No new Flames backup plan

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

It says a lot about how good a team is when the backup goaltending situation stirs up so much talk in a city.

Balancing two sides of a scale -- developing a young prospect or bringing in experience as insurance for the playoffs -- is a nice 'problem' for the Calgary Flames to face.

Talk of the Flames considering the addition of Martin Gerber makes sense from a Stanley Cup standpoint, if not financially, for a team hoping to challenge for the championship at season's end.

Gerber's been to the final as a backup three times, with the Anaheim Ducks, Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa Senators.

But the Flames GM said through the media relations department late last night Curtis McElhinney is safe.

"We signed Curtis McElhinney to a one-way contract because he's an NHL goalie. And he's our goalie," Sutter said in the statement.

"We're not interested in acquiring any more goaltenders."

His head coach said earlier in the day McElhinney seems like the best option.

"I have no idea whether Darryl's pursuing Gerber or not, but I think it's out of the question. I think his contract's a little heavy," Keenan said of Gerber's $3.7-million deal that expires at the end of the year.

"If you look at contracts and players available in that position, I think that Curtis is the best solution for us."

Great.

Now let him play.

Technically the Flames could add Gerber, whose cap hit is pro-rated at slightly more than $1.5-million, if the Sens send him to the minors and the Flames get him on re-entry waivers.

The Senators would have to pick up about $750,000. Moving McElhinney to the minors would save the Flames almost another $215,000 under the cap.

But if they believe McElhinney is a piece of their future, they've eventually got to give him more of an opportunity in the NHL.

If he's their guy behind the man -- Miikka Kiprusoff -- when the trade deadline passes, McElhinney will finally get that chance.

"He'll have to play a little bit more, obviously, in the second half than he did in the first," said Keenan.

"We're relying on him and counting on him to come in and win some hockey games for us."

He has yet to win even one, but his three starts haven't exactly set him up for success.

Giving McElhinney no goal support in his first start in Columbus, the Flames lost 3-1 to the Blue Jackets.

Then the backup was thrown in against Detroit on a few hours' notice, and had a tough finish to come away with a point in the overtime defeat.

Showing promise in that one, McElhinney deserves more opportunties to earn his first victory.

"He was really good to start off the game," goaltending coach David Marcoux said of the game against the Red Wings. "He did give us a point in Detroit on a back-to-back night where the travel was just terrible."

His latest outing came almost two months later, and was a disaster as the fatigued Flames came out flat in front of him in Denver.

Again, McElhinney gave them hope with a strong start before he, too, fell victim to the Colorado Avalanche attack.

"The guys trust Curtis, they know what he's all about," said Marcoux.

"Moving forward here, it's up to him to win some games, to help contribute for this hockey club.

"Everything else is just rumours."

Marcoux wouldn't speak hypothetically about what would happen with the 2002 sixth-round pick's development if he were to be supplanted by another veteran as he was last season when Curtis Joseph joined the team.

McElhinney understands why there's talk at this time of year, but he's not about to change the way he's approached his role.

"I guess you're always trying to build the perfect puzzle on a team. Obviously they're sitting in a pretty good position right now. You don't want to have any (weak) links," said McElhinney.

"If it happens, so be it, I guess. You make the best of every situation.

"Until I see somebody else here, I guess I'm not going anywhere for the time being."

That could change, but he's worked hard enough to stick around.


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