Philadelphia Flyers: Carter Hart deserves MacKenzie Blackwood money

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

One way or another, Carter Hart is going to be a member of the Philadelphia Flyers this fall, and surely for years to come.

While many of his peers are still striving for a long-term shot – as at 22-years-old, Carter was the youngest consistent starter in the NHL –  Hart has 101 NHL games under his belt and thus is eligible for restricted agency a year plus prior to any of his draft classmates.

Had his contract expired one season prior, Hart would already be locked into one of the biggest contracts in the NHL, especially for a player his age, but after struggling to match his 2019-20 form in essentially a contract year, that may no longer be the case.

If Hart wants to sign a long-term deal, something in the $6-10 million range simply is no longer in the cards.

No, if the Philadelphia Flyers are smart, they’ll take a page from the book of their friends across the Delaware River and attempt to lock up Hart on a deal similar to the one MacKenzie Blackwood signed with the New Jersey Devils before the 2020-21 NHL season.

Carter Hart deserves a Blackwood-esque extension with the Philadelphia Flyers.

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Carter Hart and MacKenzie Blackwood have a lot in common.

Both were the first goaltenders selected in their respective NHL Drafts, both made their NHL debuts in 2018, and assuming everything remains copasetic, should remain fixtures of the Metropolitan Division for a very, very long time.

So, logically speaking, why wouldn’t  Blackwood’s RFA extension – worth $8.4 million over three years – serve as a blueprint for that of Hart, especially when you consider the duo has had very similar starts to their professional careers? From a logistical standpoint, it makes sense, right?

While the duo don’t share a lot of similarities in net, as Blackwood is a big, lanky butterfly specialist, whereas Hart prides himself on a more reactive blocking technique that can look incredibly flashy when deployed correctly, both have a pair of seasons with 91.4-plus save percentages under their belts versus well over 2,500 shots on goal. With Blackwood’s contract serving as the most recent RFA deal signed by a comparable netminder, using his contract as a blueprint would make logical sense for Fletcher and the Flyers, even if it’s not exactly what Hart’s camp may have expected one season prior.

Then again, even after turning in one of the worst seasons of any starting goaltender in the NHL last season, Hart is still 612 days younger than Blackwood and could have well over 120 more games under his belt by the time he is eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2025 at the tender age of 26. Could Hart’s camp counter the Blackwood contract offer with a shorter-term deal at a slightly higher AAV, say $7 million over two years? That would present Hart with another bite at the free agency apple a season earlier while still under team control, hopefully after a pair of bounce-back seasons, while simultaneously alleviating a bit of risk from the Flyers’ shoulders if 2020-21 proves the new standard for the 22-year-old goalie.

Believe you me, I want Hart to be successful as much as the next Flyers fan, but the only thing worse than him falling off in a spectacular way would be for him to do so locked into a five-plus year deal that handcuffs the cap long-term. Overpaying Hart in the short-term could serve as insurance for his long-term regression discussed in a good-faith effort to give the young goalie a chance to sign a new deal a year sooner when the cap won’t be flat.

If that happens, Hart and Blackwood will both be free agents in 2023 and will be able to hedge their on-ice accomplishments against one another at their respective negotiation tables, which would be a fine bit of irony worth of appreciation.

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Will Carter Hart ultimately put it all together and regain his status as the best young netminder in the Metropolitan Division, or will his 2020-21 struggles continue over a full 82 game season and leave the Philadelphia Flyers in a bit of a pickle moving forward? Either way, locking up Hart on a two-year contract in the $3.5 million AAV range could be the best course of action for all parties involved, especially if they can improve their backup goalie position heading into a pivotal win-now season. Darcy Kuemper, anyone?