Talbot was the odd-man out after the deal, sitting in the pressbox for his first three games as a Flyer. Since Carter Hart’s injury, he’s been backing up Brian Elliott. Friday night he’ll finally get a start and help make NHL history in the process.
When the puck drops against the New Jersey Devils with Talbot in net, the Flyers will become the first NHL team to use eightgoalies in one season. They had been stuck on seven since Mike McKenna‘s start in early January and tied with the 1989-90 Quebec Nordiques, 2002-03 St. Louis Blues and the 2007-08 Los Angeles Kings.
The opportunity for Talbot arose because Friday’s game is the second game of a back-to-back following Thursday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Philadelphia is still clinging to slim playoff hopes with a six-point gap between them and the Carolina Hurricanes, who hold the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Talbot hasn’t played since Feb. 9, but is certainly eager to get back between the pipes again. Hart is expected to return soon, so who knows when Talbot will get another look after Friday. In the meantime, enjoying making history!
“I don’t know if it’s something you really want to be a part of as a goalie or not,” Talbot said on Thursday via the Inquirer. “But here we are.”
The Philadelphia Flyers added Talbot to the fold late Friday night, acquiring the 31-year-old goaltender from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Anthony Stolarz.
Should Talbot get into one of the Flyers’ final 25 games — which he likely will — they will be the first team in NHL history to use eight goalies in a season. That just shows how weird this season has been on Broad Street. After some early season struggles, which saw general manager Ron Hextall and head coach Dave Hakstol fired within a 21-day span, they’ve ripped off a run that has seen them take 23 points from their last 14 games, putting them eight points out of an Eastern Conference wild card place and the third seed in the Metropolitan Division.
Emerging from the goalie carousel has been Carter Hart, the franchise’s goaltender of the future up until Dec. 17. He’s assumed the title of “goalie of the now” since after helping the Flyers win eight starts in a row and being a vital part of their recent run.
Talbot, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, comes to Philadelphia with an established relationship with Hart. The two have worked out together in the summer. “He’s a good mentor, a great guy, a good goalie,” Hart said on Thursday, adding that he called Talbot the night before his NHL debut for some advice.
This stablizes the goalie situation for the moment as Brian Elliott works his way back from injury down in the AHL on a conditioning stint and Michal Neuvirth is currently on injured reserve. In net had been Hart and Stolarz, the 25-year-old who was their second-round pick in 2012. Mike McKenna‘s been in the mix as well, but he’s only played twice since Dec. 28.
GM Chuck Fletcher will now get a good couple of months to see up close if Talbot, who’s posted a .909 even strength save percentage in 31 appearances with the Oilers, should be considered for an extension beyond this season and possibly act as a veteran backup/1B to Hart going forward.
This move for the Oilers helped them shed salary in order to have room to activate defenseman Andrej Sekera, who had surgery in August to repair a torn Achilles tendon. Stolarz can be a restricted free agent this summer, while they already have Mikko Koskinen locked up after extending the netminder for three years in January.
‘Bryz’ righty predicted his own fate, sharing the same doom as many others who came before him in the City of Brotherly Love, falling off the map not long after and never finding his way back.
Recent memory hasn’t been kind to the Flyers at the goalie position. They once had Sergei Bobrovsky, but traded him, essentially, for a bag of pucks to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
There, Bob went on to supplant Steve Mason in goal and win two Vezina’s.
Mason ended up signing with the Flyers and managed a decent season in his first year. But from there he started to spiral downward. This summer, after an injury-plagued season with the Winnipeg Jets, who signed him last summer as a free agent, was bought out by the Montreal Canadiens following a trade right before Free Agent Frenzy kicked off as the Jets looked to dump salary.
We can go back further, too.
There was the Robert Esche era, the Antero Niittymaki experiment, Martin Biron, Brian Boucher and a host of other failures in the Flyers’ crease.
Last season, Brian Elliott wasn’t exactly earth-shattering acquisition that the Flyers hope he’d be when they snapped him up for two years a year ago. And backup Michal Neuvirth, who might have the potential to be a starter in the NHL, can’t stay healthy for long enough to see it through.
It leaves the Flyers in a precarious position, despite a stable of goaltenders heading into this season.
The Flyers seemingly have their ace in the hole in Carter Hart, a highly-touted 2016 draft pick out of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League.
Hart led Team Canada to a gold medal the World Junior Hockey Championships this past winter and was named the WHL’s Player of the Year, the WHL Goalie of the Year and the Canadian Hockey League’s Goalie of the Year (for the second time) this past season — his last in junior hockey.
His junior stats put him among the pantheon of CHL’s best ever to man the crease.
And all of that has led to a hype train going full-steam ahead for Flyers’ fans, who’ve been starving for a legitimate superstar netminder for years, if not decades.
It remains to be seen what general manager Ron Hextall does with Hart this season but managing Hart’s progression as a pro is paramount.
The last thing the Flyers want to do is rush Hart and stunt his growth. Elliott and Neuvirth can hold down the fort for another season, allowing Hart to get a year of pro hockey under his belt in Lehigh Valley, while having Lyon ready to answer the call should someone get injured on the big club.
If the Flyers move Neuvirth via trade, Lyon seems the de facto replacement to back up Elliott, still leaving Hart time to hone his craft in the minors.
There’s hope, it seems, in Philadelphia.
There has been before.
Whether or not this time is any different, only time will tell.
Hart’s going to have to handle more than just his on-ice game as he works his way into the NHL. Lyon showed some good signs last year under pressure late in the season.
For now, they’re the future beyond next season.
Perhaps, finally, the curse can be broken for Flyers’ fans.
Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals: He didn’t score on Wednesday, but his two assists were vital for the Capitals. Backstrom’s first helped tie the game with 33 seconds left in the first period. And with 65 seconds left in the game, his second apple of the night set up the tying goal that forced overtime, which Washington won via Evgeny Kuznetsov 38 seconds into the extra frame.
Kevin Connauton, Arizona Coyotes: Not a name you’re probably accustomed to seeing here, but Connauton put in a solid effort tonight, The 28-year-old opened the scoring for the Coyotes and then scored the game-winner in the second period to see off the Vegas Golden Knights.
This season (Vincent Trocheck and Aleksander Barkov) marked just the second time in @FlaPanthers franchise history where multiple players recorded 70+ points in a season and first since 1999-00 (Pavel Bure, Ray Whitney and Viktor Kozlov). #NHLStats#FLAvsTORpic.twitter.com/1Yz7BpFhXK
The deal: The Philadelphia Flyers acquired goaltender Petr Mrazek from the Detroit Red Wings for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and a conditional third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Why is Philadelphia is making this deal? Simple: With the injuries to Brian Elliott (out five-to-six weeks with a core muscle injury) and Michal Neuvirth (out indefinitely with a lower-body injury), the Flyers had Alex Lyon, a veteran of just four NHL games, left to shoulder the load. Philly needed help after Neuvirth went down on Sunday and they went out and got it in 25-year-old Mrazek. The Flyers are currently third in the Metropolitan Division. Even with their six-point cushion from the second wildcard spot, relying on a rookie to see out the rest of the regular season could have been met with disastrous consequences.
Red Wings retaining half the salary in the Mrazek trade with Philly.
Whyis Detroit is making this deal? Sam Carchidi of Philly.com said Flyers general manager Ron Hextall had spoken with the Red Wings about Mrazek prior to Neuvirth’s injury, but the Detroit Free Press reported that the Flyers turned down a deal that would see a third-round pick go the other way. With the Red Wings being sellers, and with Hextall even more desperate for help after Sunday, he had no choice but to fold to Detroit’s demands.
So the minimum DET gets for Mrazek is a fourth-round pick, that could become a third- or a second-round pick, dependent on how Mrazek/Flyers perform. The additional pick, a third-rounder, is conditional only on Mrazek re-signing in PHI.
Who won the trade? Pretty even. The Red Wings get a couple of picks over the next two years as they rebuild their team. The Flyers get immediate goaltending relief and perhaps an upgrade on the oft-injured Neuvirth. And Flyers fans will like that the team didn’t overpay to fix their problems. A good move from Hextall.