The Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes were in similar situations earlier this month when they claimed Calvin Pickard and Curtis McElhinney off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both had an NHL goaltender—Michal Neuvirth and Scott Darling respectively—injured, and were looking for short-term help without giving up an asset or rushing a prospect. Now both are in the same situation again, as Neuvirth and Darling are ready to return.
The Hurricanes announced today that Darling has been recalled from his conditioning stint with the Charlotte Checkers, while Neuvirth told reporters including Tony Androckitis of Inside AHL Hockey that he would re-join the Flyers in Boston after playing for the Lehigh Valley Pchantoms last night. The question now for both teams is what happens to that extra goaltender that they claimed earlier in the year.
For the Flyers, it’s likely a simple decision of putting Pickard back on waivers. The team is unlikely to carry three goaltenders for any substantial length of time, and don’t seem ready to rid themselves of starter Brian Elliott just yet, despite his slow start. Elliott has just a .882 save percentage through the early going, and has allowed 24 goals through seven games. Pickard meanwhile has performed even worse with an .833 through his three appearances.
In Carolina, things aren’t nearly as clear. Though McElhinney hasn’t performed nearly as well as he did for the Maple Leafs or even Columbus Blue Jackets, he could potentially be a better option this season than what Petr Mrazek has shown so far. This is the third straight season that the former Detroit Red Wings goaltender has performed poorly, and is providing little value to the Hurricanes for his $1.5MM salary. That contract would also likely keep him from being claimed, something that certainly couldn’t be said for McElhinney.
In fact for both Pickard and McEllhinney, getting through waivers is an unlikely scenario. The Maple Leafs were left with very little goaltending depth after losing both, and then saw third-string netminder Kasimir Kaskisuo go down to injury in the minor leagues. That left them with Eamon McAdam getting an emergency call-up from the ECHL when Frederik Andersen tweaked his knee, something that the team will want to avoid going forward. If the Maple Leafs are the only team to put in a claim on Pickard or McElhinney, they could assign either goaltender directly to the minor leagues and keep them in the system without having to use a roster spot. It’s hard to imagine they wouldn’t try that for at least one of the two if they’re placed on waivers today or tomorrow.