CALGARY - To his credit, Leland Irving will admit the Calgary Flames’ re-signing of Henrik Karlsson to a two-year contract with a one-way salary essentially puts a ceiling on his chances in the near future.
To his credit, Irving is vowing to do what he can to break through any possible barrier.
With Miikka Kiprusoff well established as the star of the show and Karlsson holding the inside track as the backup in Calgary, Irving is most likely ticketed for another season or two in the minors.
But the goaltender drafted in the first round in 2006 is not letting the potential disappointment get to him, vowing to push for a NHL job as soon as possible after re-signing with the team Wednesday, inking a one-year, two-way contract that would pay him US$600,000 at the NHL level.
“The initial reaction, I guess, would be it sucks and I’ll be stuck in Abby for a while longer, but — at the same time — whoever is up in Calgary doesn’t seem to be playing many games. Kipper’s going to take the workload and I need the experience,” Irving said from his home in Abbotsford. “I’m still going to come to camp and battle for that spot, but at the end of the day, it’s about what’s best for my development.
“I’m going to do everything I can — in the gym and on the ice — to give myself the best opportunity to be the best goalie I can be.”
Eventually, Kiprusoff’s playing days will come to an end in Calgary, and the Flames are looking at a trio of netminders as potential replacements in Karlsson, Irving and first-year pro Joni Ortio.
Irving, the only player drafted by the Flames from 2003 through 2006 that remains with the organization, took a big step forward in the eyes of Calgary’s brass last season, posting an impressive 30-24-2 record with a 2.30 goals-against average and .913 save percentage for a Heat team which failed to make the playoffs.
“It was a good stepping stone. I thought I really took some strides. It was nice to rebound after not a very solid year in my first year in Abbotsford,” said the 23-year-old netminder. “I felt I was given an opportunity, and I was able to roll with it. It turned out to be a great season.”
A big source of pride is the consistency he had.
“I felt the guys had confidence in me each and every night, and they could count on me,” Irving said. “It wasn’t like I’d have a great game and then a terrible game. I didn’t have that rollercoaster, was solid pretty much all year.
“That was a real focus of mine because it’s something I think a No.-1 goalie has to establish. At the same time,
I was able to bounce back when I had to.”