If you needed a sign the Flyers consider themselves legitimate playoff contenders, look no further than Monday night’s trade to acquire goaltender Petr Mrazek from the Detroit Red Wings.
With both goaltenders Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth injured, general manager Ron Hextall knew he had to make some kind of move for these last 23 games.
So he pulled the trigger on a deal which brings Mrazek to the Flyers in exchange for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and a conditional third-round pick in 2019.
The injuries to Elliott (core muscle surgery) and Neuvirth (lower-body injury, long-term in nature) left the Flyers with really only rookie Alex Lyon at their disposal.
And while Lyon did play well in Sunday’s 7-4 win over the Rangers in New York, it was unreasonable to think he could hold up to the rigors of the NHL for at least several more weeks.
“This is a sign that our players have done a real good job,’’ Hextall said, mindful that his team is among the top three in the Metro Division. “They’ve worked extremely hard and we’re in a tough situation.
“You lose your top two goalies when you’re fighting for a playoff spot. Our players have worked hard for a long time now and I didn’t feel like it was fair to not have a proven NHL goaltender for this team.’’
Clearly, Hextall believes the Flyers can make the playoffs and perhaps do some damage there.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs,’’ he said. “If we make the playoffs, then we’ll go from there.
The 6-2, 181-pound Mrazek has a lot of experience with a Red Wing team which was in the playoff mix up until last year.
“Petr’s a proven NHL goaltender, given the situation we’re in,’’ Hextall said in a conference call on Monday night. “We needed a proven goaltender and we got one.
“He was available. When you look at your list, you put a list together of the available guys, he was the available guy who really intrigued us.’’
Mrazek, 26, was a fifth-round (141st overall) draft pick of Detroit in 2010. This year, he has posted a record of 18-8-7 with a 2.89 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.
For his career, he’s 72-58-20 with a 2.60 GAA and .912 SP.
He is making $4 million (cap hit) on the final year of his contract. He is a restricted free agent for the 2018-19 season.
As part of the deal, Detroit will pick up half of the money on the remainder of the contract.
“We know how capable he is,’’ Hextall said. “Obviously, his experience in the National Hockey League and playing in a high-pressure market like Detroit went into our decision.
“We felt like we had to get a guy who had a proven track record.’’
The Red Wings have Jimmy Howard as their No. 1 starter, so Mrazek was somewhat expendable.
Detroit did get some value in this deal.
“The fourth (pick) in 2018 can move to a third if we make the playoffs and Peter wins five (regular-season) games,’’ Hextall explained. “That same pick can move to a second if we win two rounds of the playoffs and he wins six games.
“The additional third-rounder in 2019 is if we re-sign him.’’
Hextall said he has “no idea’’ if the Flyers will attempt to sign Mrazek moving forward. Both Elliott and Neuvirth have one year remaining on their contracts after this season.
“We like Petr,’’ Hextall said. “That (an extension) is something we’ll deal with when everything is said and done.’’
The Flyers were not dealing from a position of strength, given the injuries to their two proven starters. At least Hextall did not have to give up a roster player or even a prospect on the Phantoms or in the lower ranks of development.
“When I look at this deal, I think it’s a fair and reasonable deal for both sides,’’ Hextall said. “If Petr performs, Detroit gets more. If he doesn’t, they still get paid and it costs us a certain amount. But it’s not overpay.
“If we do have success, and we pay, then that’s good. It’s good for Detroit, it’s good for us. I like the make-up of this deal, I think it’s a fair deal. Both teams got what they wanted.’’
Hextall acknowledged he was in the market for a goaltender even before this trade.
“Yes, we were certainly talking about it,’’ he said. “It comes down to price, it comes down to. . .we felt it had to be an upgrade from what we had. Whether we would have (traded) if Michal hadn’t gone down, that’s a hypothetical now.’’
Lyon looks like a keeper for the future, but not in the pressure cooker of a playoff chase.
“Alex did a real good job for us the other night (in New York),’’ Hextall said. “We have a lot of confidence in Alex. But to have Alex be the guy right now, that would be an awful lot for a young player.
“We felt this was a prudent move for the sake of our team.’’
As for Neuvirth’s outlook?
“It’s not days,’’ Hextall said. “It’s weeks.’’
The Flyers called up left wing Oskar Lindblom from the Phantoms on Monday. Hextall said there might be an injured forward on his roster but did not want to disclose a name or the type of injury. Also, goalie Anthony Stolarz (knee surgery) was activated and loaned to the Phantoms. He’s still not ready yet for game action