Fixing the Philadelphia Flyers’ Goalie Numbers

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 09: Brian Elliott #37 of the Philadelphia Flyers enters the ice surface for warm-ups against the San Jose Sharks on October 9, 2018 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 09: Brian Elliott #37 of the Philadelphia Flyers enters the ice surface for warm-ups against the San Jose Sharks on October 9, 2018 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Flyers could have as many as six goalies in the system in just a matter of weeks. There are several ways that the team could try to cut that number down.

With the Tuesday news that Brian Elliott was deemed healthy enough for a conditioning assignment with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the Philadelphia Flyers have run into a problem in net. Instead of the usual lack of talent, the Flyers find themselves with way too many goalies.

Carter Hart is now the starter for the rest of the season, while Anthony Stolarz has earned a shot in the NHL and is no longer waiver exempt. Elliott is one veteran returning from injury, but Michal Neuvirth should be following him soon, though the Flyers have not commented much on his progress. Elsewhere, Mike McKenna is returned from his own conditioning assignment Tuesday and Alex Lyon is in Lehigh Valley.

Between the Flyers and the Phantoms, that leaves six goalies in the organization, so how do the Flyers and general manager Chuck Fletcher trim the number of goalies? There are multiple ways for it to be done.

Waive McKenna

This is the obvious first step, and maybe even likely to happen Wednesday. By waiving and subsequently demoting McKenna, the Flyers create space for Elliott to return once his conditioning stint is over, which would be in six days or three games from Monday:

There’s a chance McKenna could be claimed, but it likely wouldn’t cause any anger in the Philadelphia organization. If he does pass through waivers, he can join Lyon full-time with the Phantoms.

Trade Lyon

I know most want Elliott, Neuvirth or both gone, and we’ll get there, but Lyon could be a trade chip also.

Despite playing 13 games with the Flyers over the past two seasons and helping the Phantoms to a deep playoff run last year, Lyon has probably become the odd-man out in terms of the goalie prospects. Hart will be with the Flyers next year, Stolarz could be his backup or the Lehigh Valley starter if a veteran is brought in and Felix Sandstrom is expected to come overseas from Sweden.

Lyon has one year remaining after this season, but some teams would likely be impressed with the 26-year-old’s AHL track record — he has a .921 save percentage this year — but it’s likely only doable before the trade deadline if McKenna (or another Philly goalie) clears waivers. Fletcher would not leave the Phantoms without a starting netminder.

Trade or Waive Neuvirth

If there was a market for Neuvirth, I believe he would already be gone. In fact, according to the Courier-Post’s Dave Isaac, it’s believed that former GM Ron Hextall tried to trade Neuvirth in the offseason but couldn’t find any suitors. That’s why I included the waiving option.

The waiving scenario probably only happens if either McKenna is claimed or Lyon is traded. That would open a spot up on the Phantoms and leaves another AHL-level goalie on the roster should Neuvirth’s injury troubles continue.

There is always the chance that Neuvirth is claimed, but given the injury history, I doubt any teams see him as a viable upgrade in net.

Trade Elliott

Elliott definitely has more value than Neuvirth, but as I mentioned in my trade value rankings, goalies moved at the trade deadline typically don’t return much value. Couple that with the possibility that the Blue Jackets’ Sergei Bobrovsky and the Red Wings’ Jimmy Howard (both goalies on expiring contracts like Elliott) could be traded, and the former Blue probably wouldn’t be the highest option for teams even looking for goaltending help.

But he wouldn’t cost much either. Fletcher would be looking for a way to rid himself of some of the goalies he has and most players don’t mind going to a contender. Elliott has proven he can be a solid 1B option in net or backup. He just needs to get away from the injury plague that has affected him this season and last.

Elliott is an option to be the team’s veteran backup next season, but he can always be brought back in the summer after his contract expires.

Keep Most

Once the trade deadline passes, the maximum 23 number of players allowed on an NHL roster is discarded, so the Flyers could keep most –or all — of their netminders past Feb. 25.  It’s still likely Philly would try to get one more to the Phantoms where Lyon is the only AHL-regular goalie, but they do have the salary cap space to keep all six if it came to that.

Obviously, having five or six goalies would cause plenty of headaches, mainly in practice where even having three is seen more as a hindrance than a help. In a worst-case scenario, this could be done, but wouldn’t be advised.

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