#1: Carter Hart
This is not much of a surprise. Hart is the most important player for the Philadelphia Flyers for the 2023-24 season, and there are many reasons for that.
First of all, is his play. Hart has been a fairly reliable netminder the last few seasons. Yes, he has games where he looks like a scared AHL call-up. There are also times he looks like the second coming of Bernie Parent. Much like any goalie, he has good days and bad days; great saves and soft goals. If he consistently plays to the best of his abilities, the Flyers will have a good season. With a revamped defense in front of him, perhaps he won’t have to face 30+ shots a night in more than half of his appearances.
Secondly, Hart needs to be healthy. The last few seasons, he had missed the last few weeks of the season with nagging injuries. Maybe the team shut him down because there was no hope of the playoffs. But if this team could make the playoffs, they’d need him in net. If he’s hurt, he’s not going to be of any help in the postseason.
However, the biggest reason that Hart is the most important Flyer for this upcoming season is Hart himself. Is he the goaltender of this team? He will be a restricted free agent at the end of this season. but at this time, nothing has been revealed about his intentions to extend with Philadelphia, nor has anything been revealed about plans to offer Hart an extension.
The Flyers have been stocking up on goaltending prospects this year. The team acquired Cal Petersen, re-signed Felix Sandstrom and Sam Ersson, have been working to keep Ivan Fedotov in the fold, drafted, arguably, the best goaltender in the draft in Carson Bjarnason, and then went and traded up to draft Belarusian prospect Yegor Zavragin.
The message seems to be loud and clear. Either Hart is the goalie or they are making preparations for his expected departure. If he is extended, great. If he is moved, also great. Perhaps the Flyers are hoping to build a great goaltending duo, like Detroit did with Chris Osgood and Mike Vernon in the late 1990. Or maybe the team is seeing who will be Hart’s successor in net.
Whatever the case, this will be a big year for Hart and the Flyers. Their futures are tied together. A strong Hart in net will help carry the Flyers forward. However, if he is dispatched, the return could make a strong future for the team if Daniel Briere can bring in the right amount of assets back. If he gets hurt, the return for him could greatly diminish. Time will tell, but that’s why Hart’s season will mean a lot for the Flyers this year. His health and his performance will go a long way into determining how the rebuild for this team goes.