CALGARY — Goaltending and goalscoring are the burning issues at the Calgary Flames training camp.
Jonas Hiller signed a two-year, US$9-million deal with Calgary in the summer after the 32-year-old Swiss netminder dropped down the Anaheim Ducks goaltending depth chart at the end of his seventh season there.
Hiller brings a winning NHL record, plus playoff and Olympic Games experience to Calgary’s net.
But Hiller knows the starting job still has to be won in training camp, Karri Ramo finished last season 6-5 after his return from a February knee injury. The 28-year-old Finn posted a 17-15 record for Calgary with solid numbers of a 2.65 goal-against average and .911 save percentage.
“I was looking for somewhere I can feel like I can have a good chance to prove being a number one in this league,” Hiller said Thursday in Calgary after physical testing.
“It’s definitely nice to know you have solid goaltending and no matter who is playing can win a game. You want to play as many games as possible, but it’s definitely more fun if the team has success and that’s the goal.”
The Flames get on the ice Friday. Their first pre-season game is a split-squad contest Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers.
Bob Hartley’s first season behind Calgary’s bench was substantially shortened by the lockout. So in their first full season under Hartley, the Flames finished 27th in the league with a record of 35-40-7.
Of their 82 games, 49 were decided by a single goal. The Flames haven’t made the playoffs in five seasons.
“We want to get significantly better,” centre Matt Stajan said.
“We’re going to push to climb the standings and try to get into the playoffs. Anything less is a failure for all of us.”
Calgary finished in the bottom third of the NHL in goalscoring with 209 last season. Mike Cammalleri took a team-leading 26 goals with him to the New Jersey Devils when he signed there as a free agent in July.
New Flames general manager Brad Treliving signed forward Mason Raymond, who grew up playing in the Calgary area, to a three-year deal with an average annual salary of $3.1 million.
Treliving also took a flyer on Devin Setoguchi, from Taber, Alta., with a one-year deal worth $750,000.
Raymond’s most productive season so far was 25 goals for Vancouver in 2009-10. Setoguchi, 27, is three years removed from scoring 22 goals for the San Jose Sharks.
“I have a lot to prove,” Setoguchi said.
The Flames are banking on Sean Monahan, who turns 20 in October, to avoid a sophomore slump and augment the 22 goals he scored during a sensational rookie season.
Mikael Backlund, 25, stepped up in both production and presence last season with 18 goals and 21 assists.
After a few years of bare cupboards when it came to prospects, Calgary now has some who can take advantage of the job opportunities at camp.
Max Reinhart had 63 points in 66 games and Markus Granlund posted 46 in 52 for the American Hockey League’s Abbotsford Heat last season.
Sven Baertschi scored three goals in his first five career games with the Flames, but he’s yet to become a regular in the lineup. Calgary’s first-round (13th overall) pick in 2011 has spent large chunks of the last two seasons in Abbotsford.
There’s much been much buzz around 21-year-old John Gaudreau and his highlight-reel goals in rookie camp. But can the American forward listed at 150 pounds compete with main-camp muscle?
Sam Bennett became the highest draft pick in Calgary Flames history at No. 4 this year. Scrappy, smart and skilled, Bennett will get a long look this fall, but physical strength is also a question mark with the 18-year-old forward.
Treliving signed another Albertan, Deryk Engelland, to fill a void on defence created by Chris Butler’s signing with the St. Louis Blues.
Engelland, from Edmonton, spent the past four years with the Pittsburgh Penguins and brings playoff experience to a team that is growing short of it.
Flames captain Mark Giordano played himself into the discussion for the Canadian men’s Olympic team in February. The defenceman was plus-12 while contributing 14 goals and 33 assists.
Stajan calls his captain “one of the best leaders in the game” yet Giordano isn’t the highest-paid Flame at an average annual salary of just over $4 million. Defenceman Dennis Wideman is in the third season of a five-year contract that pays him an average of $5.2 million.