With Ron Hextall fired, does anything change with Carter Hart?


There was a moment during Tuesday morning's Flyers press conference when team president Paul Holmgren took a long pause and a drink from his water bottle.

Holmgren was challenged for not defining the "philosophical differences" between Flyers management and Ron Hextall, and whether one of those differences was Hextall's reluctance to deviate from his plan by making a trade or promoting Carter Hart.

One report by NBC Sports' Pierre McGuire suggested: "there were people in the organization that wanted (Hextall) to bring up Carter Hart now rather than wait, and Ron didn't want to do that."

After not disclosing specifics of the differences, Holmgren touched on what Hextall's firing meant for the 20-year-old goaltender from Alberta, Canada, who has become a folk hero in Philly before he's ever even played an NHL game:

I'm in line with Ron's thinking on Carter Hart. Is there a time during this year where you could bring him up and take a look? I don't know, maybe. But to put him in, we're [24] games into the season, I don't know if we're at that point yet.

It might not appear like a lot, but there is a lot to unpack here, so let's get to it.

'I'm in line with Ron's thinking'

This is refreshing because Hart isn't quite ready for The Show right now, and bringing him up now isn't going to solve the Flyers' immediate goaltending problems. It could provide an instant spark but it could also backfire. The risk outweighs the reward.

It's important for the Flyers to stick to the plan with Hart and avoid temptation. We have to factor in the Flyers' deplorable goaltending history. They absolutely cannot risk rushing Hart.

"Long term, I know our staff thinks a lot of Carter Hart," Holmgren said.

While the Hextall firing signals the Flyers are no longer playing the long game, it's wise that they're still playing it with Hart. For now, that's the direction the Flyers are taking, and it's the right path to walk.

We could still see Hart this season

Holmgren's comments are twofold. Yes, he agrees with Hextall's evaluation that Hart needed AHL seasoning, but the Flyers' president left the door open for Hart to play in the NHL at some point this season. That's an important distinction to make here.

Hart isn't ready for the NHL today but in two months? Who knows. Maybe, as Holmgren said. There could be a time during this season where calling Hart up from Lehigh Valley makes sense.

The 20-year-old could begin figuring out the AHL and start dominating, but he hasn't done that yet. The start to his professional career has been extremely inconsistent.

In 12 games with the Phantoms, Hart has a .884 save percentage and 3.61 goals-against average. Those numbers don't exactly inspire confidence that Hart can swim in the NHL right now.

But once Hart gets more AHL games under his belt, things could change. The Flyers absolutely should not rule calling Hart up this season, and it appears Hextall didn't completely close the door either.

"I think Ron was along those same lines — maybe," Holmgren said.

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