career performance as well.
The Rittich deal, although more than fair, does add more pressure to the Flames’ salary cap conundrum. CapFriendly currently projects the team to have $4.67MM in cap space. With Matthew Tkachuk still unsigned, as well as Andrew Mangiapane, that simply won’t be enough. Since Rittich had filed for arbitration, the Flames’ second case after their recent resolution with Sam Bennett, the team will be afforded a second buyout window, a 48-hour opportunity to rid themselves of a large contract that could help them sort out their financials. However, there is no obvious candidate for such a move and the team could instead continue shopping defensemen Travis Hamonic and T.J. Brodie and forward Michael Frolik in hopes of opening up more space.