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February 14, 2018

What they're saying: Will Flyers add a goalie at deadline ... and if so, who?

Given the Flyers' recent surge up the Eastern Conference standings, there was little chance general manager Ron Hextall was going to be a seller ahead of the upcoming trade deadline. However, given Hextall's past performance at the deadline, it remains unlikely that he's going to be an aggressive buyer either.

As always, Hextall is open to making moves if he believes they make the team better, not just in the short-term, but in the long-term as well. And since those deals aren't easy to come by, the Flyers have been less active than usual at the deadline since Hextall arrived. 

Here's more from Kurtis Wells of The Hockey Writers:

The likely route that Hextall will follow on the Feb. 26 deadline is to keep this team together. He will most likely not be very active, making just a couple minor deals. When you look back at the Flyers success rate over the past couple deadlines by not doing anything in comparison to the years when they made big splashes for players past their prime, this should be a no-brainer.

In saying that, Hextall needs to keep the phone lines open, and, if he is approached with the right offer to make the team better in both the present and future, he needs to make it regardless of who it is that he is trading. When you look back at the deal for Filppula, that was a smart way to pick up an impact player. He didn’t cost much so it didn’t affect the future of the team.  []

But that was before the Flyers announced that starting goaltender Brian Elliott would miss the next 5-6 weeks following abdominal surgery. Hextall said Tuesday that he was going to roll with Neuvirth and backup Alex Lyon going forward, but he also left the door open to a possible deal before the NHL trade deadline on February 26th.

"Well, I can’t say I will go with the 23 guys on our roster right now," he said. "I don’t know what is going to come up. I’ll repeat what I always say, if we can make our team better at any position, you know we will look at it."

Here's a look at what they're saying about the Flyers' goalie situation as the deadline rapidly approaches. 

The price is right

Dave Isaac | Courier Post

In his recent mailbag, Dave Isaac said he wouldn't be surprised to see Hextall pull the trigger on a goalie trade before the deadline. So, who would make sense to replace backup Alex Lyon?

That would not surprise me at all. Alex Lyon, who was recalled Sunday morning, didn't make the strongest impression in his first two starts in the NHL. Back in the summer I thought there was a chance the Flyers might go for Calvin Pickard, who was pretty good for Colorado last season and who Hextall picked when he was the general manager of Team Canada in the World Championships.

That would be my top choice because A. he's cheap at a $1 million cap hit, B. the Toronto Maple Leafs have depth with Frederik Andersen, Curtis McElhinney and Garret Sparks, who played 17 games for them two years ago and C. he has NHL experience and put up very good numbers in the AHL this season.  []

Where else might they look?

Rob Parent | Delaware County Daily Times

There are plenty of other options out there, although it's a pretty underwhelming list. But without Anthony Stolarz to back up Neuvirth, there's a reason why Hextall didn't rule out a trade when he spoke to the media on Tuesday night.

As the past has shown, however, a hot Neuvirth never precludes the possibility of a hurt Neuvirth. Hence veteran names like Petr Mrazek (Detroit), Antti Raanta (Arizona) or Jon Bernier (Colorado) might come up in connection with the Flyers.

(Though San Jose’s Aaron Dell would be preferable).

Further encouraging that trade hype is the fact that the option behind Neuvirth is the Phantoms’ Alex Lyon, who was unimpressive (0-1, 3.93 goals-against; .860 save percentage) in his three recent NHL appearances while Neuvirth was spending another several weeks among the ailing.  []

Dollars and sense

Sam Donnellon | Philadelphia Daily News

The next question becomes, how much are the Flyers willing to pay? 

There are teams with goalie depth out there, which is one reason pro scout Dave Brown hasn’t been seen around much lately. Buffalo’s backup, Chad Johnson, might be available at the right price, or his likely AHL replacement, Linus Ullmark, who has played sparingly for the Sabres over the last three seasons. Toronto’s Curtis McElhinney might be an option, too, since the Leafs have an outstanding AHL goalie tandem in Garrett Sparks and Calvin Pickard. Sparks leads the AHL in goals against and save percentage, and Pickard, who had a 2.98 goals-against average and .904 save percentage for Colorado last year, is right behind him.

But at what price? A high pick? A prospect? And what is the upgrade? In Alex Lyon, the Flyers have their own well-performing AHL goalie, and the idea behind signing 28-year-old Dustin Tokarski back in September was that he had some NHL experience, including a brief postseason run in 2014 with Montreal, and had backstopped a successful Calder Cup run with the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals in 2012.  []

Sabres for sale

Ryan Gilbert | Sons Of Penn

The one team that kept coming up over and over as a potential trade partner for the Flyers was the Buffalo Sabres, and not just because of Elliotte Friedman's recent report of something brewing between the two teams. They have two goalies who are theoretically on the block, but what might Hextall be willing to give up, if anything?

Lehner and Johnson are both in the last year of their contracts, making them a perfect rental option for teams in need of a goalie like the Flyers. Lehner is the more bonafide of the two, with a career .916 save percentage (.910 this season) and 2.78 goals against average (2.90 this season), but with more skill could come a higher price tag. Johnson has a career .911 save percentage, but has been well below that this season with a save percentage of .886 and goals against average of 3.57, one full goal above his career average.

Buffalo is definitely selling, as they sit in last place in the conference, but they could jack up the asking price now that Ron Hextall’s hand is being forced a bit with Elliott’s injury. On the other hand, there are plenty of veteran goalies on friendly or expiring contracts that I’m sure teams would be willing to give up for a mid-round pick or less.

Ideally the Flyers will be able to acquire league-average backup goalie for a mid-round pick to help solidify the crease. This would allow Neuvirth to split time at best, or at worst have a qualified goalie to spot start for Neuvirth or to fill in if anything happens.  []

The bottom line

Matt Zakrzewski | SBNation

If the Flyers really want to keep the cost down, they can opt for Buffalo's backup goalie Chad Johnson. But if he's the backup on a last-place team, Hextall will need to consider how much of an upgrade would it really be – and is that worth whatever you'd have to give up?

The goaltender they may be interested in the most might be Chad Johnson. It all will depend on where Philly thinks they need to upgrade. Do the Flyers feel they need to upgrade over a player like Neuvirth? Even when Elliott comes back, Lehner might be a much better option to split time between the pipes with Elliott than Neuvirth. Or do the Flyers feel they just need a veteran backup to relieve Neuvirth for a handful of games?  []

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