CALGRY, Alberta (AP) — Brian Elliott was eager to get back in the rink on a hot summer day. After years of fending off challengers in St. Louis, the goalie has big expectations entering next season as the unquestioned No. 1 in Calgary.
“This is a big one for me so I’m really looking forward to it,” Elliott said when introduced to the media Wednesday. “Sometimes you want that extra bit of summer to relax and enjoy your downtime but now I’ve gotten really excited to get the pads back on and ready to get back at it.”
The Flames acquired the 31-year-old Elliott from St. Louis on the night of the NHL draft for a second-round pick. Elliott and his wife were on vacation in Croatia at the time.
“When I got the news, it was 2 o’clock in the morning and I saw my phone lighting up,” Elliott said. “I didn’t go back to sleep after that, I was so excited.”
Elliott has the second-highest save percentage in the league among goalies who have played at least 50 games over the past five seasons at .925, just behind New Jersey’s Cory Schneider (.926).
Yet as well as he has performed over that five-year period in St. Louis, he never seemed to fully gain the trust of the coaching staff that kept trying other options.
He gave way to Jaroslav Halak in one playoffs, Ryan Miller was brought in to be the guy in another. Two years ago, the Blues turned to Jake Allen in the postseason.
“To have that good of numbers and not get the opportunity to be the No. 1 guy, sometimes it’s frustrating,” Elliott said. “But I’ve always believed if you worked hard, put your head down and plowed through it, opportunities will pop up for you.”
Last year, the Flames’ trio of Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo and Joni Ortio collectively ranked last in the NHL in goaltending.
Calgary will turn to two new goalies. Veteran backup Chad Johnson was signed as a free agent.
Elliott was selected by 291st overall by Ottawa in the 2003 draft and has played 323 career games (165-99-32) with the Senators, Blues and Colorado Avalanche.
He said he’s ready for this next chapter.
“It’s talked about a lot with goaltenders. It just takes longer to develop. You have to go through those experiences just to be able to be that consistent player and not really feel the ups and downs and the roller coaster of a season,” he said. “Just stay calm. Trust your game, trust your work and just go out and play. It takes time to learn that.”
Flames general manager Brad Treliving said while Elliott’s on-ice performance was important, they also really liked the fit off the ice.
“The numbers speak for themselves but a big part of us going out and getting Brian is also the person,” he said. “We talked to players that played with him, teammates that have had him, coaches that have coached him. The work ethic, the type of person that he is in the locker room, the teammate stood out as much as the goaltender stood out.”
Also on hand at the Saddledome was Elliott’s wife, Amanda, who is pregnant with the couple’s first child, due at the start of the season.
“A little cowboy on the way,” Elliott said.
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