At this time last year, Carter Hart appeared to be firmly entrenched as the Philadelphia Flyers starting goaltender. Despite playing on a losing team in 2021 Hart had a bounce back year, improving on his statistical numbers with a 3.16 goals-against-average, a save percentage of 0.905, and a record of 13-24-7. The 2022-23 season saw Hart’s numbers improve. His 2.94 goals-against-average was his best since he posted a career low of 2.42 in 2019-20. Likewise, his 0.907 save percentage was a touch better than the previous season. Hart played in a career high 55 games and won 22; just two shy of his personal best of 24 in 2019-20. Hockey games are won by scoring more than the other team, and the Flyers haven’t done that often enough.
Despite his starting status, Carter Hart has been plagued with season-ending injuries that have shut him down in each of the last three seasons. Injuries that plague your starting goaltender, no matter how good they are, are an issue. If the Philadelphia Flyers can’t rely on Carter Hart to stay healthy, they need to explore other options.
Currently, the Philadelphia Flyers have some in-house alternatives to Carter Hart. They traded for veteran goalie Cal Petersen as part of the Ivan Provorov deal. Felix Sandstrom is an unrestricted free agent, but could stay for cheap. Sam Ersson has a two-way deal that allows him to shuttle back and forth between Lehigh Valley and Philly and is signed through next season. Ivan Fedotov is still languishing in Russia with CKSA Moscow, but is signed with Philadelphia for one more year. Most of these are not great options compared to Carter Hart. Petersen struggled in Los Angeles and has mostly been a career backup, albeit an expensive one. Sandstrom struggled, while Ersson had some bright stretches. Troy Grosenick is a valuable guy to have in the AHL in case the Flyers need a body. Heading into this draft, it appeared that the Flyers might have considered drafting a Carter Hart successor, just in case.
On the second day of the 2023 NHL Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers called upon a goaltender twice. The Flyers did not have a second round pick, but traded up with the Chicago Blackhawks to select Carson Bjarnason with the 51st overall pick. Bjarnason was ranked as the best North American goaltending prospect heading into this draft by NHL Central Scouting. With their following pick, the Flyers and Daniel Briere selected Yegor Zavragin. Two goalies picked rather high in a draft like this one might suggest that the Flyers do not have long term plans for Carter Hart. It also might be an indictment on the goaltending prospects they already have. Regardless, the Flyers have been rumored to be shopping Hart around the last few weeks. Teams know that Carter Hart is a starter in the NHL, and with one year left on his contract, Hart’s time in Philadelphia is starting to run out. It’s clear that the selections of Bjarnason and Zavragin are intended to help build up the Flyers collection of young goalies. Bjarnason will turn 18 on June 30 and Zavragin will turn 18 in August. Zavragin also happens to be one of the youngest players in the entire draft class.
Don’t expect to see Carson Bjarnason or Yegor Zavragin in net for the Philadelphia Flyers any time soon. However, keep in mind that Carter Hart started in net as a 20 year old rookie. If either Bjarnason or Zavragin see acceleration in their development, they could rise through the Flyers’ ranks quickly.
Carter Hart’s future is very cloudy. He could stay and be the goalie they need, or he could be traded away as the Philadelphia Flyers aim to build up the rest of their team. Hart could also form an imposing goaltending duo with Ersson, Bjarnason, or Zavragin. The message, however, is loud and clear. The Philadelphia Flyers are stocking up on goaltenders as insurance. In case of trades, injury, Russian captivity, or anything else, the team should have someone that they can call on to rely on in net. Maybe this means Hart could be shipped out, and maybe it doesn’t. Either way, the Flyers are preparing for the future.