The Philadelphia Flyers felt they had to make some goaltending changes this offseason after a year in which they were tied for 26th in save percentage as a team (.901). Veteran goaltender Steve Mason finished the season with a 2.66 GAA in 58 contests which left a lot to be desired, while backup Michal Neuvirth, who many hoped might build on a strong 2015-16 season and take over the starting reigns last year, finshed with an even more disappointing 2.82 GAA.
The team re-signed Neuvirth to a two-year, $5MM deal in March and then allowed Mason to go his own way, which turned out to be signing with the Winnipeg Jets. The Flyers then signed veteran Brian Elliott to a two-year, $5.5MM contract. He was also coming off a disappointing season with the Calgary Flames. The 32-year-old veteran finished last season with a 2.55 GAA in 49 games, which wasn’t enough for the Flames to want to bring him back.
CSN Philly’s John Boruk, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall, and Greg Paone all weighed in on what their expectations are for the changes next year in goal and, no surprise, many of them had differing opinions when it comes to the goaltenders.
All four scribes, for the most part, agreed that there was no loss in seeing Mason walk. Dougherty was the only one who suggests that Mason is probably currently the best of the three goaltenders, but Boruk believes that Mason is nothing better than an average goaltender despite his athleticism and size.
However, the real debate comes to Neuvirth. The 29-year-old goaltender had a great season in the 2015-16 season when he played 32 games and came away with a 2.27 GAA and a .924 save percentage in a backup role. However, after last year’s disappointment, the question is where is he now. Injuries are the biggest issue with both Hall and Paone. Neuvirth has missed time due to injuries over the past few years, including a knee injury and a moment in April when he collapsed in the middle of a game. Hall believes that he will never be able to be better than a backup with his health always an issue, while Paone believes that the Flyers would never have offered him a two-year deal if they didn’t think he could be the team’s No. 1 goaltender. Neither Boruk or Dougherty believe that Neuvirth can handle a starting role and at best, he would be able to pressure the starting goaltender for time.
As for Elliott, Boruk cites adjusting to life as a new father as a reason for his struggles last year in Calgary. Most of his struggles came early in the season as his worst numbers came in the first 13 games of the season and he finished the rest of the season with a 23-6-2 record. Dougherty suggests that Elliott is past his prime and shouldn’t provide numbers any better than what Mason offered Philadelphia.