A few weeks ago, I broke down the organization depth in net for the Flyers. While their minor league net is taken care of, and Carter Hart has the starting gig all to himself, the biggest question falls on the backup role for the Flyers. I looked at other options that will more than likely hit free agent market this summer, but what if the backup is already here?
Brian Elliott has been a Flyer since the 2017-18 season and has served as a perfectly fine backup goaltender during that time. He has formed a decent tandem with Carter Hart over the past two seasons, and has been relied upon to pick up the young netminder’s shortcomings, like road starts and load management.
Elliott’s play has ranged from spectacular to sub-par, but more often than not, he is somewhere in between. At the season pause, Elliott had a 2.87 goals against average and a .899 save percentage. Those are relatively pedestrian numbers, but not too much worse than his past few seasons. Elliott has reached 100 games played as a Flyer and has registered a 2.80 GAA and .906 SV% during his tenure in Philly.
Cap-wise, the Flyers couldn’t swing for the fences with Braden Holtby, and the next tier under Holtby would consist of Jakob Markstrom and Robin Lehner who may either stay with their current teams, or get a bigger contract from teams in more dire need of a goaltender than the Flyers. That leaves some similar options to Elliott, being Anton Khudobin, Thomas Greiss, Aaron Dell, or even a step below Elliott being Jimmy Howard, Mike Smith, or Craig Anderson.
Needless to say, there aren’t any names that that inspire much more hope than Elliott. Greiss and Khudobin are all of similar age to Elliott, but have slightly better numbers, but giving their advancing age, would those numbers still be that much better than Elliott’s? Aaron Dell is younger, turning 32 in May, but has had a rough go on a less-than-stellar San Jose Sharks team after a promising early start to his career. Would the Flyers bank on him turning his career around?
At the end of the day, Brian Elliott is familiar. He has been the guy opposite Carter Hart during his entire early career in Philadelphia, and by all accounts, the two are great friends. His play has been decent enough to give the Flyers a chance to win every night he is in the net.
The goaltending market opens up big time in the summer of 2021, including guys like Lundqvist, Rask, Andersen, Rinne, Binnington, Dubnyk, Riitich, just to name a few. While most obviously won’t hit the open market, those are all bigger names to take a run at than Dell or Greiss.
Bringing Elliott back for one more season on a team friendly contract wouldn’t be the end of the world. In fact, with things getting tight for the Flyers in the financial department, another one year, $2 million contract would fit well in the Flyers plans.
Carter Hart is the future for the Flyers, yet, to be successful in the modern NHL, team’s need two solid goaltenders. Hart will see even more responsibility in his third NHL season, and if he can figure out how to play on the road, the need for Elliott to play as frequently as he did this season will diminish.
Whether or not Brian Elliott comes back next season is yet to be determined, but at the end of the day, the Flyers main objective should be Carter Hart. Doing everything in their power to insulate him should be priority number one, and with limited options in or outside the organization, the man for the job might be right under their noses.
photo credit: newsbreak.com
by: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)