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Flyers goalie options ahead of NHL trade deadline amid Carter Hart absence

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers
Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

With Carter Hart away indefinitely on a leave of absence, the Philadelphia Flyers have major decisions to make at the goalie position ahead of the NHL trade deadline March 8.

Simply, do the Flyers roll with Sam Ersson and Cal Petersen. Or do they make a trade? And if they do swing a deal, do they invest in a bonafide No. 1, find a 1a to share starts with Ersson or simply settle on a backup with Ersson handling the major workload?

Flyers general manager Daniel Briere had little to say about the topic.

“At this time, this week, Sam Ersson and Cal Petersen will be our two goalies,” Briere said Wednesday.

When asked about Ersson being the No. 1 goalie, Briere sounded impressed with the 24-year-old and cautious about putting too much on his shoulders.

“Sam Ersson has really taken a big step forward,” Briere said. “We’ll have to protect him as much as we can. He’s still developing. He’s still a good young goalie and getting better and better. So we’ll have to be careful, but we’re excited that his play and that he can carry us moving forward until we know a little bit more on Carter’s situation.”

Rumors aside, there’s concern that the personal issues Hart is dealing with will keep him away from the Flyers for a significant time.

Of their 48 games this season, Hart has started 25 for the Flyers, Ersson 21 and Petersen two. Hart is 12-9-3 with 2.80 goals-against average and .906 save percentage and one shutout. Ersson is 12-7-3 in his first NHL season with a 2.44 GAA, .905 save percentage and three shutouts.

With the Flyers a surprising third in the Metropolitan Division, it’d be tough for Briere and Co. to roll the dice with their current goalie combination for the second half of the season. And they likely will have a better idea before the March 8 trade deadline what Hart’s immediate future looks like.

So, a trade is likely. Let’s examine Philly’s options.

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Flyers goalie options ahead of NHL trade deadline

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Minnesota Wild
Dec 27, 2023; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Detroit Red Wings goaltender James Reimer (47) makes a save in the second period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

James Reimer – Detroit Red Wings

If the Flyers believe that Ersson can handle being the No. 1 down the stretch, then James Reimer could be an excellent fit as his backup.

The 35-year-old is on an expiring contract that would cost the Flyers a pro-rated $1.5 million and wouldn’t get in the way down the road if Hart returns next season or if a goalie prospect like Aleksei Kosolov is ready in 2024-25.

Reimer plays for a team that has three goalies, including the red-hot Alex Lyon, so could easily be had in a trade. He’s 4-6-2 with 3.22 GAA and .894 save percentage but would fit nicely as the No. 2.

Jake Allen – Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens have three goalies and Jake Allen is most likely to be moved ahead of the deadline, especially now that Sam Montembeault signed a three-year contract extension.

Allen is 33, has 411 games of NHL experience and won a Stanley Cup as a backup with the St. Louis Blues in 2019. That’d play well alongside the less-experienced Ersson, who’d still get more of the playing time. But Allen would provide a decent safety net, though his numbers (5-9-2, 3.46 GAA, .900 save percentage) have been pedestrian this season.

Also, Allen has one more year left on his contract that carries a $3.85 million salary cap hit. So, that could be an issue for the Flyers.

Kaapo Kahkonen – San Jose Sharks

Mackenzie Blackwood might be the more sought after goalie from the Sharks ahead of the deadline, but Kaapo Kahkonen is on an expiring contract, so might be more appealing.

Like Allen, Kahkonen could be Ersson’s backup or even a 1a partner. His numbers were good when he played several seasons for the Minnesota Wild, you know, a team that actually plays defense. But his .902 save percentage in 22 games this season for a bad team is not terrible at all.

Kahkonen is 27, making a pro-rated $2.75 million and is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. You could do much worse.

Marc-Andre Fleury – Minnesota Wild

Now, let’s get into some bigger names, starting with Marc-Andre Fleury. The Wild will need to decide their course of action ahead of the trade deadline first. They’re four points out of the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. But they have five teams ahead of them.

Also, Fleury holds the cards here. It’s likely his final NHL season and he will have a say if he goes anywhere and where he’d like to end up. If Fleury believes the Flyers are a legit contender and is willing to split time with Ersson, this could work. He is banged up, though, after this hit last week.

Like most of the others on this list, the 39-year-old is not having a great season. He’s 8-9-3 with a 2.95 GAA and .897 save percentage. He also has three Stanley Cup rings and is second all-time in wins by a goalie. So, he remains an intriguing option.

Jacob Markstrom – Calgary Flames

The Flames are in a similar situation as the Wild. Close, yet so far, from the final playoff berth in the West. If they decided to move Jacob Markstrom, it’s because they want to promote Dustin Wolf into the full-time role, which fits their long-term plan but perhaps not their short-term goal.

Markstrom is owed $6 million for the next two seasons, so if Philly makes this move it’s with the idea that the 33-year-old will be their No. 1 goalie moving forward. That would knock Hart out of the picture, if he’s even still in that picture. It would also mean that the Flyers don’t believe their goalie prospects are NHL ready yet nor that Ersson is or will be a No. 1. Plus it would cost the Flyers decent return to land Markstrom.

This possible trade is the least likely but most interesting.

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