Flyers general manager Ron Hextall will explore all options, including the possibility of making a deal to acquire a goaltender prior to the NHL’s Feb. 26 trade deadline.
“I can’t say I’ll go with the 23 guys on the roster right now," Hextall said Tuesday. "I’ll repeat what I always say — if I can make our team better at any position, we’ll look at it. The deadline is two weeks away. I guess things could change between now and then.”
Hextall was addressing the media a little over an hour after the Flyers announced starting goalie Brian Elliott would miss five to six weeks following core muscle surgery Tuesday (see story).
The possibility of adding someone outside the organization would likely be as a complement to Michal Neuvirth and not necessarily someone who will step into Elliott’s role as a No. 1 netminder. Hextall would also be looking at a goalie on a short-term contract.
“We believe in Michal Neuvirth. He has showed at times he can be a very good goalie,” Hextall said. “We’re pretty confident that Neuvy is a guy who can carry us through the short term.”
Elliott is expected to be sidelined for the next 17 to 22 games and Neuvirth should start the majority of those games. If Hextall elects to stand pat before the deadline, Alex Lyon will have to see some action, as well.
“Alex has proved capable at the American League Level. Here, he hasn’t proved it,” Hextall said. “Up here, I think he’s been OK. He can play a little better than he’s played for us up here. I have no doubt in my mind he will. Whenever you have your two goalies and you get down to one, you’re nervous no matter what.”
Elliott underwent the successful core muscle surgery after sustaining the injury during last Saturday’s shootout in Arizona. If the five-to-six week prognosis holds up, Elliott should return to action by the end of March and be ready for the playoffs.
“I’ve got a high level of confidence,” Hextall said of Elliott’s return. “First off, I believe in our training staff. I believe in our doctors. I know Brian Elliott is a warrior and he’ll do everything he can to get back as soon as possible. It won’t be the work or a pain threshold.”
Dr. William Meyers, renowned core muscle surgeon at the Vincera Institute, performed the surgery at Philadelphia’s Navy Yard. Elliott’s injury was a reaggravation from a previous injury he suffered in January, and the Flyers knew at some point following the season, the problem area would need to be corrected.
Elliott missed four games sandwiched around the All-Star break and the Flyers struggled in net, giving up 18 goals with an 0-3-1 record during that stretch.
If the Flyers are forced to dig deeper into the organizational depth chart, Hextall has a certain level of confidence in 28-year-old Dustin Tokarski, who has played 25 games with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season. Tokarski’s NHL résumé includes extensive time with the Montreal Canadiens in 2014-15, including five starts in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“He’s got experience. He’s got playoff experience,” Hextall said. “We wanted to add another layer of depth to our goaltending position. Dustin’s been good up there. Would I be comfortable if he came down here to play some games for us? Yes.”