For the first time in years, the Philadelphia Flyers are heading into the offseason with absolutely no question as to who will be their starting goaltender. Steve Mason has now been solid for Philadelphia for more than two full seasons and has earned his starting role.
However, the Flyers are not without questions regarding the goalie position. Ray Emery turned in a markedly below average season last year and the Flyers will most likely be on the lookout for a new backup goalie.
Internally, there are no viable candidates to be Mason’s backup. Anthony Stolarz, though full of long-term potential, is not ready to make the jump to the NHL. He had a decent season as he adjusted to the professional game, but at best he is only ready to be an AHL starter. Rob Zepp, who also played most of last season for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, is an unrestricted free agent. Although he did fine in a few NHL appearances, he did little to show that he deserves a full-time spot on an NHL team.
Therefore, the Flyers will likely be looking outside of the organization for a backup goalie. The fact that the Flyers are set with a solid starting goaltender makes an already weak unrestricted free agent class almost obsolete to Philadelphia. The few good goalies who would be ideal for the Flyers on a short term contract (Niemi, Ramo, etc.) will be seeking a starting role, not a back up job.
With that said, here are three options for the Flyers backup goalie position:
Patrik Bartosak is a goalie within the Los Angeles Kings organization. He stands 6’1″, 193lbs and was in the net for the Manchester Monarchs on Saturday night as they clinched their Calder Cup championship.
Bartosak is only 22 years old, so he does lack some experience. However, through 32 regular season AHL games (28 during the 2014-2015 season) he has amassed a .922 (63 goals on 809 shots) save percentage to go along with a 16-9-5 record. He backstopped the Czech Republic at the 2013 World Junior Championships, earning a 3-1 record and being named one of the top three players on his team.
Bartosak was drafted in the 5th round of the 2013 NHL Draft, at the very end of Ron Hextall’s time with the Kings organization. Therefore, Hextall is probably familiar with Bartosak, but the connection is not as tight as that of Hextall and some other Kings prospects. Either way, Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones have the Kings set for the future in goal. Therefore, they may be willing to deal Bartosak. Due to his inexperience, it is not out of the realm of possibility to believe that the Flyers could acquire him at a reasonably cheap price.
Eddie Lack split the 2014-2015 NHL season with Ryan Miller while playing for the Vancouver Canucks. He played in 41 games, gaining an 18-13-4 record, a .921 save percentage, and a 2.45 goals against average.
Ryan Miller has two more seasons left on his contract in which he is making $6 million per year. Lack, on the other hand, has one season left on his contract and only counts $1.15 against the cap. The Canucks may also be willing to part with Lack due to the fact that Jacob Markstrom is still relatively young and was a solid rock in the AHL this past season.
Markstrom could step into the Canucks backup role next year behind Miller. He had a .934 save percentage during the AHL regular season and a .925 save percentage during the Utica Comet’s Calder Cup playoff run.
Personally, I would much rather have Lack on the Flyers than Markstrom. Markstrom has historically struggled at the NHL level, but the Canucks may be willing to part with Lack due to the way Markstrom has performed for their franchise.
Since he is 27 and has two NHL seasons under his belt, Lack is a much safer bet than Bartosak. However, Lack would also cost much more.
Zane McIntyre is currently a prospect in the Boston Bruins organization. He just finished his junior season at the University of North Dakota and won Mike Richter award as the NCAA Goaltender of the Year. He plans to forgo his senior season and turn pro. There were rumors that he may exercise his option to become a free agent, but it is looking more and more like he will sign with the Bruins.
Even if McIntyre does sign an entry level contract with the Bruins, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the Flyers would pursue the 6’2″, 210 pound goaltender. First of all, the Bruins are loaded with goaltending options. Tuukka Rask is signed for $7 million per year for the foreseeable future. In terms of backup options, the Bruins have their 2012 first round pick, 21-year-old Malcolm Subban waiting in the wings after two good seasons in the AHL.
Not only is Subban NHL-ready, but McIntyre will also be in stiff competition with 26-year-old Jeremy Smith. Smith was outstanding for the Bruins’ AHL affiliate in 2014-2015, posting a .933 save percentage in 39 regular season games and a .931 save percentage in the Calder Cup playoffs. Smith has been a career AHLer, but his numbers have always been pretty good.
Therefore, McIntyre will be heading into a crowded situation. The Bruins are currently in need of quite a few assets and may be willing to part with McIntyre at a reasonable cost. It may also help McIntyre’s adjustment to the pro game to be able to play for his former coach, Dave Hakstol. Hakstol, the Flyers new Head Coach, coached McIntyre over his career at UND and has shown his confidence in the goaltender.
All things considered, McIntyre and the Flyers may be a match made in heaven.
The Flyers may also seek out European free agents, like they did with Rob Zepp last year. If all else fails, they could probably find someone within the NHL free agent pool who will last to mid July. However, the options listed above would be helpful for both the upcoming season and the future, as the Flyers seek to build a contender.