By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
A few months back I wrote a piece about free agent goalies that can replace Steve Mason, so now I’ll look at trades that can end the Philadelphia Flyers search for a starting goalie. The most important thing right now in net is to not have anybody locked up long term, so a veteran on a short-term, or expiring contract is ideal. General manager Ron Hextall has yet to make a trade that would see the Flyers acquire a big name player, instead he’s been busy fixing Paul Holmgren’s mess. So its hard to tell if he would even make a trade, but if he does, here are some of the likely options.
This one is kind of a stretch, as Lehtonen is a wildly inconsistent goalie and not a much better option than de facto starter Michal Neuvirth. However, Lehtonen is in the last year of his current contract with a $5.9 million cap hit. That’s where the negotiations may be in Hextall’s favor, as Dallas currently has three goalies, totaling over $14 million. The Stars could be looking to move on without too much of a return, so Lehtonen isn’t a terrible option. A $5.9 cap hit is steep for the Flyers, so Dallas would have to retain at least a couple million dollars. Lehtonen is a very reliable goalie who doesn’t miss too many games with injury, so while not a top option, I wouldn’t be too mad if the Flyers acquired him.
There’s just as much upside to Varlamov as there is a down side. Varlamov currently is tasked with the job of playing behind the atrocious Colorado Avalanche team. He has two years left on a deal with a $5.9 million cap hit. He has proven to be a talented goalie in the past, but the big red flag is his injury history. Varly has missed most of the past two years with a lingering groin injury. He had surgery mid-way through the 2016-17 season after only playing 24 games. Varlamov could still regain his past form, as he has put up solid numbers in the past, but it would be best to avoid him.
This is one that actually could be happening. Fleury waived his no-movement clause so the Penguins could leave him unprotected in the Expansion Draft. Vegas is likely to take him, but the Golden Knights could still trade him. The downfall of Fleury as a starter is a bit overstated, as he still had a decent year behind Matt Murray. Before 2016-17, Fleury was still at the top of his game, posting two straight .920 save percentage and 2.30 goals-against-average seasons. It would be odd to see Fleury behind enemy lines, but at this point, he’d be a huge and much-needed addition for the Flyers.
While I haven’t heard any rumors about a Cam Ward trade, the Carolina Hurricanes acquired Scott Darling from Chicago, and still have Eddie Lack, who is younger, and cheaper than Ward. I was surprised to find out Ward is still only 33 years old, so he has a couple more years of play in front of him. Ward has one year remaining on a contract with a $3.3 million cap hit, which would be perfect for the Flyers. While his recent numbers haven’t been anything spectacular, he has done the best he can playing behind the basement-dwelling Hurricanes. In his heyday he was a top goalie and there’s no reason to think he couldn’t re-find some of that form with a new team. While Ward may not be an elite option, he is an average goalie with a small cap hit for only one more year. He would be a great placeholder in the Flyers crease before Anthony Stolarz takes over full time.
Other players that may be on the radar would be Jaroslav Halak, Jimmy Howard, Antti Niemi, and Antti Raanta. There is a plethora of options for the Flyers goaltending heading into the 2017-18 season. With Mason gone, there needs to be someone who holds down the roll of starter for a couple of years while we wait patiently for Stolarz and the rest of the young cavalry to ride into town. Until a move is made, it’s up to Neuvirth to man the crease and Flyers fans have to hope he can stay healthy and re-find his form from previous years.
photo cradit- zimbio.com