The Calgary Flames completed their most important piece of off-season business Saturday, acquiring a new No. 1 goaltender in Mike Smith from the Arizona Coyotes.
Just hours before they were obliged to submit their protected list for the 2017 NHL expansion draft, the Flames acquired Arizona's long-time starter in exchange for Brandon Hickey, a top defensive prospect, the rights to pending free-agent goaltender Chad Johnson, plus a conditional third-round pick that becomes a second-rounder if the Flames make the playoffs in 2018.
In what will surely be a heavily scrutinized move, the Flames gave up a player in Hickey that was likely their brightest prospect on defence. But while the acquisition cost was steep, the Flames didn't give up a player off the NHL roster, which is what other deals they were pondering would have required.
The 35-year-old Smith has two years remaining on a six-year, $34-million contract that he signed in 2013, and it pays him an annual average salary of $5.666-million.
Arizona is picking up one-quarter of the cost of that contract to mitigate the charge against Calgary's salary cap. Smith's actual compensation for the 2017-18 season is $6-million and then it drops to $5-million for the final year of the contract.
The hope in Calgary is that two years of Smith as their starter will allow them to develop one or both of their goalie prospects, Jon Gillies (who spent last year playing for the Flames's AHL affiliate in Stockton, Calif.), and Tyler Parsons, a second-round draft choice last year, who won a Memorial Cup with the London Knights in 2016.
In Smith, the Flames get one of the most skilled puck-handling goaltenders in the game, which will add a new dimension to their defensive-zone breakouts. Smith was Arizona's sole representative to the 2017 NHL All-Star Game and he produced the defining moment of the skills' competition, firing a puck 200 feet into a six-inch opening in the goal. Smith is one of only a handful of NHL goaltenders to score a goal – he turned the trick on Oct. 19, 2013, against the Detroit Red Wings.
Flames' general manager Brad Treliving was the assistant GM in Arizona when the Coyotes originally signed Smith to a free-agent contract in July 2011.
In 2014, Smith was a member of Canada's 2014 Olympic gold-medal winning men's hockey team, where he played behind Carey Price and Roberto Luongo.
Smith's acquisition means that, for the third consecutive season, the Flames' will have a new No. 1 face in goal. Last year's tandem, Brian Elliott and Johnson, was an upgrade over the previous year's trio (Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo and Joni Ortio). Elliott overcame a slow start to put together a quality regular season on behalf of the Flames, but he faltered in the playoffs during a four-game sweep at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks.
Organizationally, the hope is that Smith can not only help the Flames get to the playoffs, but that they can then do some damage once they're there.
In an NHL career that began with the 2006-07 Dallas Stars, Smith has only been to the playoffs twice. The last time, five years ago with the then-Phoenix Coyotes, he had an exceptional run – nine wins, three shutouts and a goals-against average of 1.99 per game.
Overall, Smith totalled a 128-132-41 record with a 2.69 GAA and a .916 save percentage in 312 games with the Coyotes over six seasons.