COLUMBUS, OH -- Make no mistake, Jay Feaster had options in front of him when it became apparent the Flames were in need of another goaltender to help carry the load while Miikka Kiprusoff is out with a lower body injury.
A veteran goaltender on the open market to provide some experience behind Leland Irving. An emergency call-up from college or the CHL; Jon Gillies and Laurent Brossoit are two names that immediately come to mind given their stellar play as of late. Barry Brust, who signed with the Abbotsford Heat this season, was another viable option.
But the Flames opted to go with Danny Taylor, who joined the Heat in the 2011-12 campaign, and inked the well-traveled backstop to a one-year, two-way contract on Wednesday.
"We debated extensively within the organization," Feaster said of the decision. "For a lot of reasons, we felt that Danny was the guy that was best suited for this role right now so Danny is the guy who got the offer."
Some have questioned why the team added another contract to the books rather than recall a player on an emergency basis as the Taylor signing pushes the Flames to 48 contracts. Feaster and hockey operations reviewed that option but given the fact the team still has the ability to add another two contracts, they didn't find giving the netminder a contract cumbersome.
"We looked at a lot of different things," he acknowledged. "48 still gives us some flexibility. The big thing as far as signing guys is to have that freedom at the end of the season. If you're chasing college free agents or the CHL free agent, those guys - in college in particular - they want to sign a current contract. As you know, last year we were at 50 and we weren't able to offer that. It didn't matter how much we wanted the player or what the opportunity looked like, we weren't able to give them that chance right away.
"So being at 48, would I rather be at 47 or 46? Sure I would. But 48 is not a problem for us."
While Taylor and Barry Brust have alternated in net throughout the season in Abbotsford, Taylor has shouldered more of the load this year and has earned the number one position. Through 26 games, the Plymouth, ENG product has recorded a 1.77 GAA and a .930 save percentage - good for second and fourth in the AHL respectively. He has stopped 573 of the 616 shots he has faced and two shutouts to his name.
Brust has comparable stats to his Heat counterpart but the decision ultimately came down to one thing: technique.
"As John Weisbrod and I talked last night after the game, he said this could have been a coin toss in many ways," Feaster said of the decision. "The thing about Danny is it's a more conservative, stop the puck (style). Brusty's game has a little bit more flair to it and there's certainly a lot more drama at times with Brusty. He roams out of the net, he likes to play the puck and sometimes that gets him in a little bit of trouble."
Head coach Bob Hartley spent a week watching Taylor in action at the Abbotsford training camp last September and has a good grasp on the goalie's style of play. He anticipates Taylor sliding seamlessly into the lineup.
"Another great worker," Hartley summarized. "He's persevered in his career a long time. It's fun to reward a guy like Danny Taylor.
"He's been very strong for us in Abbotsford. He deserves this contract. We're very proud for him."
Taylor will join the Flames in Columbus on Wednesday evening and will back-up Leland Irving on Thursday night.
"Tomorrow morning, we'll sit down with him and tell him, 'Be ready.'" Hartley said. "We're very proud for you. This is a big moment. You have a chance to be part of an NHL team. It's always fun. It's your boyhood dream."
The Los Angeles Kings drafted Taylor in the seventh round of the 2004 NHL Draft, 221st overall. He has 20:00 of NHL action on his resume, dating back to Mar. 29, 2008 while he was with the Kings organization. He stopped eight of ten shots.
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