Alex Lyon

End to End: How should Flyers tackle their goalie situation?

End to End: How should Flyers tackle their goalie situation?

The topic: How should the Flyers tackle their goaltending situation?

John Boruk
I’ve been contemplating the goaltending quandary for the better half of the past month and how it might sort itself out. As we’ve discussed, there are six NHL/AHL caliber goaltenders at a table that seats just four.

For starters, we could have some clarity during the draft if general manager Ron Hextall makes a trade (or two) that would give the Flyers a draft pick, a prospect or a player that can help the team next season.

I expect Hextall to work the phones to find an interested team for Petr Mrazek, or inevitably he becomes a free agent on July 1.

Brian Elliott returns as the Flyers' No. 1 when 100 percent healthy.

Carter Hart is the future franchise netminder and he needs to play and play a lot, which is why you can pencil him in as the starter for Lehigh Valley to begin next season.

That leaves injury-plagued Michal Neuvirth, Anthony Stolarz (also returning from major knee surgery) and Alex Lyon. I just don’t see the organization parting ways with Stolarz (a 2012 second-round pick) until it knows with certainty what it has once he’s healthy.

I would take all five goaltenders into training camp come September and let the situation play itself out. There’s plenty of injury risk on this team so why deplete the position especially when you consider how last season unfolded.

Tom Dougherty
Guess what. As another summer approaches, we're left talking Flyers goaltending. Fun!

I don't know how the Flyers can go into next season trusting Neuvirth. He has another year left on his contract, but there are ways around that. Neuvirth is a talented goalie who can never stay healthy. He's unreliable and that's a problem.

The Flyers have a goalie numbers problem. Lyon and Stolarz are restricted free agents and Hart is turning pro. Unless Hart shocks all, he'll be with the Phantoms full-time.

If the Flyers' plan is to bring back both Elliott and Neuvirth, that leaves one spot open in Lehigh Valley and that spot belongs to Lyon. He earned another contract with his play down the stretch, in the AHL playoffs and his time with the Flyers last season.

It's hard to imagine a scenario in which Stolarz returns to the club. It's a shame because he lost his spot on the depth chart because of injury, but that's hockey. If Neuvirth comes back, it's safe to say one of the AHL goalies will see NHL time next season.

There's too much of an unknown with Stolarz's health to choose him over Lyon. Theoretically, both could come back. The Flyers own both of their rights. But I could see Hextall trading Stolarz to let him get a fresh start elsewhere.

If I was in charge, I would find a way to move on from Neuvirth and allow Lyon and Stolarz duke it out for the NHL backup job. The loser heads to Lehigh Valley to mentor Hart.

Jordan Hall
It's never a bad time to talk goalies in Philadelphia, right?

Currently, there's a boatload to break down.

I don't see a major problem heading into the season with Elliott and Neuvirth as your tandem again. If both are healthy — I understand that's a big if — they can be reliable and have shown that to the Flyers with stretches of play. Both goalies are on the final year of their contract, so you enter 2018-19 with those two as your guys and if they can't stay injury free, then the good thing is the organization has options.

Right now, it just feels like Stolarz is the odd man out. You can probably bet Hextall is working the phones a tad on Neuvirth, Stolarz and obviously Mrazek. A trade is more than possible, but Hextall won't decimate his depth just because the Flyers have a lot of players at one position.

Ultimately, I don't foresee any big surprises. Looks like Elliott-Neuvirth in Philly and Lyon-Hart waiting in the wings at Lehigh Valley.

More on Flyers' goalies

• Following 'gloomy' time, what's next for Elliott?

• Why Neuvirth's NHL career hinges on this offseason

Are Flyers next? How Hart won over his junior GM

• After incredible effort, Lyon solidifies case for contract

Analyzing Flyers' free-agent class, Part 1

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USA Today Images

Analyzing Flyers' free-agent class, Part 1

While the hockey world awaits July 1 and the start of free agency, the Flyers are still looking to get their own house in order as they make the crucial financial decisions with a handful of restricted and unrestricted free agents. The organization has between now and the June 25 deadline to make qualifying offers to their RFAs.

We break down the Flyers’ free agents and their futures moving forward with Part 1 of our two-part series:

Valtteri Filppula (UFA)
Filppula simply doesn’t have the speed to keep up with the league’s younger, more skilled forwards. However, he proved he can still be a valuable asset on a penalty kill, a mentor to younger players and capable of that occasional big game (Game 5 vs. Penguins).

Comparable player: Tomas Plekanec, Maple Leafs
You have to think these two players will be watching to see what the other does when free agency starts on July 1. Both are in their mid-30s and play a very defensively-responsible game, while their offense has receded significantly over the past few years. Interested teams would be looking at both players as third or even fourth-line checking forwards.

Outlook: I’d be really surprised if the Flyers lock up Filppula before free agency starts. Filppula will be looking for a multi-year contract, which in all likelihood would be the last contract he signs. The Flyers can afford to wait out the situation and sign him to a more team-friendly one-year deal that would be at a 50-75 percent reduction over his most recent $5 million cap hit. 

Robert Hagg (RFA)
Hagg surprised many by earning a full-time role with the Flyers straight out of camp. A bruising defenseman who’s a good complement to a more offensive-minded blueliner, although he can be sneaky offensively as well. Hagg’s game tailed off over the second half of the season, but as a rookie, that’s not uncommon. Expect Hagg to bounce back in Year 2. 

Comparable player: Derek Forbort, Kings
Forbort plays a similar game to Hagg, although not quite as punishing with his checks and hits along the boards. Over the past two seasons, Forbort averaged just over 20 minutes per game for the Kings, who have considerably more depth on their blue line. Forbort signed a two-year RFA deal after seeing action in 14 games as a rookie.  

Outlook: General manager Ron Hextall would like to lock up Hagg for at least two seasons around the $1.25-1.5 million range and keep him under club control as a restricted free agent. You have to think Hagg’s agent would also like a short-term bridge, which would give his client a chance to prove his worth and then cash in with a more lucrative deal next season or in 2020.   

Taylor Leier (RFA) 
Leier showed potential as a valuable fourth-line forward who brings quickness and skill to the bottom six. Leier needs to develop into a more reliable penalty killer and provide that consistent jolt of energy he showed in the first 20-25 games of the season while maintaining defensive responsibilities.

Comparable player: Tomas Hyka, Golden Knights
Drafted two rounds after Leier in 2012, Hyka went unsigned by the Kings before he eventually latched on with the Golden Knights. Both Leier and Hyka are smaller, energy guys still looking to prove they belong in the NHL.

Outlook: Under club control, look for the Flyers to offer Leier a short-term contract with the expectation that he takes the next step in his development as an NHL regular.

Alex Lyon (RFA)
Lyon can take pride in his first two pro seasons coming out of Yale. He progressed from 2016-17 to this past season and gave the Flyers some decent play in net over his 11 appearances following injuries to Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth. Lyon wasn’t rattled when he was called upon at a moment’s notice to join the Flyers in a pinch this past season.   

Comparable player: Garret Sparks, Maple Leafs
Interestingly, these two AHL goalies battled each other in the Eastern Conference Finals. While Sparks didn’t take the collegiate route that Lyon did, the Leafs have shown patience with the 24-year-old netminder who has played just 17 games with the Maple Leafs in 2015-16. He will have earned between $575K-675K in the three years after signing his entry-level contract.  

Outlook: Somehow, I find a way to keep Lyon in the organization on a two-year, two-way deal around $750K annually. Lyon understands his role and how he fits in. He’s perfect as a backup to Carter Hart, who I expect to start the season with the Phantoms. 

After incredible performance, Alex Lyon solidifies case for contract

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

After incredible performance, Alex Lyon solidifies case for contract

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — By now, you’ve likely seen the video of Brazilian surfer Rodrigo Koxa who surfed the largest wave ever recorded just off the shores of Portugal. (If not, you can find it here.)

Phantoms goalie Alex Lyon is riding a similar surge of energy after his pinnacle performance exactly one week ago of a five-overtime 94-save effort that may have been one of the all-time best at any level of hockey.

“It just seemed like it was easy for him,” Phantoms coach Scott Gordon said Monday. “He knew where they were going before they did whether it was moving laterally or making a glove save or a screen that he seemed to be looking the right way. That was, to me, how the game had just slowed down for him.”

“When you’re going through it, it’s like, ‘Man, I just want to stop the next one so we don’t lose,’” Lyon said. “That’s how anybody would approach it when you’re in overtime like that.”

Like a marathoner, Lyon hit that proverbial wall after the first overtime period to only regain some energy and momentum before feeling sluggish again following the fourth overtime. For goaltenders who have been known to lose 10-12 pounds a game in water weight alone, Lyon resorted to burning carbonated water, which he was oddly consuming throughout the 147-minute test of endurance.

“It was just bizarre and just a funny way to learn about your body,” Lyon said. “We’re drinking Coke and pop and whatever we can. I’m not drinking a Coca-Cola every game for sure. That’s like a mortal sin. Really, it was like what could you put down for your appetite. That was just some of the weird things we were going through. It was a bizarre experience, but extremely memorable.”

Lyon is learning a lot about himself in his second year of professional hockey. Regardless of how his career unfolds, this season has provided a lifetime of memories — his first NHL game was followed up with his first NHL victory at Madison Square Garden coupled with his epic five-overtime thriller with the Phantoms.

“I guess I just like to look at the season as a whole,” Lyon said. “It was a huge advantage to be able to see those guys (Flyers) and being able to play with them on a day-to-day basis. It did nothing but help my game. At the same time, I feel like I’ve been grinding and working hard all year and I just try and get better every day.”  

At some point, Lyon will put 2017-18 into perspective. Then again, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall will likely help sort it all out for him.

Next season, Carter Hart will join the organization — either with the Phantoms or with the Flyers, leaving Hextall to make some tough choices. Lyon or 2012 second-round pick Anthony Stolarz, who was protected in last summer’s NHL expansion draft, could be the odd man out or Hextall could swing a deal that involves Michal Neuvirth.

Lyon and Stolarz are restricted free agents looking for that next contract. Right now, Lyon is making a strong case as Lehigh Valley’s go-to guy, having won six of seven playoff games with a 1.49 goals-against average and a .959 save percentage.

Maybe the wave comes crashing down or perhaps Lyon rides it out on his way to a Calder Cup championship.

Either way, it’s making an organization stop and take notice.