Naturally, Carter Hart cracked many smiles Monday.
And it wasn't solely about his wallet getting fatter. Playing out his entry-level contract, the soon-to-be 23-year-old signed a new three-year, $11.937 million deal. But the moola did not seem to be the overarching reason for why the Flyers' innocent netminder was smiling Monday.
Hart has enjoyed his summer back home in the Edmonton, Alberta area, a relished opportunity to start anew and put the forgettable 2020-21 season in the past. Last season, an unorthodox 56-game sprint in the world of COVID-19, featured little enjoyment and a lot of adversity for Hart.
"The past is in the past," Hart said Monday.
He has turned the page while his team has turned to a new look.
Hart expressed excitement for both.
"It's been great," Hart said about his summer. "Everything's open here now, no masks, you can pretty much do everything without any restrictions now, so that's good. It's been awesome to see all my family and friends, just kind of hang out. ... Take a nice breather from the game, took about a month or so off the ice. It was nice to kind of just recharge and relax a little bit. It's been good, it's been a good summer. I got a lot of golf in, so my golf game has improved. I know some of the boys might say otherwise. It's been really good. Playing a lot of tennis and just been outdoors quite a bit, so it's been a good summer. The weather has been great here and it's been great so far."
Hart went 9-11-5 with a 3.67 goals-against average and .877 save percentage last season before he was shut down for the Flyers' final 13 games because of an MCL sprain in his left knee. At that point, the Flyers' season was already lost. The club ended up yielding an NHL-most 3.52 goals per game and owning a league-worst .883 save percentage.
The results of 2020-21 sparked some significant change by general manager Chuck Fletcher. Much of it revolved around the back end with the acquisitions of defensemen Ryan Ellis, Rasmus Ristolainen and Keith Yandle. On top of that, Fletcher added Martin Jones in net and Cam Atkinson up front.
"I've heard great things, I've talked to some of those guys already and they seem like beauties," Hart said. "It's going to be a lot of fun this year and we're going to have a great locker room. Just looking forward to getting started.
"Definitely a lot of new faces coming in. Sad to see some of the boys go, for sure, but it's a business."
Hart is eager to compete and work with the 31-year-old Jones, who has 62 games of playoff experience and is eyeing a bounce-back season like Hart.
"I've heard great things about Jonesy and I'm looking forward to meeting him here soon," Hart said. "That's what you want, you want to have a good competition between the two 'tendies. Me and Jonesy will push each other to be better in practice and off the ice. I think that's only healthy; you want to have two goalies that compete hard to play games. I think in the long run, it will only be better off for the team and ourselves."
Hart, whose birthday is Friday, still has work to do this month before he comes back to the Philadelphia area ahead of September training camp. He said the offseason training and communication have been good.
"There's been a couple areas this offseason we've highlighted together, from our goalie coach in Philly Kim Dillabaugh, with my goalie coach back home here Dustin Schwartz," Hart said. "They're all on the same page. It's been a couple things there that we've targeted to work on and I think we've made a lot of good progress."
In anticipation for a new year, putting the past in the past, Hart has the Flyers' Oct. 15 season opener in front of fans at the Wells Fargo Center circled on his calendar.
"I can't wait for opening night where it'll be a sold-out stadium again," he said. "How loud our stadium is and how loud they're going to be on opening night, it's going to be wild. We're all looking forward to it."
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