The Andrew MacDonald solution is probably the biggest question for the Flyers defense right now. Obviously, the return of Michael Del Zotto from injury means that the Flyers will no longer need to pick between Andrew MacDonald or Nick Schultz as the sixth defender.
So, the Flyers will once again attempt to maneuver themselves out of the MacDonald contract. In that past, some other options have been covered. Now, early into the season, yet another solution has potentially emerged: the Dallas Stars.
Last season, the Stars season was sunk by poor goaltending and the early indications this season are that Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen are not improved. Conversely, despite the slow start, Michal Neuvirth has a fairly decent NHL track record, and comes cheap compared to Lehtonen.
Lehtonen’s posted a .903 in 14-15, a .906 and so far this season, a .900. (Note: Stats embedded from hockeydb are auto-updated and may reflect differently for 16-17.)
At a 5.9M cap hit, he’s the more expensive of Dallas’s goalies and therefore the one the Flyers should target if they’re hoping to unload Andrew MacDonald. Michal Neuvirth would be the goalie going with him. Unlike Lehtonen, Neuvirth’s recent track record in the NHL is fairly good, like Lehtonen, Neuvirth has some injury concerns, but at a 1.625M cap hit, Dallas could stomach that hit. Given the Flyers cap situation, they could ask Dallas to take on the MacDonald deal while relieving the Stars of Lehtonen, so let’s assume the Dallas Stars have the Andrew MacDonald solution.
So here’s how this trade would work:
PHI sends Andrew MacDonald and Michal Neuvirth to Dallas for Kari Lehtonen with no retained money.
Lehtonen’s 5.9M would be a more palatable buyout for Philly as well.
Via Cap Friendly
The reason this works for Dallas is that burying a defender in the pressbox is a lot easier than hiding a terrible goaltender. The only way the Stars can out themselves from one of the contracts in net is if they’re willing to eat a bad contract the other way. Since they elected to not buy out one of the goalies this summer, if they hope to contend this year, doing so with MacDonald as their 7th defender and Neuvirth in net is probably better than a Niemi-Lehtonen duo.
For the Flyers, Anthony Stolarz was an AHL All Star last season and with a .916 in 15-16 and .915 so far in 16-17, he is ready to be Steve Mason’s backup.
Also, with Mason and Neuvirth both UFA at season’s end, Stolarz will likely be at least the backup for the Flyers by October 2017 so using Neuvirth to get out Andrew MacDonald’s contract isn’t destroying any long term plans. This is especially true since the Flyers goaltending prospects don’t just stop with Stolarz, Behind Stolarz: Alex Lyon, Merrick Madsen, Felix Sandstrom, Ivan Fedotov and Carter Hart all have NHL potential.
While the goalie depth, the Flyers biggest strength last season when they snuck into the playoffs, would suffer especially if Lehtonen is backing up Mason, but the added bonus of being free of Andrew MacDonald is far more important, especially since the Flyers championship window is only beginning to open. In the end, the Andrew MacDonald solution will likely be the pipe dream, but the method is simple, the only way to move him is to find a team who is equally motivated to move a worse contract out faster and has a window closing soon where the end of the MacDonald contract won’t matter.