The Philadelphia Flyers locked up one of the most important pieces of their franchise on Monday. Carter Hart signed a three-year contract extension worth an average annual value (AAV) of $3.979 million. The goalie that wears No. 79 made sure to work that number into his contract.
Chuck Fletcher made most of his moves in mid-July, but still had a few main restricted free agents to sign. Hart was one of them, with Travis Sanheim being the other.
Hart’s contract is one of the highest AAV ever for a goalie’s second contract. He was quickly overshadowed, however, by Igor Sheserkin’s four-year, $22.666 million ($5.65 million AAV) deal with the New York Rangers. Shesterkin has a .921 save percentage in 47 career games, but sheesh.
While the Rangers are hoping Shesterkin keeps up his strong play, the Flyers need Hart to bounce back.
In his first two seasons, Hart went 40-26-4 with a .915 SV% and 2.59 GAA in 74 games (70 starts). Those are the numbers that the Flyers are paying nearly $4 million a year for. Last season, Hart fell off a cliff to the tune of a 9-11-5 record with a .877 SV% and 3.67 GAA.
The Flyers are now a new team after Fletcher’s offseason moves. They’re much better defensively which, along with a normal offseason and 82-game season, should greatly help Carter Hart.
Travis Sanheim is still waiting for his extension as Hart is happy to have a new contract in hand.
Carter Hart not making any excuses for poor play
“It definitely feels good to get the deal out of the way and now just look forward to a clean slate next year,” Hart said on Monday. “I’m really looking forward to starting here soon.”
The contract wasn’t the only thing that Hart had to get out of the way, however. He had to let go of last year’s failures and focus on next season.
“The past is in the past,” he said. “Just took a little breather after the season with my buddy. Flew my buddy down and just hung out a little bit. Then got back to work when I came back here to Edmonton for the offseason. Again, it’s in the past and can only learn from it now. Looking forward to a new start next year.”
Hart’s new contract will hopefully coincide with a bounceback season. That’s what the Flyers are counting on, at least. And the young netminder should be able to work his way back to form. Hart felt the effects of a COVID-impacted season in more ways than one.
During the season, Hart was relied upon to play a lot. When things started going downhill, Hart didn’t have the luxury of a few days to reset or even practice time to get back on track.
But Hart isn’t making any excuses for himself.
“I’m not sure,” Hart said when asked about the effects of a shortened training camp and condensed schedule. “Can’t really judge that as having that affect your season and you don’t want to make any excuses.”
“I think this year, there definitely aren’t any excuses where we’ll have a full training camp,” he continued. “We’ll have like seven preseason games and we’ll be ready to go for opening night.”
Practice time and training are key for Hart
Practice time did help Hart last season, though. Alain Vigneault and the Flyers finally gave Hart some time to reset in late March.
Hart gave up five goals on 11 shots in a blowout loss to the Rangers on March 25th. Hart didn’t return to game action until April 3rd, and he had some of his best performances of the season in early April.
From April 3rd to April 15th, Hart went 1-2-2 with 122 saves on 134 shots (.910 SV%). Hart had arguable his best start of the season on the 15th, stopping 31 of 32 shots in a shootout win in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, a knee injury that was later revealed to be an MCL sprain ended his season.
That break and practice time worked wonders for Hart, though, and a full offseason of training is sure to help as well.
“There’s been a couple areas this offseason we’ve highlighted together from our goalie coach in Philly, Kim Dillabaugh, with my goalie coach back home here, Dustin Schwartz. They’re all on the same page,” Hart said. “It’s been a couple things there that we’ve targeted to work on. I think we’ve made a lot of good progress.”
Hart has a few different trainers and coaches that can help him out both on and off the ice.
“Yeah, this offseason so far has been great,” he said. “Got a lot of ice in and off the ice as well. Schwartzy’s been great. My trainer back home here, Phil Daly, he’s been awesome. I’m feeling really good right now.”
Even if they aren’t always working together, they’re on the same page with a mission to make Carter Hart the best goalie that he can be.
“They’ve always kind of had the same philosophies. This summer, we’ve targeted a couple areas that I want to work on. Together we thought that they’re areas that I need to work on and I think we made a lot of progress,” he said. “They’re on the same page. They teach the same game. It might not be worded the same way, but they get along and they’re on the same page.”
Hart ready to compete with Martin Jones for new-look Flyers
Hart isn’t the only Flyers goalie that is looking to bounce back this season. The newly-signed Martin Jones had three straight seasons with a save percentage of .896 and is looking to push for the starting job in Philly. Hart is excited for the competition.
“I’ve heard great things about Jonesy and I’m looking forward to meeting him here soon,” Hart said. “You want to have a good competition between the two tendys. Me and Jonesy will push each other to be better in practice and off the ice. I think that’s only healthy. You want to have two boys that compete hard to play games. I think in the long run it will only be better off for the team and ourselves.”
Jones is just one of several new faces brought into Philadelphia this offseason. It was an offseason of change and Hart is excited to get started.
“Yeah, definitely a lot of new faces coming in. Sad to see some of the boys go for sure. It’s a business,” Hart said. “I think the changes that we made there are guys that are going to come in and help our group. I’ve heard nothing but good things from all of them. I think it’s going to be definitely beneficial to our group to have those guys and I’m really looking forward to meeting them here soon. I think they’re going to be great additions to our team.”
Flyers’ defensive additions show trust in Hart
The Flyers needed a shakeup after last season and Chuck Fletcher shook things up this offseason. He brought in experienced veterans to help change the identity of the team.
“I think the guys coming in definitely bring some leadership to the group and we already have some great leadership in our locker room,” Hart said. “I think that some more is only going to benefit our team.”
They’re going to be tough to play against and have a blast off the ice.
“We’ve always had a fun locker room. Some of these guys coming in, I’ve heard some great stories,” Hart continued. “I think we’re going to have a really fun team this year, and we’re going to have a great squad.”
One of Fletcher’s main areas of focus –– if not the focus –– was improving the overall team defense this offseason. Ryan Ellis and Rasmus Ristolainen shore up the top-four defensemen with Keith Yandle as a depth option. Cam Atkinson brings some snarl up front and can kill penalties. Now it’s up to Hart to bounce back.
“Yeah, it’s really great to know that an organization is behind you and they trust you,” he said. “Now it’s my job just to go out and play the game … Chuck’s made some great moves this summer. Lost a couple great guys, but in return got a couple other great guys as well that are going to be big additions to our group and only going to help us going forward. A lot of new faces looking forward to meeting them here in the fall. It’ll be great to get to work here soon.”
Hart excited for “clean slate” and “sold-out stadiums”
Hart is excited to meet his “beauties” of new teammates.
“When guys are excited and want to come and play for you, that’s what you want. In a locker room that wants to succeed, you want players like that on your team,” he said. “I’ve talked to some of those guys already and they seem like beauties. It’s going to be a lot of fun this year and we’re going to have a great locker room. Just looking forward to getting started.”
Hart is ready to prove that he’s on top of his game and wants to do it in front of some rowdy Flyers fans.
“It’s a clean slate. Fresh start for everybody,” Hart said. “I think we’re all looking forward to a fresh start and to get back to playing in front of our fanbase, one of the best in the NHL. I can’t wait for opening night. It’ll be a sold-out stadium again. How loud our stadium is and how loud they’re going to be on opening night, it’s going to be wild. We’re all looking forward to it.”
Carter Hart has a new contract, new teammates, and a clean slate. Now he has to go out and play.