Hart will be a restricted free agent after next season. As of today, the Flyers’ have a decent goalie situation. Sandstrom, to me, looks every part of an NHL starter, and Ersson looks to be a capable back up. Hart is a couple years younger than Sandstrom, and is a proven NHL starter whose numbers have probably been hurt by playing for a bad team. Extending Hart seems to be a no brainer given his relative youth and in todays game we see goalies can still be very effective and physically capable well into their thirties. But it is fair to ask what Hart will look like mentally after four seasons of what is sure to be rocky rebuilding hockey?
If Hart is better for it, he could be the reliable backstop for an ascending Flyers team, like Connor Hellebuyck was in Winnipeg before the Laine trade. Alternately, Hart could be completely shell shocked by that point, nothing more than an average goalie, whose psyche and confidence is permanently damaged from years of constant pressure. If Hart is permanently damaged from the rebuild, it would have made more sense to move him for peak value.
Unfortunately nothing is that easy when it comes to the Flyers and their goalies. Hart is the team’s first true number one keeper in over a decade. To make matters worse, if Hart was traded to a better situation (which is almost anywhere) he will likely record better numbers, which will make it appear the Flyers “gave up” on him too quickly. Even if trading him was the “right” move it likely won’t look like it.
The Kraken look like a good fit for the young goalie, as Seattle is just south of Everett where Hart played his junior hockey. Would two firsts and a second-round pick be enough if Hart goes out west and has a Bobrovsky like career? To Flyers fans, probably not, but sacrificing Hart may give rocket fuel to the rebuild.
Fortunately for the new Flyers brain trust, none of the other questions are as difficult and historically loaded as what to do with Carter Hart. Even so, the Flyers will have to make difficult decisions to build contender. Only time will tell if Jones and company are up to the challenge.