The Flyers season has suddenly taken a massive turn after the news that starting goaltender Carter Hart has officially been charged with sexual assault by the London Police Department following the incidents regarding the 2018 World Junior team.
With the team's unexpected success this season and Hart being out for the rest of the season and possibly never playing for the Flyers again, the team may need to pivot and find another goalie before the deadline approaches on March 8th.
Rookie goalie Sam Ersson has now stepped into the starting role, and Cal Petersen has been called up from the Phantoms to be the backup. Ersson's numbers before the All-Star break did not look great: 12-9-3 record, 2.60 GA, and .898 SV%. However, any avid watcher of this team understands that the team as a whole was struggling before the break, losing five straight games and being outscored 27-12 in those games.
The team has won two straight games to start the second half of the season, and Ersson's numbers are looking better in those two games, only letting in two goals and having a combined .959 SV%. However, the rookie goaltender is going to need games off if the Flyers want him to be at the top of his game for the rest of the year, including the playoffs.
Ersson and the team played better when Hart was on the roster because the team knew it had two solid goalies to rely on. It is very relieving as a goalie (especially a rookie like Ersson) to know your goaltending partner can come in and still win games while allowing you to rest a night or two. It just takes that added pressure off. The numbers can attest to this, as just before this pre-break losing skid, Ersson had a 12-5-3 record and a .911 SV%.
So, with the team still sitting in third place in the Metropolitan Division going into the second half of the year, do the Flyers really want Cal Petersen, who was struggling even in the AHL before being called up, to be that guy who can help take pressure off the rookie in Ersson? It seems evident the Flyers should make a move for a goalie; the question is, who could that possibly be?
The team can take a few routes, but the only sensible one seems to be getting a veteran goalie who will not take up a lot of cap on the roster or demand money once he gets to the team. One name that jumps out is a goalie like Marc-Andre Fleury, which would be a good fit as the Wild are sitting well shy of a playoff spot, and the veteran is likely chasing to be in the playoffs as this very well could be his last season before retirement. Fleury's numbers this season are solid backup numbers: 2.91 GA and a .900 SV%. When you match this up with Cal Petersen's AHL numbers: 3.26 GA, .890 SV%, it becomes evident that Fleury is easily a better option. Fleury is also very playoff-experienced, as he has won three Stanley Cups and has four final appearances. The future Hall-of-Famer could also be an excellent mentor to the young Ersson, who could seemingly be in the Flyers future plans moving forward.
In the best-case scenario, the Flyers and Sam Ersson continue to shake off their losing ways following the all-star break, and the team finds the same success it was initially having. But as the city of Philadelphia knows, nothing comes easy with this team. The team now faces even more adversity than before, and how the players and coaches respond to it will determine its fate. If that response trends downward, the front office may seek change, which could mean change within the goalie position.