Flyers, Hart, and a commitment to the rebuild

Flyers' Carter Hart
PHILADELPHIA, PA – MARCH 19: Philadelphia Flyers Goalie Carter Hart (79) makes a diving save during the game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Philadelphia Flyers on March 19, 2019 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA.(Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

When Daniel Briere became the interim GM of the Philadelphia Flyers, he said the rebuild does not mean a ‘fire sale.’

“It needs to be done the right way. At this point, that’s what’s needed. That’s what’s going to be important moving forward, not rushing to things. We’re gonna’ keep evaluating players, we’ll have a lot of discussions in which direction we’re gonna’ move, but there’s no doubt that this is not a quick fix, in my mind. It’s going to take a little while, but at the same time, it doesn’t mean we’re gonna’ do a full fire sale and have a complete new team next year. There’s a lot of good players, there’s a lot of good young players on this team.”

Daniel Briere; 3/12/2023

Rebuilding the right way means the philosophy cannot revolve around band-aid trades. Chuck Fletcher lost critical draft capital trading for Rasmus Ristolainen and Tony DeAngelo to address a hole created when Shayne Gostisbehere departed or when Ryan Ellis became injured. Developing prospects into NHL players is the correct route. Aware of the young, budding talent within the Flyers’ system and on the roster, Briere doesn’t expect a completely new team next season.

A bevy of trade candidates were topics before the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline as a means to acquire players or picks. Among those were players like Kevin Hayes or Ivan Provorov. Travis Konecny is another name because of his point-per-game pace through 52 games played. When Fletcher had a seat in the front office, he proclaimed that he would listen to offers about anyone. No players were off-limits, which is an acceptable but impulsive approach to gain assets during a rebuild.

The aforementioned makes more sense than listening for offers to ship the starting goaltender. Carter Hart is the latest talking point, and his name does pique curiosity regarding potential returns.

Does he fit the rebuild timeline? Could Philadelphia manage a rebuild without Hart? In the team’s current state, Hart is the backbone, regularly keeping his club in games versus formidable opponents.

A Rebuilding Window

Health is one metric out of the control of the Philadelphia Flyers. It’s been that way for two seasons. Last season, the defense never caught up to Ellis being out of the lineup, and this season, the offense severely lagged without Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson in the mix.

The running joke is that the Flyers are always two or three years away from competing. One truth is that we don’t know what a healthy lineup looks like under the guidance of John Tortorella. The other truth is a successful rebuild could take four or five years. Hart, reaching a new season-high in games started, has numbers that trend closer to his 2018-2020 run instead of 2020-2022.

When you think about that, considering the defense playing ahead of him, that’s a very stable goaltender. Additionally, Philadelphia backed into a solid goaltending situation where Sam Ersson will likely become the backup next season.

The NHL is a two-goaltender league, and there is no reason to disrupt a potentially stellar partnership between the pipes.

Next season, Hart will turn 25. A lot will depend on the moving and shaking of the roster in the offseason, but if this can be completed in three years, Hart will be in his prime. In the worst-case scenario, in a five-year timeframe, Hart is 30 and very competitive. He complements the rebuild as long as he decides the Flyers is where he calls home.

Life Without Hart

Let’s humor the idea of trading Hart. It isn’t likely, but there is the temptation of a big haul of quality draft capital and players.

In September 2020, Jake Allen drew two draft picks as a backup goaltender to Jordan Binnington when traded to the Montreal Canadiens. The Blues received a 2020 third-round and seventh-round pick. The Canadiens took Allen and a 2022 seventh-round pick.

Hart is similar to Allen at this point in his career. The difference is Binnington won a Stanley Cup for St. Louis and Allen shipped to Montreal.

As the unrivaled starting goaltender for the Philadelphia Flyers, Hart would be more valuable than Allen in a trade. Allen was 29 when he went to the Canadiens, too. If Briere saw it fit to trade Hart, he should get back something close to a 2023 second-round pick, a 2024 first-round pick, and a player. There isn’t a reason to pull the trigger because while there is faith in Ersson between the pipes, it doesn’t match the same feeling Binnington gave the Blues when he filled in to hoist the Stanley Cup.

After the 2023-2024 season, Hart will become a restricted free agent. His qualifying offer will stand at $4.479mil. Teams could fill an offer sheet to make a deal for Hart, which would send a first-round and third-round pick to the Flyers. One team currently meeting those requirements with the necessary picks at their disposal is Montreal. Hart, well-documented, has an affinity for the Canadiens because of Carey Price, but would he be interested in playing for a franchise currently trailing Philadelphia by two points in the NHL standings?

A Franchise Goaltender

On the Flyers Nation Show, Nate Thompson was a guest. During a discussion with ‘Uncle Nate,’ he provided thoughts about a potential Hart trade by the Philadelphia Flyers:

“I don’t know what the rumors are, they’re talking about moving him? They should not. I hope that’s not true. Carter Hart is your guys’ goalie and will be for a long time.”

Nate Thompson; 3/20/2023

There will be some subtractions, but they’ll have to make sense. Along with a youth boom of talent from skaters like Morgan Frost, Owen Tippett, Noah Cates, Tyson Foerster, Cam York, and Egor Zamula, it makes much more sense to develop these players while moving other veterans. Hart and Ersson will become a steady one-two punch in the crease throughout the rebuild.

(Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)