The Flyers and the Hunt for a Backup Goalie

USATSI_8448443_154158418_lowresAmong the issues the Philadelphia Flyers will be looking at this summer, goaltending depth has to come near the top of the list.

Steve Mason has gone through some injury troubles this season and that’s enough to make Ron Hextall a little more cautious in terms of a backup netminder. He’ll need someone who can ride out any storm should Mason buckle under the workload.

Word around the campfire is that Hextall hasn’t yet had serious talks with pending UFAs Ray Emery and Rob Zepp, which means he either wants to get a move on or wants to look elsewhere.

The Flyers always have the option of moving some bodies in the summer and acquiring someone via trade, but that’s a risk – especially if you’re mostly confident in your starter, as Hextall is. Mason has been stunning when healthy. He’s got a save percentage of .925 and a goals against average of 2.28 over the course of 45 games. He has three shutouts.

Yet even if Hextall is confident in Mason as the go-to guy, there may be some trouble behind the bench. Rumblings throughout the Flyers community have head coach Craig Berube not entirely in Mason’s corner, with many believing he overreacted on Thursday night after pulling his goalie after just two goals by the Calgary Flames.

Even his Philly teammates were perplexed by the decision.

Couple that with the Flyers’ (mis)handling of Mason’s injuries, which apparently resulted in the departure of goalie coach Jeff Reese, and you’ve got trouble.

Which again doubles back to what the plan is. If the stories out of Philadelphia are true, Berube will be bounced by season’s end and all should be right in goal for Mason. The situation in terms of the backup netminder becomes about who’s available.

There will be a bidding war for Karri Ramo out of Calgary, especially considering his place as of late. The Flyers can’t really afford to stand toe-to-toe with the deep pockets likely interested in him. Devan Dubnyk has elevated his status and is out of the question, as the Wild will likely re-sign him. Rangers backup Cam Talbot could be an option, while the Senators may push someone out to make room for Andrew Hammond. That means you, Robin Lehner.

Whatever the case may be and however things shake out, the Flyers have some work to do in terms of stability. There are downsides to keeping Emery (polarizing, bad hip) and Zepp (signs of wear, inconsistency) and that could mean movement on the open market for Hextall.


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