Is it time for Flyers to promote goalie Anthony Stolarz?
TORONTO _ Four weeks into the season, the question begs to be asked: Is it time for the Flyers to promote goalie Anthony Stolarz from the AHL's Phantoms?
Probably not, but the time is getting closer.
Veterans Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth, each of whom are off to awful starts, have proven to be solid goalies in the past and deserve a little more time to get their games in order.
But if their struggles continue in the next week or two, the Flyers should give the 22-year-old Stolarz a shot.
Drafted in the second round in 2012, Stolarz is 5-2 with a 2.44 goals-against average and .928 save percentage for the Phantoms this season.
Mason (2-5-2, 3.56 GAA, .874 save percentage), who dropped a 6-3 decision in Toronto on Friday, and Neuvirth (4-4 3.57 .859) entered the year coming off strong seasons. Both are in the final year of their contracts.
One of them needs to show he deserves a contract extension. If the Flyers don't resign one of them, Stolarz would be the only goalie in their system eligible to Las Vegas for the 2017 expansion draft.
There's always a chance Vegas would take a chance and sign Mason or Neuvirth as an unrestricted free agent. If that happened, the Flyers could not lose Stolarz.
But that's in the future. For now, the Flyers (6-7-2) need to get their goaltending situation fixed before they fall farther behind in the playoff race.
They are dead last in the NHL, allowing 3.73 goals per game.
Yes, some of the shortcomings can be blamed on the team's shaky defense and on the forwards who have not done a good enough job with their backchecking.
But the brunt of the problem has been the goalies. That's why Stolarz, an AHL all-star last season, might soon be a viable option.
Matt Murray had a 2.10 GAA and .931 save percentage in the AHL when he was recalled by the Penguins last season, and he led Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup.
No one is suggesting Stolarz will do the same thing with the Flyers. He does, however, appear to be almost NHL-ready _ and that should put the Flyers' goalies on notice.