Karri Ramo is intrigued by the thought of a future with the Calgary Flames.
The Finnish goaltender has seen his North American rights traded twice since he last played in the NHL and was encouraged by the message the Flames sent after acquiring him from Montreal as part of the Mike Cammalleri-Rene Bourque deal in January.
“The feeling that I got was that I wasn't just put in that trade as a small part of it,” Ramo said during the IIHF World Hockey Championship. “Obviously, Cammalleri and Rene Bourque were the biggest (part of the) deal, but I wasn't just left over. I definitely felt good about it, I was happy to hear it.”
After completing the trade, Flames general manager Jay Feaster noted that Ramo would give the team more options at a “critical position.”
Ramo's career has flourished since he made the controversial decision to turn down a one-way contract from the Tampa Bay Lightning prior to the 2009-10 season and sign in Russia. He's been the starting goalie with Avangard Omsk ever since, posting a .925 save percentage the last two years and keeping his goals-against average under 2.00.
Still only 25, he's starting to look back toward North America, where he spent three seasons in the Lightning organization when it was run by Feaster.
Russia was never part of Ramo's long-term plan — “three years, it's maybe one year more than I planned to play there,” he said — and he believes he'll be ready to make a strong impact when he finds his way back to the NHL.
“The reason why I left is I thought it was better for my hockey career to go there and play,” said Ramo. “The last three years I played almost 200 games. That's what makes you a better player, when you play a lot of games. That's what I wanted, that's what everybody's looking for.
“I think I'm a lot better goalie.”
At this point, it's anyone's guess when exactly he'll get to Calgary.
Ramo says he would relish the opportunity to play behind countryman Miikka Kiprusoff, who has made at least 70 appearances in seven consecutive seasons and turns 36 in October, but Ramo has one year remaining on a contract with Omsk. Even though that deal doesn't include an out clause, Ramo can envision a scenario where he wouldn't spend all of next year with the team.
“I can't leave right away, but you know things always change,” said Ramo. “In the KHL especially.”
On the surface, it appears as though there could be a spot for him Calgary.
Ramo is younger than current Flames backup Henrik Karlsson, who won just one game in nine appearances last season. The organization also has minor-league goaltender Leland Irving and prospect Joni Ortio, who recently signed a deal with HIFK and will remain in Finland at least one more year.
Ramo expects to speak with the Flames about his future once the world championship wraps up later this month, but his intentions are clear.
“I'd like to go back there at some point and battle for a NHL job,” said Ramo.