If there’s anyone that knows goaltending it’s General Manager of the Flyers Ron Hextall. Hextall of course is a former great goaltender, who played 11 seasons for the orange and black. The organization and Flyers fans alike knew they needed a goaltender in free agency in order to progress as a team. Well, they wasted no time as they officially signed former Calgary Flames goaltender Brian Elliott to a two-year deal, just hours after the NHL free agency opened. Could Elliott regain his form from his St. Louis Blue’s days?
Elliott grew up in Newmarket, Ontario, CAN, as he was born on April 9, 1985. He was drafted in the ninth round of the 2003 NHL Draft by the Ottawa Senators. Most experts did not expect Elliott to progress in the NHL, but he remained committed to fulfill his lifelong dream of playing in the NHL.
The young prospect committed to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2003. He was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award in 2006. For the 2006 season he registered eight shutouts in 33 appearances, and also led the Badgers to the NCAA National Championship.
Known for his timely saves for the AHL affiliate Binghamton Senators, Elliott finally got his first shot in the NHL in January of 2009. He was recalled by the Senators, as inconsistent goaltending was a big issue all year. Elliott made an immediate impact for the Senators, sharing goaltending duties with veteran goaltender Alex Auld for the rest of the season. He was nominated for the NHL’s Rookie of the Month award in March of 2009, but St. Louis Blues Forward TJ Oshie barely beat him out.
Prior to the deadline of 2010-11 season, Elliott was traded to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for goaltender Craig Anderson. After winning only two starts out of 12, Elliott was released at season’s end. He had a subpar GAA of 3.83.
Elliott signed a one-year deal with the St. Louis Blues on July 1, 2011. He revitalized his career, while forming a good goaltending tandem with Jaroslav Halak. Elliott posted a 23-10-4 record with a whopping 1.56 GAA. For his efforts he was chosen to the 2012 NHL All-Star game.
After taking over for an injured Halak in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Elliott led the Blues to a series victory against the San Jose Sharks. The Blues got swept in the next round by the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings. At season’s end Elliott earned a two-year contract extension with the Blues.
The steady netminder, Elliott received a three-year contract extension following the 2013-14 season. His annual salary had a cap hit of $2.5 million. For the season he posted an 18-6-2 record.
The former Senator’s product, Elliott was marvelous again in the 2014-15 season. He was named to the 2015 All-Star game, as he replaced an injured Sergei Bobrovsky from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Fresh off his new contract, Elliott had a phenomenal 2015-16 season. He posted a 23-8-6 record, and led the Blues to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2001. However, the Blues luck ran out as they lost in six games to the San Jose Sharks.
During the 2016 NHL Draft, the Blues shockingly dealt Elliott to the Calgary Flames. In just his first season with the Flames, he took them to the playoffs in 2016-17. For the season he posted a 26-18-3 record, 2.55 GAA, and a .910 save percentage. However, he was told at season’s end that he was not going to return to the Flames, thus making him an unrestricted free agent.
The Flyers were in desperate need of an upgrade in-goal, and they officially announced the signing of Elliott on July 1, 2017. It is a two-year deal worth $5.5 million. In a conference call by Hextall, he gives many reasons why the Flyers signed Elliott.
“He’s got a really good work ethic. He’s played in a tandem in St. Louis, prior to Calgary. Brian fit the criteria. Brian being available played into the change. Mason did a real good job for us for a number of years here. We wish him nothing but the best.”
In reality, the Flyers are hoping that Elliott regains his form from when he donned a Blues sweater. For instance, in the 2015-16 season for the Blues, Elliott posted a 23-8-6 record, 2.07 GAA, and a .930 save percentage. Hextall is confident in Elliott to do the same for the Flyers.
“When I was out in LA there, we played against him in the playoffs. First of all you do your homework, learn everything about the kid. He’s a team guy which is important. His work ethic is at a high level. His compete is at a high level. Brian checked off a lot of those boxes.”
Hextall continued, “He played well in a tandem. Brian was the best fit. All goalies struggle that’s why we feel comfortable with Brian and Neuvy.”
Hextall means business this coming season, and now he has a quality number one goaltender. There is no reason why Elliott can’t regain his form from his St. Louis Blues days. Within the next few seasons this classy organization is going to transform into a Stanley Cup contender, that is tough to beat on a nightly basis. One thing is certain the future is bright in Flyer land.
Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports