VOORHEES, N.J. – Hard as it is to believe, Carter Hart is about to embark on his sixth NHL season.
Doesn’t it feel like the Flyers goaltender has only been around for a few years? But actually he was a second-round draft pick (48th overall) way back in 2016.
Now 25, the Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada native is coming off one of his better seasons. Consider this: Even though the Flyers finished seven games under .500 and were a minus-55 in 2022-23, Hart was 22-23-10 with a 2.94 goals-against average and .906 save percentage.
Hart is entering the final season of a three-year deal ($11,937,000) but he admitted during a media session it really isn’t foremost on his mind.
“I honestly haven’t even thought about that yet,” he said at the Flyers Training Center. “I’ve been under contract the last couple years. It’s just another season for me, another season to grow, to get better, to prepare for right now. It’s in the back of my mind. I just worry about getting better one percent everyday.”
There were a few trade rumors floating around leading up to the NHL deadline last season but Hart said he can’t worry about things like that.
“Maybe it was a stresser for my family and friends,” Hart said. “They’re kind of in the dark and don’t know much. (GM) Danny Briere is a good man, a good manager. He’s done a good job coming in and I trust him and I know if something were to happen, he would be the guy to let me know. I’m pretty confident I’m going to be a Flyer. I’m happy here, I love playing for this city, for this organization. I love this city and I’m happy to be here.”
Hart said another reason for wanting to stay here is his good rapport with head coach John Tortorella.
“I think all of us playing for him last year that are returning got to know him better, know what he’s like as a coach, the daily process and the daily grind of an NHL season,” Hart said.
“I thought he was great, great for our group. He pushes us to be our best. And he gets the most out of everybody. He’s a demanding coach, he’s honest. I think as a player, that’s all you can really ask for from a coach.”
The Flyers said goodbye to three of their veteran defensemen; Ivan Provorov and Tony DeAngelo through trades and Justin Braun by way of retirement.
That means a lot more youth on the back line. Any concerns there?
“No, I mean I think the biggest thing is whether we have six guys that are kind of slated in now,” Hart said. “They might bring in some younger guys to get some experience. I think the biggest thing is communication. They can learn from the other veteran guys. They can learn from me and I can learn from them.
“I think whoever is playing in front of me, we just need communication and to trust each other and to build that trust.”
Hart admits it was hard to say goodbye to guys like Kevin Hayes and Provorov.
“Obviously it’s sad to see some friends go, guys that have played here for a while,” Hart said. “Some good guys, some good people left. I wish them all the best on their other teams. I think the people we’ve brought in, we’ve made a lot of changes on our staff and we’re still making changes.
“I think everything is going in the right direction. Obviously we’re in that rebuild state and it starts with a good foundation. I think we’re starting to build those pieces and lay out the foundation to get this going in the right track.”
A lot of people are picking against the Flyers. Hart said don’t be too hasty to write the Flyers off.
“We’ve obviously made strides,” he said. “We’re a team that was counted out quite a bit. And I think we surprised some people with how we performed. Obviously not making the playoffs is disappointing. But I think we surprised a lot of people and we grew a lot last year.
“I think going into this season, we have to continue to grow. I know we’re going to be young group and there’s going to be growing pains. We have to stick together and try to get better everyday.”
The Flyers certainly believe they can contend, even through a rebuild.
“We have a good group in here,” he said. “We’re young, we have some new faces that we have to get to know, build a trust with one another and build that culture back up in our locker room.”