As the Flyers head into the offseason, General Manager Ron Hextall will only need to fill a couple of job openings, such as depth on the fourth line, a couple of defensive spots and a backup goalie.
However, most of the vacancies will likely go to players from within the organization, including the second overall pick in next month’s NHL Draft, or a minor free agent signing.
The one gray area, though, is in goal, which bears watching and includes interesting subplots.
Michal Neuvirth, coming off a dismal season, signed a team-friendly two-year, $5 million deal in March and is penciled in as the team’s No. 1 goalie. A pair of players from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon, could compete to be his backup.
The problem is one, two or all three of the aforementioned goalies may not be on the roster this fall — or even beyond the first official day of summer. There is a lot of smoke brewing around the possibility of the Flyers not protecting Neuvirth and Las Vegas Golden Knights selecting him in the expansion draft in June.
Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee was in the same position with the Capitals when they selected Neuvirth in the second round in 2006. Since teams are required to expose at least one goalie, many experts have speculated Hextall and McPhee might have an arrangement already in place for the Flyers to leave Neuvirth unprotected so the Golden Knights can take him.
“I really believe [Neuvirth] is going to come back focused,” Hextall said shortly after the season ended. “He was really good for us [in 2015-2016]. This past year, he was kind of reflective of our team: inconsistent.”
Stolarz played well in a seven-game stint with the Flyers, but coach Dave Hakstol is not ready to anoint him the backup.
“From the small sample size and everything I saw, [he] was headed in the right direction,” Hakstol said. “Whether he’s ready to be a full-time NHL goaltender, I think we have to wait and see where he’s at in training camp.”
The Flyers must also wait and see if Stolarz is even 100 percent after having knee surgery just before the AHL playoffs started in April. Lyon performed well with the Phantoms but is a longshot to make the roster.
If Vegas does not take Neuvirth, Hextall would still be in the market for a backup goalie to compete with Stolarz and Lyon.
If Vegas takes Neuvirth, the GM will need a No. 1 goaltender and can choose from a long list that includes Steve Mason, Ryan Miller and Jonathan Bernier.
Regardless of what happens, it will be one of the few intriguing Flyers storylines to watch this summer.