Philadelphia Flyers fans might be getting used to the bittersweet mix of good and bad news during this season, so today brought that familiar taste.
The good news is that they entered Tuesday’s game on a four-game winning streak, with about as comfortable a hold on a playoff spot as they’ve enjoyed in years. They’re even moving on up PHT’s Power Rankings.
If a competitive Metropolitan Division wasn’t already enough to introduce a “Yeah, but …” element, a key injury will do the trick: the Flyers announced bad news that starting goalie Brian Elliott is expected to miss five-to-six weeks after undergoing “core muscle” surgery. Depending upon how things go, such a timetable excludes the veteran netminder from either a significant chunk or the remainder of the regular season, which ends on April 7.
Let’s mix the good and bad news a bit more: at least this announcement came before the Feb. 26 trade deadline.
The question is, then: should the Flyers pay a price to add another goalie option or stick with a combination that appears to be Michal Neuvirth and Alex Lyon?
Management kept things vague, especially since there are plenty of goalies on expiring contracts:
Interesting. In the latest edition of “31 Thoughts,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman notes that the Flyers have had some talks with the Buffalo Sabres.
There are any number of interesting Sabres the Flyers could be acquiring about, including a physical and talented forward in Evander Kane. That said, pending RFA goalie Robin Lehner‘s $4 million cap hit expires after 2018-19, and he’s the type who checks boxes of being intimidating much like GM Ron Hextall was, and most importantly, sneaky-capable (a .918 save percentage during his Buffalo years). The sneaky-capable part fits with Hextall’s goalie M.O., from Elliott to finding value in a reclamation project with Steve Mason.
The Flyers could aim for plenty of other options, including Petr Mrazek, who’s in a similar situation to Lehner.
On the other hand, Neuvirth is an experienced goalie, so Hextall might just opt to stay put.
While Neuvirth’s 7-7-2 record is underwhelming so far in 2017-18, it sure seems like he’s been capable so far, producing a nice .917 save percentage in 18 appearances. So far in his days with Philly, we’ve seen the best of Neuvirth (.924 save percentage in 2015-16) and the worst (.891 in 2016-17). That downside might give Hextall some pause, especially if the asking rate for a goalie isn’t too steep.
(For even more from the Flyers’ perspective, check out this post from Jordan Hall of NBC Sports Philadelphia.)
Rather than worrying about Neuvirth, the Flyers might want better insurance than Alex Lyon can provide. The 25-year-old only has three middling NHL games under his belt so far, and his AHL stats won’t blow you away.
This injury presents Hextall with a tough call: do you gamble a bit by sending assets away for another goalie, or do you cross your fingers that they can make it work until Elliott returns?
For all we know, that decision might just make or break Philly’s (currently promising) bid to make the playoffs.