May 14, 2012
Ramo hoping for eventual return to NHL
By JEAN-FRANCOIS CHAUMONT, QMI Agency
Though his NHL rights have gone from Tampa Bay to Montreal and on to Calgary, Karri Ramo remains in Omsk, Russia.
Ramo has not stopped a single NHL shot since April 11, 2009, when he was with the Tampa Bay Lightning. But since then, the Finnish goalie has been involved in two NHL trades, even though he has spent the last couple of years in Siberia with Avangard Omsk of the KHL.
Acquired by the Montreal Canadiens from the Lightning in August 2010 for Cedrick Desjardins, Ramo was flipped again on Jan. 12 when the Calgary Flames acquired his rights from the Habs in the deal that sent Michael Cammalleri west.
"I know the Flames wanted a goalie for the future," Ramo said after a Finland game at the world championship in Helsinki. "The Flames didn't just get me unexpectedly, I was part of the equation. Michael Cammalleri and Rene Bourque were the two big pieces of the deal, but I wasn't just a consolation prize that the Canadiens gave to the Flames.
"I knew (Flames general manager) Jay Feaster well from Tampa Bay. I was happy that the Flames wanted to obtain my rights. It was a good sign."
Feaster, however, will have to wait before seeing Ramo in Calgary.
Ramo, 25, hopes to return to North America some day, but he won't be able to do it right away.
"I still have a contract for next year with Omsk and I have no clause to get out of it," he said. "I can't leave right away. So I'm preparing to play in the KHL next year."
Ramo said he hadn't expected to remain in Siberia as long as he has.
"I've already played three years for Avangard," he said. "Three years, that's already a year more than I had planned. Now I'm getting ready for a fourth year. It's my goal to return to the NHL, but it's not easy. I hope to get back within a couple years."
In Calgary, Ramo finds himself in a different situation than in Montreal.
"It is a better chance in Calgary than it was in Montreal for me," he said. "I never told the Canadiens that I didn't want to play for them because the team had a very good goalie in Carey Price. There is never any certainty in the NHL, you have to work to earn your spot. I would like to one day play with Miikka Kiprusoff, one of the best goalies in the history of Finland."
That might not happen. At 35, Kiprusoff is closer to retirement than the 25-year-old Price.
In fact, Ramo might just be the heir apparent to Kiprusoff, not his eventual backup.
"Miikka still has two more years on his contract," Ramo said. "Even if he is Finnish like me, I don't know what his plans are. Maybe he wants to play until he's 45. Who knows?"
What is known is that Ramo has established himself as one of the KHL's best goalies. In his last two seasons, he has posted a goals-against average below 2.00 (1.96 and 1.97) and has a .925 save percentage over the two seasons.
"I've played nearly 200 games in three years in Omsk, I have grown a lot and learned from my experience in Russia," Ramo said. "It was one of my goals leaving for the KHL, I wanted to play well to get better. I'm a better goalie now than I was in 2009 with the Lightning."
At the world championship, Ramo is Finland's third goalie, behind Kari Lehtonen of the Dallas Stars and Petri Vehanen, who helped win gold for his country last year in Slovakia.
Ramo still hasn't played in the tournament but, with Lehtonen out due to a lower-body injury, his chance might come.