All it took was a little tweak to the already injured groin of Brian Elliott against the Coyotes to send Flyers fans into a tiz. Twitter was abuzz with worry and concern, and disdain for the fact that Michael Neuvirth had to come in and spell an injured Elliott during a shootout. It all worked out, and Nolan Patrick grabbed that extra point with a snipe in the fifth round. However, fans and analysts alike were left wondering, what is going on with Elliott.
One can only speculate that he reaggravated the groin injury that he sustained a few weeks back. Initially it was thought that Clayton Keller caught him up high with a stick, but after watching the replay, his stick never made contact up high on Elliott.
So let’s say Elliott is out for awhile here and may not return until March or even April. What are the Flyers going to do? There are a few options, but most hinge on whether or not Flyers’ GM Ron Hextall sees this team as a true contender for the playoffs.
If it’s not realistic that the Flyers can make a run in the playoffs, Hextall may view this injury as an opportunity to see if Lyon can sustain a little more long-term success at the NHL level, and give him an extended look. He may see if Dustin Tokarski can muster a bit of success at the next level. All in all, if the Flyers are not playoff bound, the solution will be internal.
Let’s say that the Flyers are playoff bound, which many believe to be true. Should the Flyers look outside of their system for a goalie to plug the glaring hole that Elliott leaves in his absence? There are definitely options at the deadline that are worthy of, at the very least, kicking the tires and seeing what it would take to get a deal done.
There are backup goalies that are in the last year of their respective deals that could come at an affordable price. Much speculation points to Buffalo being the team most likely to strike a deal with the Flyers. Buffalo has two goalies that could potentially be up for sale to the highest bidder between Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson. Johnson would be the most likely of the two to get dealt at or before the deadline, and he would come at a much cheaper price given his play this season.
Johnson’s contract isn’t a terrible burden, but 2.5 million could be a little steep if the Flyers are going to look to make more deals and bolster their lineup for a potential playoff run. Unloading some salary, or having Buffalo retain a bit of Johnson’s, would be key for this deal to go through.
Other routes the Flyers could go would be to inquire with Colorado about Jonathan Bernier. Bernier was on the Flyers’ radar over the off season before they signed Elliott. Bernier comes at a little higher price tag, but also provides you with a steady presence in the net that would almost mirror what Elliott has done for the Flyers. Colorado is still in the playoff chase, so he would come at a steep price, and he is part of a 1A/1B goalie situation with fellow netminder Semyon Varlamov, so he could be very difficult to pry away from Colorado.
The cheapest option available, salary wise, would be Los Angeles Kings backup Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper is playing on a one year deal worth 650,000 and is playing out of this world for the Kings. He is 9-1-3 with a save percentage of .937 and goals against average of 1.93. With Quick being THE guy in LA, it makes Kuemper a viable option for the Flyers to go after, but they would have to part with more than Hextall would be comfortable with due to the success he is having this year.
The best possible scenario for the Flyers here would be that Elliott just reaggravated an injury from before and will be available in another week or so. Groin injuries are tricky, and Elliott will likely need more than a week to recover. Michael Neuvirth has proved that he can go a stretch and play really well, but he has also proved the exact opposite. The Flyers position as a buyer or seller hinges on their record, and that hinges on the play of Neuvirth right now, due to the Elliott injury.
All the right pieces need to fall in all the right places, but if Michael Neuvirth can return to the form we saw him play when he would spell Steve Mason, the Flyers may not need to pursue an outside option to replace Elliott. It all depends on his play during the stretch, however long that may be, that Brian Elliott is out.
Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports