Anthony Stolarz

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Minor moves: Rangers claim Cracknell on waivers; Flyers trade for Tokarski

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A couple of Metropolitan Division teams made some minor roster transactions on Monday afternoon.

— The New York Rangers announced that they added to their forward depth by claiming veteran Adam Cracknell off of waivers from the Dallas Stars. The 32-year-old Cracknell appeared in 62 games for the Stars last season, scoring 10 goals. The Rangers played Sunday’s game against Montreal with 11 forwards, scratching 18-year-old rookie Filip Chytil.

Is that move, combined with the addition of Cracknell, a sign that perhaps Chytil isn’t long for the NHL this season? It remains possible that he could return to the Czech Republic this season. Chytil played in the Rangers’ first two games this season, finishing as a minus-2 and did not record a shot on goal.

The 2016-17 season was by far Cracknell’s best in the NHL and it came under coach Lindy Ruff. Ruff is now an assistant on Alain Vigneault’s coaching staff in New York.

— Elsewhere in the Metropolitan Division, the Philadelphia Flyers announced that they have acquired goaltender Dustin Tokarski from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for future considerations.

Tokarski was immediately assigned to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League.

It obviously a depth move with Anthony Stolarz sidelined for most of the season. In a corresponding move the Phantoms traded former first-round pick Leland Irving to the San Diego Gulls to make room for Tokarski on the roster.

The 28-year-old Tokarski has appeared in 34 games in his NHL career with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens and Anaheim Ducks, recording a .904 save percentage.

Flyers goalie prospect Anthony Stolarz out indefinitely (knee surgery)

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A bumpy summer got a lot worse recently for Philadelphia Flyers goalie prospect Anthony Stolarz, as the team announced that he’s out indefinitely after undergoing surgery on his left knee.

The 23-year-old already saw increased (albeit likely expected) resistance to his ascension up the goalie depth chart with the addition of veteran netminder Brian Elliott. Even when healthy, Stolarz would be positioned behind Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, and that’s without any other netminders leapfrogging him.

Now his growth gets stunted by this injury, although he still has time to get back in the mix when it matters the most. Both Elliott and Neuvirth are on two-year contracts, so it’s clear that the window is most likely to open after this coming season, anyway.

Stolarz put up solid numbers in the AHL, but the towering goalie’s limited NHL work was quite impressive; he went 2-1-1 while managing a splendid .928 save percentage in seven appearances with the Flyers in 2016-17. Such work inspired some (PHT included) to wonder if he might be worth a longer look with the big club.

That day might come, but it could be a while for the 45th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. Stolarz signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Flyers back in July.

This setback opens up a chance for Leland Irving, a goalie who hasn’t lived up to being the 26th pick of the 2006 draft.

Flyers re-sign Stolarz to one-year, two-way contract

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The Philadelphia Flyers announced a trio of signings on Saturday evening, signing goalies Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon, as well as forward Cole Bardreau to two-way contracts.

Stolarz and Lyon signed one-year contracts, while Bardreau ended up getting a two-year deal.

Stolarz is probably the most prominent player out of that group given that he is the youngest of the three and is the only one to have actually played in the NHL to this point, appearing in seven games this past season. He played quite well in his limited look, posting a .928 save percentage.

Even with that brief success this past season general manage Ron Hextall was not exactly confident entering the season with Stolarz as Michael Neuvirth’s platoon partner in net given the inexperience of the former and the injury history of the latter. He instead opted to sign veteran Brian Elliott in free agency, which means Stolarz will start the season in the American Hockey League for a fourth consecutive season, barring injury to one of the two veterans ahead of him on the depth chart.

He has a .910 save percentage in 104 starts for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms over the past three seasons, including a .911 mark this past season.

Lyon, playing in his first year of pro-hockey this past season, ended up starting the majority of the games for the Phantoms and posted similar numbers.

 

Report: Steve Mason won’t be back with Flyers

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The free agent market figures to be crowded and unpredictable, but one thing seems clear: Steve Mason won’t return to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi reports that “his ship has sailed” when it comes to re-signing with Philly.

One got the impression that this would be a possibility when the Flyers signed Michal Neuvirth to a two-year extension with Mason’s situation unresolved, although the expansion draft opened up the possibility for more twists in that story.

Redemption (but also more stumbles)

Mason resurrected his career in Philly, managing an impressive .918 save percentage during his five seasons with the Flyers after managing a mediocre .903 mark during his Columbus days. The 29-year-old essentially went from “Sieve Mason” to a darling among many analytics-minded observers.

Still, the Flyers must have soured after he went 26-21-8 with a middling .908 save percentage in what was apparently his final season with Philly.

So, what’s next for Mason and the Flyers? Let’s consider some possibilities for both the goalie and his (former?) team.

Philly possibilities

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman predicts that the Flyers will roll with Brian Elliott (backed up by Michal Neuvirth). GM Ron Hextall seems savvy enough to look beyond a season of struggles to see a goalie with an overall history of production.

That said, the Flyers might not want a “quick fix” at age 32.

There’s at least an outside chance Hextall might stay in-house by combining Neuvirth and big prospect Anthony Stolarz.

One other interesting name in a platoon setup: Jonathan Bernier. Hextall has experience with Bernier during their time with the Los Angeles Kings, and the Kings lamented his loss when he went to Toronto.

Hextall tried to land a veteran goalie during draft weekend, so that might have been a preview for his free agent inclinations. If so, Elliott seems like a reasonable favorite, though the market could provide quite a few other choices.

Options for Mason

Interestingly, Mason bashed a two-goalie system back in April. If he insists upon being the clear No. 1 goalie, you have to wonder how many teams would give him the net outright.

The Winnipeg Jets were already a logical possibility, and it turns out that the two sides were in contact on Wednesday. The franchise has desperately lacked a goalie since Kari Lehtonen was a Thrasher, and if nothing else, Mason brings experience and some swagger.

Friedman also predicts Mason to Winnipeg, only making the rumblings more reasonable.

Beyond the Jets, Mason would likely need to accept a platoon situation. With that in mind, you wonder if Winnipeg might be able to get him at a discount rate.

***

Mason and the Flyers benefited from their time together, yet it appears that those days are over. It’s a sad end for some, but they’ll add some spice to this off-season, particularly for the goalie market.

Flyers enter bye week with major goaltending questions

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The Philadelphia Flyers went into their bye week with just three wins in their last 14 games.

When they come out of it, they might also be out of a playoff spot.

The Flyers don’t play again until Saturday against New Jersey. They’re only one point clear of Carolina for the second wild-card spot, and the Hurricanes are surging.

“It’s definitely a tough stretch right now,” Flyers goalie Steve Mason said, per CSN Philly. “Not proud of the way things are going. Kind of have to step back here and get away for a few days, which will be good I think at this point in time. Just come back and reset.”

Mason allowed five goals on just 17 shots in Sunday’s 5-0 loss to Washington. It was the second straight game he didn’t finish; he also got pulled Thursday against Vancouver.

Looking ahead, if the Flyers don’t get better goaltending from one of Mason or Michal Neuvirth, they may have to consider recalling Anthony Stolarz from the AHL. Mason’s save percentage has fallen all the way to .897, and Neuvirth’s is even lower at .877.

Stolarz, 22, only made two starts when he was up with the big club, but both were wins and one was a shutout. When he was reassigned to Lehigh Valley of the AHL, he left with a .938 save percentage.

One even wonders if GM Ron Hextall might spend part of the bye week making calls to his counterparts around the league. Could the Blues or Stars be interested in Mason or Neuvirth?

At the very least, it wouldn’t hurt for Hextall to find out, if he hasn’t already. Because at this point, it seems very unlikely that both Mason and Neuvirth will be back with the Flyers next year. Each is a pending unrestricted free agent, and Stolarz has made a pretty strong case to be up in the show.

Related: Jake Allen knows he needs to be better