Perhaps it should not be a surprise, especially after Philadelphia Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher went scorched earth at his Tuesday morning press conference. The Philadelphia Flyers may be in the market for a backup or 1A goalie.
A league source confirmed to Philly Hockey Now that the Flyers will most likely let goalie Brian Elliott hit the open market on July 28.
Of course, nothing is written in stone this week. Events and situations are happening rapidly, and the landscape could look dramatically different by early next week.
However, it sounds like Elliott will get to test the market and peddle his wares to the highest bidder.
Last season, Elliott subbed for the stumbling Carter Hart, who needed a reboot. Elliott, 36, appeared in 30 of the Flyers’ 56 games but posted an anemic .889 save percentage and a 3.06 GAA.
The Flyers defense and team-wide collapse surely did not help Elliott’s stats, either.
The Flyers were last in the NHL with 197 goals allowed in 56 games. That’s an average of 3.52 per game.
“I think there’s been a lot of focus on the blue line. To me, the number one priority is our goals-against. It was just ridiculous how many goals we gave up last year. That goes back to everything,” Fletcher said on Tuesday. “(It) goes back to the coaches having a great training camp and using the practice time early in the season to reinforce our systems and our structures. It’s our goaltenders playing better. It’s our defensemen playing better. It’s our forwards managing the puck better.”
According to PuckPedia.com, Elliott has made over $24 million in his career. The well-traveled goalie has played for five teams, from the Ottawa Senators, Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames, and the last four seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers.
This season he completed the stop-gap contract, one year, $1.5 million. Last offseason, the NHL goalie market was flooded, and several big names took lesser deals or short deals, including 2018 Stanley Cup winner Braden Holtby who signed for two years in Vancouver.
In 2020 there were 27 UFA goalies, but 24 signed one or two-year deals. Only three goalies signed for three or more years, Cam Talbot (3), Anton Khudobin (3), and Jacob Markstrom (6).
Hart’s struggles became a league-wide debate, as former GM Ron Hextall’s patient strategy and resistance to the Flyers’ decision to rush Hart to the NHL looked better with each passing day. However, Hart rebounded later in the regular season.
Hart started five games in April and posted a .910 save percentage, including a win over his offseason training buddy and Pittsburgh Penguins starting goalie Tristan Jarry.
The 2021 NHL free agent goalie class will be even more crowded than last. There are approximately 40 UFA goalies set to hit the market, pending a few retirements.
If it’s not Elliott, Fletcher will certainly have more than a few options.