Philadelphia Flyers Goaltending Options Thinning Out

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Philadelphia Flyers Goaltending
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 08: Steve Mason #35 of the Philadelphia Flyers makes the first period save as Cam Atkinson #13 of the Columbus Blue Jackets looks for the rebound at the Wells Fargo Center on April 8, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

While the future has a chance to be bright at the position, the current Philadelphia Flyers goaltending situation is less than ideal. The only goaltender under contract for the Flyers is Michal Neuvirth. The team sent qualifying offers to Alex Lyon and Anthony Stolarz. However, general manager Ron Hextall has said that he is less than comfortable with a Neuvirth/Stolarz tandem.

“Let’s see if we can find an option that is better for us short term,” Hextall said. “There is always an option. Is [Stolarz] the best option? I don’t know if you can say that.”

Philadelphia Flyers Goaltending Options

With free agency approaching, the Flyers have a few options in regards to their goaltending situation. Many think Stolarz is ready to take the next step. However, Neuvirth’s injury history and Stolarz’s inexperience make that an unlikely duo. The team will likely look towards free agency to find a proven goaltender. While most teams have their net-minder, there are some options the Flyers can look towards.

Steve Mason

Age:29
Former Team: Philadelphia Flyers
Career GAA & SV%: 2.68 & .911

Out of all the goaltenders on the market, Mason would be the most familiar to the Flyers. He played four-plus seasons with the team. The 104 wins he compiled as a Flyers goaltender put him at third most in franchise history. However, he struggled this past season. Mason finished 26-21-8 with a 2.66 GAA and .908 SV%.

Mason did shine in the team’s last 20 games, posting a 12-6-2 record with three shutouts and a .927 SV%. Time after time Mason proved himself as the number one goaltender for the Flyers. But the team decided to offer Neuvirth a two-year contract extension.

A starting job is certainly something that Mason is looking for. But with most teams not in the market for goaltenders at this point in the off-season, the Flyers may give him the best opportunity to play. With Neuvirth’s injury history, it is likely that Mason will get his fair share of playing time. But he made it clear in his exit interview that he wants no part of a platoon role.

If the Flyers want to bring Mason back, they’ll need to think more clearly about the role he wants and the role they are willing to give him. They will also need to remember that they have guys like Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom coming.

Jonathan Bernier

Age:28
Former Team: Anaheim Ducks
Career GAA & SV%: 2.65 GAA & .915 SV%

Bernier has had his fair share of bad luck since he was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 2006. Playing behind Jonathan Quick meant time was hard to come by. He was never able to establish himself while with Los Angeles. The most games he appeared in were 25 games in 2010-11 where he posted a 11-8-3 record with a 2.48 GAA and .913 SV%.

The Kings shipped him off to the Toronto Maple Leafs in June of 2013 where he was given a chance to start. He shined in his first year as a starting goaltender. In 55 games Bernier posted a 26-19-7 record with a 2.68 GAA and .923 SV%. But the numbers trended downward his next two seasons. He was then shipped off to Anaheim.

The numbers jumped back up for Bernier as he played the backup role to John Gibson. A 21-7-4 record was accompanied by a 2.50 GAA and a .915 SV%. The numbers don’t necessarily say starting goaltender, but that may not be what the Flyers are looking for.

Bernier fits the role of a short-term veteran option. The Flyers have goaltending coming up in the pipes and they are likely not looking to shell out money. And while it may mean nothing, Hextall has a connection with Bernier from when he was assistant GM with the Kings. Current goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh is also familiar with Bernier.

With the Flyers not looking to spend much and offering a likely platoon role, Bernier could be a good fit in Philadelphia. The team is looking for a goalie they can trust to give them quality starts night in and night out. Bernier may just be that option.

Keith Kinkaid

Age: 27
Former Team: New Jersey Devils
Career GAA & SV%: 2.68 GAA and .912 SV%

Kinkaid came into the league as an un-drafted goaltender. Primarily playing behind Cory Schneider, Kinkaid was another victim of not getting a lot of starting time. Most of his time has been seen in the AHL with the Albany Devils. He has spend the last seasons in the NHL, however. In those two years he’s posted a 17-22-4 record with a 2.73 GAA and a .910 SV%.

Kinkaid found success before coming to the NHL. He set school records for his 2.18 GAA and .917 SV%. His 37 wins ranked second when he left after his sophomore year. Kinkaid was named the ECAC’s Goaltender of the Year in 2010-11. He won 25 games for Union that season as they won the Cleary Cup, ECAC regular-season champions.

The NHL numbers are nothing to write home about, but this is exactly what the Flyers are looking for. Kinkaid is coming off a deal that paid him only $725,000. Any raise he could get won’t be much more than that. Having not had a full chance to prove himself in the league, this opportunity could be the best for Kinkaid.

If the Flyers want a cheap option that has the chance to be a low risk/high reward, then Kinkaid would be the way to go. The connection may not mean anything, but both Shayne Gostisbehere and Mike Vecchione also went to Union.

Brian Elliott

Age: 32
Former Team: Calgary Flames
Career GAA & SV%: 2.42 GAA and .913 SV%

If the Flyers are looking for a proven veteran goaltender, then Elliott is the answer. He just finished his 10th season in the league. Elliott has appeared in 371 games, compiling a record of 191-117-35.

Elliott, however, is coming off an forgettable season with the Calgary Flames. The Flames expected their goaltending struggles to be solved when they acquired Elliott. The opposite happened, however. His 26 wins ranked him 16th in the league while his 2.55 GAA ranked 28th and his .910 SV% was 43rd. The playoffs weren’t any better.

Elliott started all four games during the postseason when the Flames took on the Anaheim Ducks. He lost three games, giving up 11 goals. He only last 5:38 in the fourth game after giving up one goal on three shots.

Aside from the struggles he faced this past season, Elliott proved to be a reliable goaltender during his five seasons with the St. Louis Blues. He consistently posted 20 plus wins in all but two seasons with the Blues. He left with a 104-46-34 record, 2.03 GAA and .923 SV%. Elliott also posted 25 shutouts as a member of the Blues.

While Elliott comes with a proven track record, he may come with a higher salary and more expectations. After a sub-par year, Elliott may be looking for a starting role where he can show off the goaltender he was before. He would be a safe option for the Flyers, but maybe not the right one.

If the Flyers take this route, they will likely have to get Elliott to agree to a shorter term than he may be looking for.

No matter the options that are available, the Flyers will need to have an exact idea of what they are looking for. The goaltending prospects are making their way towards the pros. A short-term bridge goaltender who is willing to most likely sign a two-year deal is the way to go. The mix of young and veteran goaltenders on the market gives the Flyers options. All eyes will be on the tough choice that the Flyers have to make.

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