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Flyers address Carter Hart's status amid 2018 sexual assault inquiry

The Flyers' 25-year-old goaltender is out on an indefinite leave of absence for "personal reasons"

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VOORHEES, N.J. — A day after Carter Hart had been granted an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons, Danny Briere fielded questions about the swirling unknowns regarding the Flyers' goaltender.

Questions he couldn't really answer.

On Wednesday morning, Robyn Doolittle of the Globe and Mail reported that five members of the 2018 Canadian under-20 world junior team were told to surrender to London, Ontario police, facing possible charges of sexual assault from an alleged incident in June 2018.

Hart was the starting goalie for Team Canada when it won gold at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship. There has been no word if Hart's leave of absence is related at all to the police investigation or the NHL's investigation into the allegations, stemming from an April 2022 lawsuit filed against Hockey Canada.

London police, in a statement obtained by NBC Sports Philadelphia, said they were "unable to provide an update at this time" but that they "anticipate" holding a press conference Monday, Feb. 5 to "share further details."

The NHL did not have a statement.

Update, Tuesday, Jan. 30: Hart is being charged with one count of sexual assault, per his legal representation, which says he is innocent.

"We are aware of this morning's press reports on the very serious matter," Briere, the Flyers' general manager, read in a statement to start his midseason press conference Wednesday. "We will respond appropriately when the outcomes of the investigations are made public. The NHL has been very clear that teams should refer all investigation-related questions to them. In the meantime, members of the organization, including Flyers players, will not be commenting any further."

In September 2022, Hart said he was "fully cooperating" and "respecting the process" with the NHL's investigation. He made similar comments last April at his end-of-the-season press conference. More on that and his indefinite leave of absence here.

Briere said he has not been in touch with Hart or his representation. The GM could not comment about any timeline for Hart's leave of absence. The Flyers' immediate plan is to rely on Samuel Ersson, a 24-year-old rookie, as the club's No. 1 goalie.

"We don't know anything, we're not aware of anything," Briere said. "There's a lot of speculation, that's all we know. What I can tell you is Sam Ersson has played extremely well, has earned the right to more ice time.

"We don't know what's going to happen with Carter. The team has put themselves in a great situation, that's the exciting part. The other exciting part is that Sam Ersson has really taken a big step forward."

The Flames' Dillon Dube, the Devils' Michael McLeod and Cal Foote, and Alex Formenton, playing professionally in Switzerland, have also taken personal leaves of absence. They were on the 2018 Canadian world junior team.

Hart was selected by the Flyers in the second round of the 2016 draft. Last October, the 25-year-old started in his fifth season opener for the Flyers. He has gone 12-9-3 this season with a 2.80 goals-against average, .906 save percentage and one shutout.

The Flyers have surprised many this season, entering Wednesday in second place of the Metropolitan Division.

Hart is in the final year of a three-year, $11.937 million contract ($3.979 million average annual value) and is slated to be a restricted free agent in the offseason.

More: 5 Flyers takeaways from Briere's jam-packed midseason press conference

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