Cal Heeter’s name will no longer be obscure trivia for those who intently follow the Toronto Marlies. The journeyman goaltender returns to the organization today, signing a 1-year AHL contract this afternoon.
Heeter, a 28-year-old from St. Louis, was undrafted in his youth and went the NCAA route to get his education and establish a reputation. Peaking as a 0.920 goaltender in his final two years at Ohio State, he earned himself a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2013, which largely involved him playing for their AHL affiliate, though he did get one appearance in up top.
Heeter’s time in Toronto came in the 2014/15 season, while he was trying to find a more permanent, higher-level job. Heeter joined the Leafs on a PTO that season, didn’t make the cut, signed with the Evansville Icemen of the ECHL, was loaned to the Marlies after four games, and played just one game, stopping 48 of 52 against the Oklahoma City Barons (now Bakersfield Condors) on November 8th, 2014. The Marlies lost that game in overtime, but it was the last proving ground for him before he signed with Medvescak Zagreb of the KHL less than a week later.
After two years and 28 games with Zagreb, Heeter finished his 2015/16 season with Hamburg of the DEL (Germany), and spent last season under the Detroit Red Wings umbrella, splitting time between the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL and Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL.
If his run with the Griffins is any indication, Heeter still has plenty of gas left in the tank. He put up a 10-2-0-1 record with the team, matched with a 0.933 save percentage, having just two starts under a 0.915 save percentage in that time. I’d imagine that this signing is more of a depth / ECHL move for them, given that they’ll have Kasimir Kaskisuo as a backup and one of Garret Sparks or Curtis McElhinney as their starter, but whatever the case, having goaltending options, especially in the AHL where you can get caught in a bind in an instant, is never a bad thing.
Another name to keep an eye on down the line for similar purposes is Jordan Papirny, who signed an ATO with the club in April and was at their development camp this summer. The 21-year-old still has yet to sign with a pro team and could be another depth option if Orlando doesn’t re-commit to Ryan Massa (who split time with Kaskisuo last year) or add another permanent goaltender.