Another Win Brings More Trade Deadline Intrigue for the Flyers - This Time at the Goalie Position
With just 26 days before the trade deadline, the Flyers are going to be at the center of a lot of rumors and talk.
The more they win – as they did again on Saturday, knocking off the Seattle Kraken 3-2 for their third straight win coming out of the All-Star break – the more they look like they’re going to be playing in the postseason.
But they still have to get there. To do that, they’re going to need someone other than Sam Ersson to not only play some games in goal, but to win a few.
Cal Petersen got the call against Seattle – seeing his first start in the NHL in 92 days – and was solid in net. He didn’t have to make many saves, only 17, but when he needed to make a stop, he did.
Petersen is aware that he’s on the fringe of being in the big picture for the Flyers, and needs to make the most of every opportunity he’s given. Over the final 30 games of the season, Sam Ersson will probably start 20-22 . That means the backup would start 8-10. The Flyers will need the backup to win about half of those games.
While it’s safe to assume Petersen will get a few of those opportunities here in the short-term, they aren’t quite committed to him for the future , the future meaning beyond February.
Flyers President of Hockey Operations Keith Jones made an impromptu appearance on Snow the Goalie’s Press Row Show before Saturday’s game. He was asked point blank about the backup goalie situation and here was his response:
Jonesy: “We have… a lot of Russian goaltenders in the pipeline. I’m looking forward to watching those guys perform over here when they arrive, and some will be here sooner than later. I think that’s a big part of our future, there’s no question about it.” #LetsGoFlyers pic.twitter.com/rGDPgmMNRv
— Snow The Goalie: A Flyers Podcast (@SnowTheGoalie) February 11, 2024
It was an interesting comment – and one that shouldn’t just be taken lightly. Here’s a team in the throes of a playoff race, that is going to need some contributions from their backup goaltender, and the President is talking about prospects who are going to be available to them sooner rather than later.
Yes, he said Petersen is a big part of it now. And credit to the veteran netminder for playing well enough to get a win against the Kraken. But he has to know that his time isn’t guaranteed.
“I understand the opportunity and it’s one that I’ve waited for for a long time,” Petersen said. “I’m still going to keep that day-to-day mentality, but it’s an opportunity I don’t want to let go to waste.”
— Flyers Nation (@FlyersNation) February 11, 2024
He didn’t waste the first one, but now the question is, how many more will he get?
If you look deeper into what Jones was saying, the goalie that makes the most sense of arriving “sooner than later” is Alexei Kolosov.
A Flyers third round pick in 2021, Kolosov, 22, has been playing lights out for a fringe playoff team, Dinamo Minsk, in the KHL. In 42 games he’s 19-19-3, but he has a 2.39 goals against average and a .907 save percentage.
Kolosov also has something else – a signed entry-level contract with the Flyers. Unlike 2023 draft pick Carson Bjarnason, who also signed his ELC, Kolosov’s contract is not eligible for the slide rule – meaning that the first year of the contract can be pushed forward one season.
That means Kolosov’s first year is underway, and it’s likely the Flyers will want to get him over here ASAP to get some value in that deal.
The next question is when that can happen.
Kolosov’s Minsk team has seven games remaining in their regular season, with the final game scheduled for Feb. 26th. It will be in the playoffs needing to earn just two points in the final seven games. And while Minsk technically could still climb in the standings, they’re five points out of seventh place in the West, so eighth place seems likely.
That means they will matchup with whoever finishes as the No. 1 seed, a fierce four horse race between some of the KHL’s top teams – SKA, Lokomotiv, Dynamo Moscow, and Spartak.
While the KHL playoff schedule is not available yet, last year the playoffs started on March 1st. With this being a leap year, it could start a day sooner, but assume two weeks maximum for the first round of the playoffs.
Assuming Minsk doesn’t pull some crazy upset, Kolosov could be on his way to North America as soon as the second weekend in March – or right after the trade deadline.
— Flyers Clips (@Flyers_Clips) July 8, 2023
Would the Flyers install him in the NHL right away? Probably not. They’d likely want to see him in the AHL for a few games at least to see if he’s an option for the NHL, but over the final month of the season, it’s possible that the Flyers look to Kolosov for a few games instead of Petersen.
This shouldn’t be a huge surprise. If you put the pieces of the puzzle together, you can see this was a well-calculated plan. The Flyers knew they were going to lose Carter Hart at some point – they just didn’t know when. As such they prepared for it beginning last offseason:
- They acquired Petersen as part of the Ivan Provorov trade
- They re-signed Felix Sandstrom
- They signed Kolosov to an entry-level contract
- They tried unsuccessfully to get Ivan Fedotov over to North America
- They traded up to draft Bjarnason in the second, and later signed him to an ELC
- They used their next pick and drafted Yegor Zavragin in the third round
Signing Kolosov to an ELC was always an indicator that they expected him over here at some point this season. Will he be a contributor to the big club, or just a late-season add for the Phantoms? Time will tell, but it’s starting to sound like they may want to give him a look in the NHL before the season is out.
Shuffle off to Buffalo
There’s been a lot of online chatter about the Buffalo Sabres as one of the teams sending scouts to the Flyers games lately. We play this game every year. We count the number of scouts who are in attendance at games and try to piece together why they are there and what that means.
The internet sleuths will read reports from all over the league and try to find two that could be pieced together. It’s how most rumors get started. The reality is, at this time of year, there’s going to be a slew of pro scouts at every game. Teams are doing their due diligence and checking on players. Sometimes a scout happens to be in the area, and goes to a game just to see what they can glean, even if it’s not their primary assignment.
We should always pump the breaks on the scout counting.
That being said, the Buffalo chatter may have a little bit more smoke to it than most.
Sources have told me that the Flyers have, in fact, been scouting the Sabres with a little more fervor of late. The sleuths will automatically tell you it has to be that they are going to be pursuing Casey Mittelstadt, whose name has popped up on the rumor mill.
That’s how this media circus works, right?
What if I gave you a different name, with a little more back story?
What if rather than Mittelstadt, the Flyers instead like Peyton Krebs?
Krebs, 23, was a guy the Flyers scouts liked in the 2019 draft and debated along with Cam York and Cole Caulfield. The Flyers ultimately took York at No. 14 overall, Caulfield went next to Montreal and Krebs went two picks later to Vegas.
Krebs was one of the key pieces sent from Vegas to Buffalo in the Jack Eichel trade, but Krebs has been blocked from being asked to play a more prominent role at the center position in Buffalo, where Tage Thompson, Dylan Cozens, and Mittelstadt are ahead of him.
Krebs was asked to play a fourth line role, and the center, who was such a prolific offensive playmaker in junior hockey, seemed to take nicely to a bottom six role. He has been one of Buffalo’s top penalty killers and in 2022-23, along with Zemgus Girgensons and Kyle Okposo, created an excellent shut down line.
Peyton Krebs gets his first of the season.
8-2 Sabres. pic.twitter.com/qlpnRXrwiA
— The Charging Buffalo (@TheChargingBUF) December 8, 2022
But the offense just hasn’t come in Buffalo, likely because of the role he’s being asked to play.
When he was in Vegas, he lived with captain Mark Stone, and Stone told the Buffalo News that he thinks Krebs can be a more dynamic player if given the shot.
“I’m sure he’s looking for more of an opportunity,” Stone told the Buffalo newspaper. “He’s one of the smarter players I’ve ever been around. … I think he’s [capable of] more than just playing on the fourth line, killing penalties. He sees the ice really well and has offensive talent and is really composed with the puck. For me, at least, I hope they can get him in more of an offensive position because he’s a pretty damn good player.”
Krebs is also a bit of pot-stirrer. He pissed off both Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang in games this year, forcing Sabres teammate Alex Tuch to call him the most wanted man in Pittsburgh.
That would certainly play well here.
But is he a realistic target? Is he a player the Flyers could acquire, and what could the Flyers send back to Buffalo?
Well, the first thing to note is Mittelstadt may also get traded. He’s only 25 and a restricted free agent after the season. He’s having a nice season, with 42 points in 51 games, and is certainly due a raise from his current $2.5 million salary.
The Sabres have plenty of cap space and can afford to sign him to a bigger deal, but they can also see him as an asset that brings in other needs as well and sell him to the highest bidder.
If they do that, they could simply promote Krebs to his spot in the lineup and feel good about it. Even though Krebs is also an RFA, he’s not going to get as good a pay day as Mittelstadt. So, they can focus their cap space on filling other holes.
However, one of the things Buffalo is looking for is a little more grit and veteran leadership in their lineup, and Scott Laughton could be an ideal candidate for them. He’s got a very palatable contract with term remaining (two more seasons with a $3 million AAV), and there’s no doubt he’s a beloved figure in the Flyers locker room and is the only guy wearing a letter on his jersey.
It’s that presence, work ethic and third line ability that could be attractive to the Sabres.
I’m not saying this is anywhere close to a deal. I have not been told that the two sides have exchanged this idea at all. But I do know Flyers GM Danny Briere has been as glued to his phone like a TikTok influencer talking to teams all across the league. I have heard the Sabres are looking for veteran leadership types and I have been told the Flyers have scouted the Sabres and are intrigued by Krebs.
Beyond that, I got nothing concrete.
But this is one that makes a lot of sense to me when putting actual puzzle pieces together.