The Philadelphia Flyers' hiring of Daniel Briere on March 10 as interim general manager signaled a potential shift in the struggling franchise's direction. Speaking with reporters two days later, he indicated a roster rebuild would be in the works following this season.
Briere stressed that a rebuild didn't mean a fire sale of players. "We have some good players here, some players that are in certain roles that we are going to keep," he said.
Nevertheless, the change in management sparked speculation over which players might not be part of the Flyers' rebuild under Briere. Goaltender Carter Hart was among those mentioned as a trade candidate.
Hart showed promise as a starter during his sophomore season in 2019-20 with a record of 24 wins, 13 losses and 3 overtime losses with a career-best 2.42 goals-against average and a save percentage of .914. He outdueled Carey Price to eliminate the Montréal Canadiens from the first round of the 2020 playoffs before falling to the New York Islanders in the second round.
Since then, Hart's stats have suffered in part because of the struggling team in front of him. The day after Briere's hiring, Sportsnet's Jeff Marek wondered about the 24-year-old goalie's future with the Flyers. He has a year remaining on his contract with an average annual value of $4.0 million.
Briere can open contract extension talks with Hart on July 1. He could be among the players the Flyers GM might prefer to keep. However, Briere could be forced to shop Hart if he's unwilling to remain with a team that's just starting what could be a lengthy rebuilding process.
Teams seeking a younger, long-term upgrade in goal over more expensive short-term free-agent solutions could take a keen interest in Hart. He could fetch a return containing a first-round draft, a promising prospect or a good young NHL player to aid the Flyers in their rebuild.
Here's a look at five possible landing spots this offseason. Do you agree or disagree with our choices? Is there a club that you feel should be on our list? Let us know in the comments section.
After 11 seasons of what seemed like a perpetual rebuild, the Buffalo Sabres are still playing meaningful hockey in mid-March. Granted, they're sitting six points out of a wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference as of March 18, but that's the closest they've been at this stage of a season in years.
The good news is the Sabres have this season's third-highest goals-per-game (3.63). The bad news, however, is their goals-against per game is also 3.63, which is the league's seventh-worst. The six clubs ahead of the Sabres in that category will not reach the playoffs, which doesn't bode well for their hopes this season.
A goaltending upgrade is necessary for the Sabres' quest to end their long playoff drought. Veteran Craig Anderson is 41 and cannot handle the starter's role on a full-time basis anymore. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has potential but lacks experience, while Eric Comrie is a full-time backup.
Acquiring Carter Hart will address that issue. He would take over from the aging Anderson, handling the bulk of the goaltending duties while Luukkonen continue to adjust to the NHL game. Hart would also be a good insurance policy if Luukkonen doesn't develop as anticipated.
Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings felt Cal Petersen was ready to take over from Jonathan Quick as their full-time starter when they signed him to a three-year, $15 million contract in Sept. 2021. Instead, he's now playing for their AHL affiliate after struggling through 10 games in October and November.
The Kings promoted third-string goaltender Pheonix Copley, who played well enough to earn a one-year, $1.5 million contract extension for 2023-24. They also shipped out Quick before the March 3 trade deadline to the Columbus Blue Jackets as part of the return for goalie Joonas Korpisalo and defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov.
Korpisalo's played well in his four starts with the Kings thus far, but he's an unrestricted free agent this summer. If they're unable to re-sign him or if he struggles over the rest of the season, general manager Rob Blake might cast his eyes east to Philadelphia and Carter Hart.
Hart would share the duties in the short term with Copley as his backup. His performance could improve on a playoff club like the Kings with a deeper roster and stricter adherence to defensive hockey. Adding him would mean finding a new home for Petersen, who might benefit from playing elsewhere, perhaps in Philadelphia if the Kings retain part of his cap hit.