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Numbers Game: Flames add Hiller, improve goaltending

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Scott Cullen
7/3/2014 12:07:18 PM
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The Calgary Flames were hard-working team last season, but they weren't overly skilled and had subpar goaltending. They made a move in free agency to address the latter concern.

Numbers Game examines the Flames' addition of Jonas Hiller.

The Flames Get: G Jonas Hiller.

Hiller, 32, has been an above average starting goaltender over the course of his career, posting a .916 save percentage, but the past three seasons have not been so kind, as Hiller's .911 save percentage ranks 22nd out of 29 goaltenders to play at least 100 games in that span. Of those below Hiller on that list, Steve Mason and Ondrej Pavelec are the only ones set to be clear number ones with their teams going into next season.

Hiller's even-strength save percentage over that time, .922, is below average, at least among goaltenders that have played starter's minutes. Being a below-average starter can still be an improvement for the Flames, but it should also manage expectations for Hiller, who was beaten out for playoff playing time in Anaheim, by rookies Frederik Andersen and John Gibson.

Even so, in Calgary, Hiller will be battling Karri Ramo for playing time and Ramo had a .911 save percentage last season -- his first year in the NHL since 2008-2009 -- and owns a .902 save percentage in 88 career games. To his credit, Ramo came on after a slow start last season, posting a .918 save percentage in 30 games from December through the end of the season, so maybe he can compete with Hiller for playing time.

Even if Hiller might not be great at this stage of his career, he's likely an upgrade on Ramo and that's what matters to the Flames. With Hiller and Ramo together, the Flames have a chance to get something close to league-average goaltending. That may not be enough to get them into playoff contention -- they ranked 26th in puck possession last season, after all -- but he makes the Flames better.

Signed for $9-million over two seasons, Hiller is being paid like a starting goaltender, but the short term makes this a smart, low-risk move for the Flames.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Jonas Hiller (Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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