Well, the Flyers 2016-2017 season is coming to an end. After a disappointing year, it is only natural for us fans to look ahead into the (hopefully) bright future. One of the biggest issues that will be under the microscope this offseason is the future in net. Michal Neuvirth signed a 2-year extension at the trade deadline, which made a lot of fans think that this could be the end of the road for Steve Mason’s career in Philadelphia. But is that actually the case? Let’s look at Hextall’s possible offseason moves…
Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth:
The organization cannot afford another year with the same tandem in net. Not saying that it’s not possible, but the idea of going forward with these two goalies after such a disappointing performance this past season makes no sense. Plus, Steve Mason is more than likely looking for a 4+ year deal and, after the raise we just gave to Neuvirth, it doesn’t look financially promising to bring both of these guys back.
Expansion Draft Conspiracy:
At this point, it’s pretty safe to say that any player that does not have the approval of the fan base has a case to be taken by the Vegas Golden Knights in the upcoming expansion draft. When, in reality, the chances of any unprotected Flyer being taken is slim. With that said, I guess we can entertain the idea of the goaltending conspiracy being thrown around Flyers Twitter.
Many fans were troubled by Michal Neuvirth’s extension, not really seeing sense in the deal. Steve Mason is clearly the better goaltender regardless of his price tag. Turns out that the Golden Knights GM, George McPhee, drafted Neuvirth to the Capitals back in 2006. The expansion draft theory is: George McPhee made a verbal commitment to take Michal Neuvirth in the upcoming expansion draft as long as he could get him cheap. And at 2 years, $2.5 mil AAV, that is a pretty cheap deal for an, at-times, solid backup. With Las Vegas picking Neuvirth, we would regain the cap space allotted to Neuvirth and resign Mason.
I think this theory is a stretch but I actually could see some logic in it. The probability is fairly low, but with some of the contract swings Hextall has been able to work in the past, I’m sure he is capable of a deal like this.
Michal Neuvirth and Anthony Stolarz:
Out of the numerous options the Flyers have this offseason in regards to goaltending, this is probably the most likely. With the 2-year deal inked to Neuvirth, and the overpriced tag on Mason, chances are that we will see a similar set-up in net to this past season. Except with Anthony Stolarz instead of Steve Mason. We have seen over the past two seasons that Hakstol has a very strange way of riding goaltenders and it appears he also prefers to have a 1A, 1B type of combination with the position. With the performance of Anthony Stolarz this past season in the 2 games he was able to start with the Flyers, it may have given enough confidence to the coaching staff that he is ready for a spot on the roster. This would explain Neuvirth’s contract, and the decision to let Mason walk. Our cap for the goaltending position next season would free up a decent chunk of change to place elsewhere. And, as unfortunate as it is to think that we will have a rookie goaltender and a mediocre-at-best veteran starting for us all 82 games next season, it probably makes the most sense.
Free Agent and Michal Neuvirth:
Another possibility that has gained some talk since the trade deadline is the idea of Ron Hextall grabbing a free agent goaltender this offseason to replace Steve Mason and keep Neuvirth as a backup. Possible candidates include Ben Bishop, Jonathan Bernier, Ryan Miller, and Brian Elliot. Other than Elliot, the other 3 candidates would probably end up costing more than Mason in the long run, so I personally can’t support this idea. Although, it’s interesting that the Kings grabbed Ben Bishop at the trade deadline and still missed the playoffs. With the team’s cap hit this season, it wasn’t likely that Ron would have been able to free up enough room by the deadline to acquire Bishop from Tampa. Is it possible Hextall made a backroom deal with LA to sign Bishop in the off season? Bishop’s name has been tied to Philadelphia for about 3 seasons now…
The Fact of the Matter:
There are some other possible combinations that could be thrown into the mix here, as well. If Neuvirth is taken in the expansion, we could sign a free agent and have Stolarz back that guy up. If we’re able to resign Mason, we can still have Stolarz play back up to him. But, the most likely outcome, as stated earlier, is the Neuvirth and Stolarz combo. Nothing in the past has really led me to believe Hextall would just dump a bunch of cap onto a free agent, especially at the goaltender position. And, unfortunately, all the Vegas hype is just brought up by fans who are unhappy with the state of the team. Being realistic, the Neuvy-Stolie 2017-2018 season makes the most sense. The Flyers are just cursed at this position, simple as that. Instead of trying to fix the curse, just let it ride and focus your attention elsewhere.