Even though the biggest question for the Flyers in net for the 2020-21 season is who will backup starting goalie Carter Hart, who is entering his third professional season, The Philadelphia Flyers are going to start feeling the heat elsewhere in the crease as the 22-year-old is due is first NHL contract extension during the 2021 offseason.
Using top goaltenders from around the league, is it possible to predict what Carter Hart’s next deal will look like?
Needless to say, goalies the caliber of Carter Hart don’t come around everyday, especially at just 22-years-old. Hart has 74 NHL games under his belt and a 2.59 goals against average and .915 save percentage to show for it. Heading into his third professional season, he is expected to take another step in his development and hopefully put a chokehold on the Flyers starting gig once and for all.
Today, we’ll look at some of the top goaltenders in the game, Carey Price, Connor Hellebuyck, and Andrei Vasilevskiy and their early play and first contracts off their ELCs to possibly project what Carter Hart’s deal could look like.
One surprising fact about goaltenders is they rarely get a long term deal right away. Price got a two-year, while Vasilevskiy earned a three-year deal, and Hellebuyck only got one. Though, giving your potential franchise goaltender a bridge to truly establish himself and prove that there’s fire to the smoke of his early career performance is a smart thing to do before you sign him long term.
Carey Price is not only Carter Hart’s favorite player and role model, he is also the player he gets compared to the most. He played only 12 AHL regular season games through two seasons, though did manage to capture the Calder Trophy with the Hamilton Bulldogs and became only the third teenager to win the AHL playoff MVP award during the 2007 postseason.
Price made the jump to the NHL right away at just 20 years old and dazzled through 41 games in his rookie season posting a 2.56 GAA and .920 SV%. There was a bit of decline in his numbers during his sophomore season when he took the reins as starter when Montreal didn’t re-sign Cristobal Huet, posting a 2.83 GAA and .905 SV%, and the following season racked up a 2.77/.912 split where he only won 13 games and lost the starting role to Jaroslav Halak late in the season and through the playoffs.
The wheels coming off the bus right before he was due a new contract may have swayed the negotiating power in the favor of the organization when his ELC ended in the summer of 2010. Price signed a two-year deal worth $2.75 million annually right before his 23rd birthday, and immediately returned to form, posting then-career highs in games played, wins, save percentage, and goals against average. And in the summer of 2012 was awarded a six-year, $39 million deal that carried him over until his massive eight-year, $84 million contract that was signed on July 2, 2017.
Hellebuyck, the freshly crowned Vezina winner, opted to forgo his final two years of college to sign his ELC with the Jets at 21 years old for the 2014-15 season, though he spent the first full season of his career in the AHL. Starting the 2015-16 season in the AHL as well, a mid-season injury to Ondrej Pavelec opened a spot for Hellebuyck, who never looked back.
He made the jump to full-time starter during the 2016-17 season, and much like Price, his play lingered off. Posting only a 2.89 goals against average and .907 save percentage in 56 games. He re-signed with the Jets, a one-year, $2.25 million “show me” deal, and show them he did, during his second full season as the Jets starter, he posted a 44-11-9 record which set multiple records, and was even a finalist for the Vezina trophy. Signing the one-year bridge meant the Jets had to pay up, which they did, giving Hellebuyck a six-year deal with an AAV of $6.16 million.
Vasilevsky made his North American debut in 2014 after he signed his ELC and was sent to AHL Syracuse where he was dominant early and earned his first recall in December 2014 at 20 years old. He was returned to the AHL until early February when he once again earned a recall and stayed with the big club for the rest of the season. He played in 16 games recording a 2.36 goals against average and a .918 save percentage. He split the 2015-16 season between the AHL and NHL as well.
In 2016-17 he supplanted Ben Bishop as the Lightning’s starting goalie and in 50 games posted a 2.61 save percentage and 2.61 GAA. Despite just 90 NHL games under his belt the Bolts signed him to a three-year, $10.5 million deal. Vasilevskiy’s play only continued to improve and he won the Vezina in 2019. Mere weeks after his Vezina win, Vasilevskiy signed an eight-year, $76 million extension which kicked in during the 2020-21 season.
What do those three goalies have in common with Carter Hart? They all rose to the occasion early in their careers. It’s not uncommon for goaltenders to be in their early-to-mid-twenties before they get their first looks at the NHL level, yet these four succeeded at just 20 years old.
The biggest difference for Hart is the financial landscape the NHL will find itself in the 2021 offseason. With the salary cap staying flat for at least another year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it means the Flyers won’t have much cap space for the near future. So for the betterment of the franchise, it would be wise to try and lock Hart up for three seasons, and hopefully by that point the league will be back on track and the salary cap will rise as normal when he can signs a long-term deal.
Some other comparable first contracts from around the league look as followed-
John Gibson- 23 years old, three years, $2.3 million average
Jonathan Quick- 24 years old, three years, $1.8 million average
Semyon Varlamov- 23 years old, three years, $2.83 million average
Due to the projected delayed start and end of the 2020-21 season, Hart will probably be 23 when he inks his extension. As far as dollar value goes, Vasilevskiy’s $3.5 million per season seems to be in the right neighborhood, while it ultimately depends on how well Hart plays next season if the Flyers choose to wait that long before offering him a contract. If he slips, or Fletcher can work some magic, they may be able to snag the young netminder for less than $3 million per season.
While Hart may not yet have a Vezina trophy under his belt, he already seems poised to make Flyers history with his stellar play. As we patiently wait to see if Chuck Fletcher sheds any cap this offseason, the priority for the near future should be the extension of Carter Hart. If they can snag the youngster for three years, $3 million per season, that should be team-friendly enough to manage other issues the team faces during the flat cap, while Hart waits for the monster contract he no-doubt has coming to him a few years down the road.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: SI.com