It might be the dog days of the offseason, but the Philadelphia Flyers are still hard at work to get a leg up on next year.
The Flyers did just that on Monday morning, securing the stability in their crease that has eluded them for so long by agreeing to terms with goaltender, Carter Hart on a three-year extension worth an average annual value of $3.979 million.
The deal will keep Hart, a former second-round selection of the Flyers back in 2016, in the City of Brotherly Love through the 2023-24 season.
It's important to remember when evaluating Hart that he's only 22 years old. That is shockingly young for the position in the modern NHL. Most goaltenders of that age won't even sniff a big-league call-up for at least another year, let alone have three seasons of experience under their belt like Hart does. But Hart is a special case, bursting onto the scene with the Flyers in 2018-19 and stringing together a fantastic rookie and sophomore campaign in the process.
His third go-around, however, did not go as well. In fact, you might even call Hart's 2021 campaign a disaster.
Hart was downright dismal in 27 games for the Flyers during the pandemic-shortened season, finishing with a 3.67 goals-against-average, .877 save percentage, and -22.6 goals-saved-above-average that all evened out as league-worst totals in their respective categories among goalies who played at least 20 games.
So bad were Hart's struggles that, in the midst of a playoff race, the Flyers scratched him for two games on March 29th in order to afford him extra work with their goalie coach in the hopes that he could reboot. He didn't. And thus concluded the worst year of his career.
Statistically speaking, in fact, Hart was the worst starting goaltender in the NHL last season.
But the rigors of a pandemic tend to bring out the worst in people.
Freed from the strain COVID-19 places on everyday life, Hart was arguably the best young netminder in hockey prior to 2021, putting up .917 and .914 save percentages in his first two seasons with the Flyers that suggested he was their goalie of the future while leading the team on an improbable run through two rounds in 2020 Playoff Bubble during which he outduelled Carey Price.
That kind of success doesn't just vanish overnight. Hockey players are humans, too. And it's clear that the challenges of the past 18 months played a significant factor.
As far as the Flyers are concerned, they clearly believe that the goalie they saw set the league on fire from 2018-2020 is the real Hart, not the one from this past season. And with a three-year deal now in place at a reasonable cap hit, they have the time and financial flexibility to allow him to prove it.