A King and His Prince: Why Lundqvist Should Backup Carter Hart Next Season

As the 2020 NHL buyout window opens, one of the biggest names to potentially highlight the soon-to-be team-less player list is 38-year-old New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. He’s in the last year of a seven-year, $59.5 million, which breaks down to $8.5 million per season. With his play declining and the emergence of 24-year-old stud Igor Shesterkin, there isn’t much room left for King Henrik in the New York crease.

If Lundqvist does hit the open market for the first time in his career, the Philadelphia Flyers should be seriously considering applying for his services.

In the Flyers’ camp, They currently have 22-year-old phenom Carter Hart, who has one year left on his entry-level contract, and soon-to-be 28-year-old Alex Lyon, whom they just signed to a one-year extension, presumably to tandem with one of the goalie prospects in Lehigh Valley. With their first and third string goalie roles filled, that leaves the backup job up for grabs.

With a lackluster backup goalie free agent market highlighted by Thomas Greiss and Anton Khudobin, who may have played themselves out of the Flyers’ price range with their respective playoff performances, that leaves the likes of Jimmy Howard, Cam Talbot, Mike Smith, and Craig Anderson as the remaining backups, none of which would be a serious improvement over Brian Elliott, who may still be the front-runner to return.

Elliott, who has served as the Flyers’ backup for the past three seasons, just wrapped up a season where he posted his worst statistics since his days with the Ottawa Senators in 2010-11 with a 2.87 goals against average and .899 save percentage. He was deployed in a role where his job description was essentially to take the bullet for Carter Hart by playing in situations the young netminder wasn’t ready for. 23 of his 31 games were on the road, an area where Hart struggled greatly for most of the season, as well as coming in as a relief goalie four times.

Lundqvist just wrapped up his 15th professional season posting a career-worst 3.16 goals against average and .905 save percentage in 30 games. He split the early season starts with Alex Georgiev before conceding the net to rookie Igor Shesterkin in early January. The Rangers deployed all three in a carousel the rest of the season that clearly can’t continue. With Shesterkin ready to run and Georgiev a restricted free agent in need of a contract, Lundqvist is the obvious odd man out.

So why should the Flyers pursue him? Well, he checks most of their boxes.

It’s no secret Lundqvist’s best days are behind him, and at 38, if he gets bought out and hits the free agent market he probably won’t demand much money. Elliott is coming off a one-year, $2 million contract, which is close to market value for a backup goalie. Given his prestige, Hank may demand a little more, but probably with a ceiling of no more than $3 million.

For all intents and purposes, the two goaltender’s numbers were just about identical. The biggest difference was Lundqvist saw about 100 more shots than Elliott did, 883 to Elliott’s 796 to be exact, but their splits, Elliott’s 31GP/2.87GAA/.899SV% to Lundqvist’s 30GP/3.16GAA/.905SV% are similar enough that, if they stayed on the same trajectory, the gap shouldn’t be too big.

Maybe the biggest reason to lure Lundqvist to Philadelphia is the future of Carter Hart. While it’s well established that Hart and Elliott are close, Hank bring a level of pedigree to the table that is hard to match. Even on a one year deal, Hart getting a chance to sit under the King’s learning tree and absorb all the tricks of the trade he can may be the best thing the Flyers can do for the young netminder.

As we all wait for the verdit on Lundqvist’s future with the Rangers, and the Flyers’ plan for the backup goalie gig, the two intertwining may just be the match made in goalie heaven. It’s not every day one of the greatest of all-time hits the open market. Even in his advanced age, he is at worst a lateral move from Elliott, but with the resume Hank brings to the table, a one-year contract could be worth it’s weight in gold for the Flyers if Hank’s tutelage can pay off long-term. What would be better for the future of the Flyers and Carter Hart if The King shares his knowledge with The Prince.

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: nhl.com

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