Despite seeing top prospect Carter Hart have a successful NHL debut on Tuesday night, the Philadelphia Flyers appear to still be searching for an answer in net. Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets that new GM Chuck Fletcher “sounds like he’s shopping for a goalie.” That shopping of course will have to officially wait until after the trade freeze is lifted later this month, but Fletcher is still able to have discussions with teams.
It’s not hard to understand why trading for a goaltender would be Fletcher’s first big move as GM. The Flyers have seen goalie after goalie fail miserably in their net over the last few years (or perhaps decades) and are dealing with several injuries to their group right now. Brian Elliott is still awaiting the results of some recent medical testing, while Anthony Stolarz is on the shelf again for a few weeks. Hart was impressive in his first start, but it’s hard to imagine that throwing him to the wolves as the Flyers’ full-time starter this early in his career is good for his development. More likely the team would rather keep Hart at the AHL level for this season and hand the reins to him somewhere down the road.
The Flyers are just one point ahead of the last place New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference standings, and are looking at a very interesting goaltending situation at the end of the year. Elliott and Michal Neuvirth are both pending unrestricted free agents, while Stolarz is scheduled to become a restricted free agent once again. Acquiring a netminder with a little term could help ease Hart into the role and provide some experienced help for him without having to re-sign any of their injury-prone options. Still, who they would be targeting is unclear.
It’s been reported several times already that Fletcher was looking to get a trade done of some sort before the freeze took effect, but nothing was submitted before it began this week. There’s bound to be goaltenders available, though the most notable ones—Jake Allen and Jonathan Quick come to mind—are inconsistent or expensive in both cap hit and pieces needed to acquire them. The Detroit Red Wings for instance are allegedly looking for a first-round pick for Jimmy Howard, something that doesn’t make much sense for a struggling Philadelphia team.
We won’t know where the Flyers are leaning in net until after the freeze lifts on December 28th, but for now Hart is scheduled to start another game tonight. If he can put up another impressive performance against Detroit, perhaps the team will reconsider their shopping efforts altogether.