Philadelphia Flyers’ interim GM Daniel Briere has publicly stated that the team will not be undergoing a fire sale as the organization moves into rebuild mode and starts to take a closer look at the expendable players on their roster. Indicating that fixing the issues in Philadelphia could be a long process, he also noted that the team has solid players, “some players that are in certain roles that we are going to keep.”
One of the big questions coming out of the organization this offseason will be if goaltender Carter Hart is in that group of players the team might move or want to build around. In his rookie season, Hart posted a 16-13-1 record with a 2.83 goals against average (GAA) and a .917 save percentage (SV%). In his sophomore season, Hart looked like he was on track to be one of the NHL’s goaltending young stars. He showed incredible promise in 2019-20 posting 24 wins, a 2.42 goals-against average, and a save percentage of .914. He pushed the Flyers into the second round of the 2020 playoffs and was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team, becoming the youngest goaltender in NHL history to record back-to-back shutouts.
Hart began to struggle in his third season and as the Flyers became less and less competitive, Hart’s numbers rebounded a bit, but never to the same level as his first two campaigns. Now, as he comes into his prime as an NHL netminder, the question is, should he be spending his best seasons in Philadelphia where the team is bound to be a lottery team? And, would the Flyers be best to trade him knowing they’ll be a market for him and if he’s stellar, it will only hurt their chances of drafting top-level picks when they need to.
Plenty of teams will be looking for an upgrade in net and Hart may be an attractive option.
The Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres aren’t likely to make the playoffs this season, even though for much of the campaign, it looked as though they’d given themselves a chance. They’ve fallen out of the race with a 2-6-2 record in their last 10 games and goaltending continues to be a problem for them. Craig Anderson is doing what he can, but at 41 years old, he’s playing the last couple of holes and the Sabres need an upgrade.
Hart could take over for Anderson just as the Sabres are looking to make a push towards the playoffs. He could mentor guys like Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Eric Comrie, but take the bulk of the starts and with a formidable blue line that consists of Owen Power, Rasmus Dahlin and others, Hart’s numbers would look better than they have in Philly the last few seasons.
Kent Hughes has gone on record saying he doesn’t just intend to use the NHL Entry Draft to improve his rebuilding team. He wants to speed up the process by making trades with other clubs, much like he did when he acquired Kirby Dach from the Chicago Blackhawks. Hart might fit into what the Canadiens are trying to do and with the uncertain future of Carey Price and with Jake Allen on a deal that will pay him $3.85 million over the next two seasons, having just under $8 million tied up in two reliable backstops is not an unrealistic option.
If Hart has a good year playing in Montreal, Allen is a tradeable asset that the Canadiens can move and sign Hart to an extension.
Los Angeles Kings
Depending on what happens with Joonas Korpisalo in Los Angeles, the Kings might be in the market for a goalie. GM Rob Blake made one of the bigger trade deadline splashes by sending out veteran Jonathan Quick for Korpisalo but there’s no guarantee the pending UFA sticks around. Making $1.3 million, if the goaltender continues to play well, he’ll be looking for a hefty raise on his next deal and it’s not clear if the Kings would be open to that kind of deal. Their preference might be to trade for someone with some cost certainty and a shorter-term deal. Hart only has one more season at $3.9 million.
The Penguins are in the midst of a disappointing season that is seeing them quickly fall down the standings and losing must-win games. They are barely holding onto a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference and if they somehow miss the postseason, change is definitely coming as their window to win is perhaps smaller that any other NHL team. Part of the issue in Pittsburgh has been the recent play of Tristan Jarry. He’s been repeatedly pulled from games. If the Penguins choose to move on from Jarry (who is a pending UFA), Hart would make sense as a replacement.
The issue here, of course, is the fact that a trade between the Flyers and the Penguins might be less likely than trades with other teams. It’s not unheard of though, especially if the Pens are willing to overpay a little.
Would the Ottawa Senators look to make a splash under new ownership? Considering it’s unlikely Cam Talbot returns and the team isn’t looking to invest huge money into players with expensive, long-term deals, Hart fits what Ottawa might be looking for to entice owners or for a new owner to make a statement out of the gate.
Even though they’re likely to miss the playoffs this season, the Senators are trying to be competitive. They want to add pieces that will help them win and Hart has a proven track record of being an upgrade over what the Senators have been running with.
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