A lot changes with the NHL Expansion Draft ahead. Goaltenders are limited, making it difficult for teams to negotiate with free agents this offseason. Currently, two goaltenders scheduled for free agency are commodities for the Seattle Kraken.
With an additional team entering the NHL, the Philadelphia Flyers have a limit on backup goaltender options. They’ll have to hope the Kraken doesn’t select Chris Driedger or Jonas Johansson, two unrestricted free agents who cost the same as Brian Elliott.
What is attractive to the Flyers is also to Seattle. Driedger hasn’t been helpful to the Florida Panthers in the postseason, winless with an 87.1% save percentage and 3.7 goals-against average. Johansson hasn’t played in the postseason but is 5-1-1 since joining the Colorado Avalanche with a 91.3% save percentage and 2.06 goals-against average. Due to his lack of usage in the postseason, Johansson is flying under the radar.
Comparably, Driedger had a higher save percentage and a lower goals-against average than Elliott during the regular season. Both of them have similar records. Driedger is making the run on the rumor mill as a favorite to join the Kraken. Johansson isn’t, but it’s because his time with the Buffalo Sabres was miserable. It would be a gamble to rely on Johansson in rotation with Carter Hart.
Suddenly, there’s a compelling argument for keeping Elliott in Philadelphia.
Some 35+ contract goaltenders are thriving into free agency. Mike Smith and Craig Anderson are the most recent netminders to prove that. Among those names is Elliott, who exceeded his role in 2020-2021.
Before the season, Elliott signed a one-year $1.5mil contract extension. He was supposed to offer support to Hart, the expected starting goaltender. Instead, Elliott started more games, taking on the starting goaltender role in 2020-2021. A veteran netminder was required while Hart struggled.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot left to give. I feel like I’m playing really good hockey, and healthwise I had another really good year where I didn’t really see the training room once.”Brian Elliott; 5/10/21
Elliott presents a happy medium between the upside of youth goaltenders and the stability of veterans. Over the last two seasons, Elliott has remained consistent in his quality of play. He’s the sure hand who, lately, has proved he can step above a backup role if needed. Younger than Smith and Anderson, he’s the best veteran option. Elliott is also alongside Hart, mentoring him.
Any other team losing a goaltender in the NHL Expansion Draft would find value in signing Elliott.
Chuck Fletcher has to decide if he wants veteran leadership following Hart or a younger goaltender to rotate. If he decides Elliott is the right decision in 2021-2022, he better follow with an ace defenseman in front.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre