News broke early Saturday morning that the Flyers re-signed 35-year-old goaltender Brian Elliott to a one-year, $1.5 million extension. Gearing up for his fourth season in Philadelphia, the backup posted a 2.87 goals against average and .899 save percentage in 31 games during the 2019-20 season. While Elliott was the predictable option, there were a few options in the free agent market that would’ve made more sense.
Elliott joins Alex Lyon, who was re-signed to a one-year extension last week, in the Flyers crease, all behind starter Carter Hart. In the flat cap era the NHL finds themselves in, having a backup clock in at $1.5 million and their third string goalie at $700,000 is a great deal.
The biggest issue comes at the length of the contracts. With both inking one-year extensions, all it does is put a band-aid on the big issue, which is a long-term backup for Carter Hart, who he himself will be looking for an extension next offseason.
With any luck, they can get Hart on a reasonable bridge for the next few seasons, but they can now add finding a backup to the docket alongside re-signing Hart. All in the same offseason with the salary cap more-than-likely not increasing.
The backup goalie market next season is even more slim than this year’s, with only Antti Raanta and Jake Allen as the early front-runners to be the top options. Those two pale in comparison to this summer’s highlights in Thomas Greiss, Anton Khudobin, or, hell, even Henrik Lundqvist.
With the AHL season postponed, and may potentially still not happen at all, their internal options will be limited as well, as there won’t be a chance for youngsters Kirill Ustimenko and Felix Sandstrom to gain professional experience this season. The former is being loaned to Belarusian Extraleague, which is the top league in Ustimenko’s native Belarus. Sandstrom was loaned to Västerviks IK of the Allsvenskan League, the second highest league in Sweden. While both would be considered long-shots to make a jump to the NHL in the 2021-22 season anyway, a lack of AHL reps will stall their development for another season.
In the short term, Bringing Elliott back may not have been the worst move, but considering there were better options available and they’ve put themselves in an interesting situation next summer, was Elliott really the right move? Were the temporary savings really worth the headache on the horizon?
Time will tell if his play holds up during the season to at least make his return worthwhile in the short term, but the potential turmoil Chuck Fletcher created for himself next season one of the few knocks on his otherwise pristine record as the Flyers GM.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: thescore.com