It was announced Thursday afternoon that the Philadelphia Flyers had loaned Carter Hart to their AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Chuck Fletcher sent out a release that same afternoon and stated:
“With a full week off the ice due to the NHL bye week and All-Star breaks, we would like Carter to continue getting ice time and game action with the Phantoms.”
It’s quite easy to understand where Fletcher is coming from here. Carter Hart has been on roll since joining the Flyers, posting a 6-5-1 record, a goals against average of 2.68, and save percentage of .918. It’s safe to say that Hart has been the Flyers best goalie this season. Fletcher isn’t the only general manager in the NHL to have that same feeling towards his young star netminder.
This past Saturday, Ray Shero of the New Jersey Devils decided to send Mackenzie Blackwood down to their AHL affiliate, the Binghamton Devils. Blackwood has arguably been better than Hart in his limited time in the NHL, posting a record of 5-4-0, a goals against average of 2.41 and a save percentage of .924. Shero presumably had the same mindset as Fletcher did when contemplating sending Blackwood to the NHL, wanting him to pick up some more minutes, even if it is against lesser competition. However, there have been three other goalie transactions that took place this week between the remaining 29 NHL franchises.
The New York Rangers decided to send Marek Mazanec to their AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolfpack. The Carolina Hurricanes sent young netminder Alex Nedeljkovic back to the Charlotte Checkers, where he leads the AHL in wins. Finally, the Vegas Golden Knights sent Max Lagace back down to their minor league affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, and recalled Oscar Dansk in the process. So why all the goalie moves?
Well, for starters, the Vegas Golden Knights have been dealing with an injury to Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup, Malcolm Subban. Lagace was backing Fleury up before the all-star break, and is presumed to be NHL bound once again when the all-star break is over. Nedeljkovic was called up by Carolina due to an injury to Curtis McElhinney, and Mazanec just doesn’t have the stats to cut it in the NHL, posting no numbers so far this season, but is a career .895 save percentage and 3.15 goals against average goalie in the NHL. Rotowire staff on CBS Sports stated that the Rangers sent Mazanec down to the Hartford Wolfpack to:
“Give (Mazanec) a long look during the NHL’s all-star break and the corresponding bye week.”
What that basically means is that since Mazanec is on a one year deal with the Rangers, they want to evaluate if he is worth keeping around past this season. So out of the 23 goaltenders that aren’t partaking in the all-star festivities, you have Carter Hart and MacKenzie Blackwood who are being sent to the AHL to get more minutes and “stay fresh” so that they don’t miss a beat when action starts back up Monday evening. In a way, that sounds kind of ridiculous. When you think about it, there are 21 goalies in the NHL that will be home, visiting with their families during the bye week. Those 21 goalies will more than likely be in net for their teams first game back from the break.
Having a week to regroup after a potential grueling first half of the season is what some of these goalies look forward to. For Carter Hart, this was supposed to be a week to enjoy spending time with his family, and to decompress after an impressive debut month for the rookie. Hart has started the last five games in a row for the Flyers, 7 of the last 8, and 12 of his first 17 games in the NHL, he has started in net. The man deserves a break. Now, realistically, he would only get one game down with the Phantoms. They have a back to back on Friday and Saturday, and Hart will potentially get one of those starts, the other going to either Alex Lyon or Branden Komm. Simply put, the risk is unnecessary to start Carter Hart in an AHL game, when he has clearly proven to not just the fans, but to the higher ups with the Flyers, that he is an NHL starting goalie. Age and experience be damned, Hart starting in an AHL game just to prevent rink rust isn’t the smartest idea.
Photo Credit: Alex Mclntyre