End to End: Should the Flyers Trade a Goalie?

Each week, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End this week are Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone, all CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters.

The question: Should the Flyers trade a goalie this offseason?

Dougherty
There's something about goalies and Philadelphia sports fans and media I just don't get.

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Should the Flyers trade a goalie this offseason? The answer is easy. No.

There is no goalie problem here. For once. The Flyers have two goalies capable of handling the starting job. Both bring different styles to the table. Both should be here next year.

Who's the No. 1 guy? Of course it's Steve Mason. He's proven himself time and time again here, but for some reason fans and some media members refuse to stand behind him. He's the reason the Flyers made the playoffs this season, a year before they should have.

Don't forget that. He ran out of steam in the playoffs, but that's understandable for a goalie who had to stand on his head every night so his team can get into the postseason on no rest. The goaltender was not the reason the Flyers lost to the Washington Capitals.

Michal Neuvirth came here to push Mason, and he did just that. What the Flyers found out is they have two very good goalies. Any goalie problem or controversy is outside noise.

The Flyers shouldn't trade a goalie this offseason and they won't.

Hall
I think the Flyers would reap the rewards, in multiple ways, if they traded one of their goalies.

Just let me explain.

As we all know, the Flyers have two No. 1 netminders. That's great.

But it's mostly beneficial when you're in contention to hoist a Stanley Cup - in win-now mode.

The Flyers are not, and that's OK. They're a good team, but not next-level good.

They're still grooming the future - and why not add to that by acquiring assets in a trade involving a goalie that's proven, not super young and, who knows, may have already hit his peak?

Both Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth can be unrestricted free agents after the 2016-17 offseason, so the Flyers could lose one of them for nothing in return. Mason carried a cap hit of $4.1 million last season, while Neuvirth was $1.6 million.

Both goalies have strong trade stock - it may not ever be higher. Dealing one would clear cap space, open opportunity for Anthony Stolarz to gain NHL experience as a backup and allow the Flyers to stock more for the future, which already looks bright.

Sometimes, good teams must make tough decisions to, down the line, become great.

It must be the right price, exactly what general manager Ron Hextall wants, but this would be a deal I think the Flyers wouldn't regret in the long run.

Paone
Should the Flyers trade a goalie this offseason? No.

Philadelphia and its goalies - a tradition unlike any other for the last 20 years or so.

I am of the belief that, as things currently stand, the Flyers don't necessarily have a No. 1 goaltender, nor do they have a No. 2 goaltender. Rather, they have two very good goaltenders they are confident in whenever either is between the pipes. And that's not a terrible situation to be in by any means.

Hextall is not dumb. He understands that the Flyers would be playing a very dangerous game if they were to unload either Steve Mason or Michal Neuvirth this summer.

For one, who would backup in the case the remaining netminder gets hurt, as has happened to both Mason and Neuvirth in recent seasons? Anthony Stolarz? Putting a young goalie into the fire like that after his first good pro season at the AHL level is not the best idea for his development. Goalie prospects are a different breed than any other of hockey prospect. The position is so specialized that seasoning at the minor-league level isn't just encouraged, it's necessary. One good season there isn't enough. There's a reason Dave Hakstol rode Mason down the stretch instead of putting Stolarz in for a game or two. He needs more pro-level experience.

Former Yale goalie Alex Lyon is an interesting name and the Flyers had so much interest in him that they decided to put last year on his contract (a very un-Hextall-like move, by the way). But he's never played a pro-level game.

The point here is the Flyers wouldn't have a trusted backup in the case of a trade. And trusted backups are needed in today's NHL. Say what you want about Pittsburgh's Matt Murray, but he was tearing up the AHL before his call-up so much so that teams tried to trade for him at the deadline in February.

Mason ($4.1 million cap hit for one more season) and Neuvirth ($1.625 million cap hit for one more season) are both signed to very manageable contracts for next season. Why make a move there now when there's a clean slate after this coming season when the Flyers can clearly reassess the situation and determine if a prospect is ready for a role with the big club? The team also has way more pressing needs right now (see: goal-scoring and defense).

Plus, what would the market really be like for either goalie? If you think the Flyers could get more than a mid-round draft pick for a goalie who's had ups downs and has had issues staying healthy consistently (categories Mason and Neuvirth both fall into), you're out of your mind. Is a mid-round pick really worth it? Nope.

That said, expectations will rise for the Flyers this coming season after last year's run to the playoffs and the infusion of young talent that's expected to come up to the NHL level. I believe that, while both will be with the team, either Mason or Neuvirth will need to grab a stranglehold of the No. 1 job sometime during the season before it becomes a distraction in the goalie pressure-cooker that is Philadelphia. Ask the Dallas Stars how the whole goalie carousel thing worked out for them recently.

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