The Flyers are currently revamping their team and building on their future. The team has had, what hopes to be, a pretty successful draft. Tony DeAngelo has been bought out while Kevin Hayes and Ivan Provorov have been traded away. The team is moving forward in its rebuilding plans. However, something is lurking ominously on the horizon. In the next 10 months, the team is going to have to make a decision on goaltender Carter Hart. Likewise, Hart will have to make a decision on the Philadelphia Flyers as well.
Last year, I brought up the notion that Hart could be a valuable trade piece if the Flyers wanted to acquire a bevy of prospects and/or draft picks. Being a young stud goalie, he could, theoretically, bring a lot back in a trade. I didn’t think that it was a good idea to move the best goalie that this team has had since Ron Hextall but I understood what it could do for the Flyers overall.
Since then, this topic has come up a lot. Some people think that Carter Hart should be moved. Others feel that there is no way he should be traded away. Why could a a Hart trade potentially bring in? Now, most of this is speculation. We have no idea if the team is looking to move him or not. Despite this, there is one thing that is for certain: his contract is up at the end of the season.
Flyers and Carter Hart Have a Decision to Make
Currently, Hart is on the books for $3,979,000. That is just 4.8 percent of the total salary cap of the team. That is also a shade under $1 million less than potential backup goaltender Cal Petersen. Hart is also just 24 years old and will turn 25 on August 18. He’s put up good numbers on struggling Flyers teams. He has also not yet reached his prime. Hart had made a lot of improvements in his game since he was first called up in the 2018-19 season.
Despite those improvements, there have been some issues with Hart. He has finished the last few seasons with injuries. Like any player, he goes on streaks where he is unstoppable and then on runs where he can’t do much. To be fair to him, it’s not like he’s had the most stable of defensive units playing in front of him. A goalie can only do so much when he is constantly left out to dry.
This brings Hart’s motivation into the picture. Hart’s salary, according to Sporttrac, is the 26th highest for goalies in the NHL. Remember, that also means he’s behind his own backup. A goalie with his abilities could easily fetch a lot more money on the open market. At the bare minimum, he could command close to $5 million; what Linus Ullmark and Juuse Saros are making. A strong 2023-24 campaign could push his potential salary even higher.
Would Hart want to stay on a team that might take a while to become good? Does he want to stick around to see this rebuild through? Or, does he want to be part of the rebuild and become a foundational piece for what the Flyers hope to be? Hart could easily become one of the franchise’s greatest netminders. Bringing this team from its current state into competitiveness would cement that legacy.
At the end of next season, the Flyers will have to make some decisions on free agents. Five players will be unrestricted free agents. However, there will be five potential RFA’s that the team will have to consider, Owen Tippett being the biggest concern. Travis Konecny could become a free agent the following season, unless he’s traded before then.
In this, the Flyers need to make a decision. Do they see Hart as their goalie of the future? Besides Petersen, the team still has Felix Sandstrom and Sam Ersson in the system. Sandstrom has struggled in his opportunities at the NHL level while Ersson has shown some flashes of brilliance at times. Even then, the Flyers have some other prospects to keep an eye on, such as newly drafted Carson Bjarnson and Belorussian phenom Aleksei Kolosov, who has just been loaned to Minsk in the KHL. Much like relievers in the bullpen, you can never have enough young goalies in the pipeline.
Next Steps for Carter Hart and the Flyers
The first thing that the Flyers need to ascertain is what Carter Hart’s desires are. If Hart has absolutely no interest in remaining a Flyer even before the season starts, Daniel Briere needs to move him for the best price he can get. If Hart is mildly interested, the team will have to wait it out.
Most likely, the team and its goalie will have to examine their positions around Christmas. At the point, the team can see how Hart is handling the new defensive setups in front of him now that Provorov and DeAngelo are gone. If he is succeeding, it will give more credence into re-signing him. If he is struggling, it might not bode well for Hart’s future in Philly.
Likewise, how healthy is he? If Hart’s nagging injuries start to resurface, Philadelphia may not want to cast their lot with him. If he is strong and healthy, the Flyers would be more likely to consider keeping him around.
A move at the trade deadline is not likely to bring in much if the Flyers are so inclined to part with him. Other teams will believe that the Flyers’ hands are tied and not offer much; similar to the deal with Kevin Hayes…”Take it or leave it!” A deal at the deadline might also not bring in much because the teams that will be competing for a playoff spot will most likely have a goaltender that is firmly entrenched. Unless, of course, some, let’s say Boston, loses their goalie due to an injury and wants some insurance. Then the Flyers could drive up the price extracted from such a team.
First things first. The Flyers have to determine if Carter Hart wants to stay and if they want to keep him. Everything else will fall into place afterwards. If Hart is their goalie for the next three, five, or ten years, the Flyers will need to make a decision on that soon. If they’d rather roll the dice with what they have at the AHL level or find a free agent placeholder for next year (like re-signing Petersen after this year) to hold down the fort, they have the abilities to do that.
The decision they make concerning their goalie will affect this franchise for years to come. In several ways, they are still reeling from the Ilya Bryzgalov disaster. It’s not a decision to make lightly. No matter what they decide, the future of both Hart and the Flyers are inextricably tied together. The next 10 months will be interesting to say the least. Let’s see what Briere and company decide.