This is Carter Hart’s team now.
If you needed more proof, look at the goalie deal the Flyers made with Edmonton in the wee hours of Saturday morning, sending Anthony Stolarz to Edmonton for Cam Talbot, a veteran whom Hart calls his “mentor.”
Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher downplayed the Hart-Talbot relationship as a big factor in the trade, saying he acquired Talbot because of his ability and noted he has been a No. 1 goaltender.
But Talbot, 31, referenced Hart as one of the reasons he agreed to the trade, even though he did not have the Flyers on his list of 10 teams that he could be dealt to.
He waived his no-trade clause to go to the Flyers, calling it a “no-brainer.”
“I’m excited for the opportunity to come in and play behind a team that has been rolling as of late,” said Talbot, owner of a 2.59 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in 284 career games. “Obviously, my relationship with Carter is well-documented, so I’m excited to get going with him as well and do my best to help him along.”
In the last two summers, Talbot and Hart two have worked out together in the Edmonton area and have become close.
“He’s a great guy. He’s the guy I called before my first start just to ask him about pre-game jitters and what to expect,” Hart, 20, said the other day.
“It’s been fun to watch him do his thing since he was called up,” said Talbot, mindful that Hart equaled an NHL record by winning eight straight games before he turned 21. “He gave me a call before his first NHL game and asked me few questions. I think that’s what makes him as good as he’s been – he’s willing to learn and he’s a hard worker. He wants to get better and wants that guidance from people and he’s not afraid to ask for it.”
Talbot, a potential unrestricted free agent on July 1, said he would “more than happy” to sign an extension with the Flyers before the free-agency period and that he agreed to the trade because he saw an “opportunity in the future” with the team.
Stolarz, 25, a New Jersey native, showed lots of promise recently, going 2-0-1 with a .948 save percentage in his last three starts. If he remained with the Flyers as Hart’s backup, he would have been a pending Group 6 unrestricted free agent. (If he plays in 10 games for Edmonton, which is attainable, he will be a restricted free agent.)
Why is Talbot a better fit than Stolarz?
“Time will tell,” Fletcher said, adding that Stolarz’ contract didn’t have a bearing on the deal.
Talbot has struggled mightily (3.36 GAA, .893 save percentage) this season for defensive-challenged Edmonton.
So why did the Flyers deal for Talbot when it wouldn’t cost them any players if he reached free agency?
They apparently feel Talbot will get comfortable with the team and the area, giving them a better chance to sign him before getting to the free-agent-free-for-all.
The Flyers are hoping the 6-foot-4, 196-pound Talbot, who won’t get close to his last contract ($4.1 million annual cap hit), can return to his 2016-17 form, when he finished fourth in the Vezina Trophy voting.
“He has size, he has athleticism and he has good experience,” Fletcher said. “He’s a guy we’re excited to acquire, and we’ll try to get him in the net as soon as we can and see what he can do.”
After Saturday, the Flyers will have 24 games remaining.
“We have a lot of games left, and we just want to make sure we’re protected,” Fletcher said.
Brian Elliottt, an unrestricted free agent on July 1, is expected to return to the Flyers in a few days after a rehab stint with the AHL’s Phantoms. He presumably will be the No. 3 goalie. Elliott stopped 36 of 39 shots Friday in the Phantoms’ 4-3 overtime win over Bridgeport.