What Carter Hart’s indefinite leave from Flyers means for Rangers

NHL: New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers
Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Did the New York Rangers just catch a break in trying to hold on to first place in the Metropolitan Division? It would appear that way after one of their key rivals received some bad news Tuesday.

The Philadelphia Flyers announced that goalie Carter Hart has been granted an indefinite leave of absence. The Flyers trail the Rangers by four points in the division and now would appear to have a goaltending issue on their hands.

“Carter Hart has requested and been granted an indefinite leave of absence citing personal reasons,” Flyers general manager Daniel Briere said in a statement. “The club will have no further comment at this time.”

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What Carter Hart’s indefinite leave from Flyers means for Rangers

After having a strong start propelled them to a significant lead in the Metro, the Rangers’ recent play has slipped, allowing the Flyers and others to gain ground on them. The race for the top spot in the division is now highly contested.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia has really come on strong in the past several weeks. The Flyers won six of seven games before dropping two straight. They are still, however, a very dangerous team that is hungry to win under former Rangers coach John Tortorella.

The initial take is that the Rangers no longer need to worry about the Flyers. But that is not necessarily true. An argument can be made that goalie Samuel Ersson has been just as good, if not better, than Hart this season. Ersson is 12-6-3 with a save percentage of .909 and a goals-against average of 2.36. He has proven to be more than capable as a starter and will have that role going forward.

Hart is 12-9-3 with a 2.80 GAA and .906 save percentage.

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So, while definitely a plus for New York, let’s not be so fast to count Philly out of this race.

Cal Petersen will now slot into the backup role for the Flyers, which is where they may run into issues. Petersen struggled last season with the Los Angeles Kings and has played average at best in his two starts with the Flyers. He holds a record of 1-1-0 along with a save percentage of .896 and a GAA of 3.50. This prompts a decision to be made by Philadelphia’s management.

Do the Flyers spend their assets on a goalie ahead of the trade deadline? Or do they trust Ersson and Petersen and bolster their roster elsewhere for a playoff run? Either decision comes with its own set of risks and rewards. If they acquire a starting goalie or even a reliable backup, it is fewer assets they will have to strengthen other holes on the roster. If they use their assets on other positions and their goaltending does not hold up, that’s a major problem.

Either way, the Flyers are now faced with serious adversity that may prevent them from contending with the Rangers for the top spot in the division. The Rangers can use all the help they can get right now, so they won’t hold a pity party for the Flyers. In the past 16 games, New York is 7-8-1. And Filip Chytil remains out of the lineup with an upper-body injury. There’s no timeline for Chytil’s return and he’s already missed 36 games this season.

Then there’s this: not only are the Flyers four points back of the Rangers, but the Carolina Hurricanes are right there as well, only five points out of first place. The New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders are in the hunt, trailing by nine points, but likely won’t factor in for the first-place battle.

Losing Hart indefinitely is a big blow to the Flyers, there is no denying that. That being said, Ersson has proven himself this season to be a capable NHL goalie. The Rangers are not off the hook by any means as both the Flyers and Hurricanes continue to apply pressure and try to overtake the top spot in the division.

Dane Walsh is a life-long fan of the New York Rangers. Growing up in the tri-state area, Dane has... More about Dane Walsh