NHL insider Kevin Weekes shared on Sept. 28 that Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy would be out for close to two months after undergoing back surgery, and fortunately, the Philadelphia Flyers might be able to provide a Band-Aid fix – for the right price.
Journeyman netminder Jonas Johansson and prospect Hugo Alnefelt are the next two men up between the pipes, and those two currently combine for 36 games of NHL experience. The latter is responsible for only one of those 36, and it was a game where he gave up three goals on 10 shots in relief of Maxime Legace.
The Flyers, however, can offer the Lightning something better than that. Felix Sandstrom, who boasts 25 games of experience between two up-and-down seasons in the NHL, has looked solid in training camp whilst battling against Samuel Ersson for the right to be Philadelphia’s backup goaltender. Ersson, conversely, should be off the table after signing a contract extension with the Flyers in the summer.
At the age of 26, Sandstrom’s time to prove he belongs is now, and the Lightning would easily provide him with the best supporting cast of his young career. The Swedish shot stopper has one year remaining on his contract at a $775,000 cap hit, and his combination of potential, experience, and low cap hit would make him an attractive option for Tampa Bay.
The Flyers also have incumbent starter Carter Hart, who remains with the team after a summer filled with trade rumors and other things of the sort. The team is yet to extend him, and Hart’s $3.979 million cap hit is manageable for the Lightning if some money goes the other way – and perhaps some is retained as well.
PuckPedia has theorized that if Vasilevskiy is placed on Long-Term Injured Reserve, the Lightning could add a goalie with a cap hit up to $2.2 million, which is around 45 percent of Hart’s current salary. For Tampa Bay, adding Hart not only gives them a proven option with high upside, but it also allows them to give their superstar goalie the time he needs to fully recover and subsequently prolong his shelf life.
The Flyers have an assortment of young goaltenders that make Hart expendable, but they won’t give him away to tank – GM Danny Briere has already made that clear. Adding retained salary on top of that, Philly will want a big return for offering the Bolts a playoff lifeline.
Lightning GM Julien BriseBois has been known to gamble away his draft picks – evidenced by the Tanner Jeannot trade earlier this year – but that also takes those picks out of the equation for the Flyers. On the other hand, top prospect Cutter Gauthier may end up playing center, so aiming for the addition of another left wing prospect makes sense.
Michigan State forward Isaac Howard was drafted 31st overall by Tampa Bay in 2022, and remains unsigned on the team’s reserve list. The 19-year-old is easily the Lightning’s best prospect, and would catapult the Flyers’ prospect pool towards the very top of the league in an instant. It would be perfectly understandable if BriseBois and the Bolts are unwilling to fork over the young star, however the NHL is still a business, and you have to give in order to get.
A goalie like Carter Hart potentially being available is extremely uncommon, and this might be the rare case where a trade such as this would pay off in spades for both clubs involved. Briere was reluctant to burn the building down earlier in the summer, but this is a case worth considering for the Flyers.