Connect with us


Cal Petersen Has Prime Opportunity to Reclaim NHL Job After Rough Couple of Seasons

(Heather Barry Images, LLC)

The Philadelphia Flyers will most likely not pursue a goaltender on the open market right now, and rightfully so. First and foremost, there aren’t many intriguing options to choose from, but more importantly they have a stout rookie in Samuel Ersson and a veteran with a decent track record in Cal Petersen.

The Flyers haven’t flinched since Carter Hart was granted an indefinite leave of absence, they didn’t flinch when he was taken off the roster, and they didn’t think twice when an unproven commodity in Ivan Prosvetov was placed on waivers. It wasn’t so long ago that Petersen played himself to a 3-year, $15 million deal and although he has slipped in recent years, the final quarter of the 2023-24 season is prime time for him to make a comeback.

Ersson is the de facto number one goaltender for the present – and most likely future – so he will earn himself the bulk of the remaining 26 games on the docket. However, John Tortorella has already intimated that they won’t run Ersson into the ground and they will look for ways to get Petersen consistent runs. He started last Saturday against the Seattle Kraken and earned his first victory in his first start since the 11th of November.

The schedule makers did the Flyers a little bit of a favour in February with just 6 games in the final 17 days. Giving Petersen the Kraken last Saturday allowed the Flyers to give Ersson plenty of rest before he was given all three starts last week against the Arizona Coyotes, Toronto Maple Leafs, and in the Stadium Series against the New Jersey Devils.

The Flyers end the month with Chicago on Wednesday, a back-to-back against the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins this Saturday and Sunday, and then the Tampa Bay Lightning the following Tuesday. Essentially, this opens the door for Petersen to earn at least one start and give Ersson plenty of time in between his games. Something to keep an eye out for is the beginning of March, where the Flyers play five games in the first nine days of the month.

Petersen might not bring about a lot of confidence from the fanbase right now, but when you look at what he accomplished in Los Angeles not too long ago, it should move the needle slightly, at the very least.

Petersen was drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Buffalo Sabres but never signed his entry-level contract with the club. He opted to forego his final year of college eligibility at Notre Dame, allowing the Sabres to negotiate a contract within a 30-day window but it ultimately never worked out. Petersen then signed with the Kings as a free agent on the 1st of July, 2017.

In his first season of professional hockey, Petersen played in 41 games for the Ontario Reign of the AHL and sported a 23-14-2 record with a 2.58 GAA and a .910 SV%. He wound up playing in 38 games for the Reign in 2018-19 but also earned his first taste of the NHL, where he posted a .924 SV% and a 2.68 GAA in 11 contests.

He played sporadically for the Kings in his first three seasons but in 54 games he posted a .916 SV% and 2.79 GAA despite going 19-25-6 for downtrodden Kings teams that won only 81 games between 2018-19 and 2020-21. After his remarkable start and a formidable 2020-21 season – for their standards – Rob Blake signed his goaltender to a 3-year deal worth $15 million in the fall of 2021 where the contract wouldn’t kick in until the 2022-23 season.

Things took an immediate turn as the Kings got better but Petersen’s play took a nosedive. He finished the 2021-22 season with a 20-14-2 record but posted a .895 SV% with a 2.89 GAA. The Kings wound up making the playoffs with Jonathan Quick as their starter, but they split their starts fairly evenly at 46 to 35 in favor of Quick.

2022-23 was not kind to Petersen, either, as he only appeared in 10 games for the NHL club where he posted a winning 5-3-2 record but an .868 SV% and a 3.75 GAA. Quick had lost his standing as the number one goaltender, Petersen was waived and subsequently sent down to the minors, and Pheonix Copley came out of nowhere and pushed the Kings over the line with his 24-6-3 run.

The writing was on the wall for Petersen, who also finished his season going 16-20-4 with a .904 SV% and a 2.88 GAA for the Reign. The Flyers came knocking in the summer and helped Los Angeles out of their cap situation as they desperately tried to find ways to alleviate money to sign Vladislav Gavrikov. The Flyers came out with Sean Walker, Helge Grans, Petersen, a first round pick, and 2 second round picks through it all in the three-way deal that landed Columbus defenseman Ivan Provorov.

Petersen entered training camp with an outside shot to claim the backup position but in reality it was always Ersson’s position to lose. The Flyers seemingly have lost confidence in Felix Sandström and the Petersen recall when Hart left the team insinuates which goaltender the organization feels more confident in. Petersen’s numbers with Lehigh Valley weren’t anything to write home about as he posted a 5-8-2 record with an .890 SV% and a 3.26 GAA, but perhaps with more leeway, less pressure, and an opportunity to strike with the Flyers, he might be able to play to his previous lofty standards.

On the season he has just 4 games and 3 starts to show for with a 2-1-0 record, a 3.00 GAA, and an .890 SV%. He earned his first start of the season against his former club on the 4th of November which was a 5-0 defeat. He then wound up facing the Kings again on the road on the 11th and stopped 35 of 37 shots for the victory. He made a relief appearance against Boston where he allowed 2 goals on 14 shots before making 17 saves on 19 shots against Seattle last weekend.

Many believed he was a viable buyout candidate when he was initially acquired with 2 years remaining at a cap hit of $5 million. Some have speculated that he could still be on the radar for a buyout with just one year left, but the Flyers need to be wary of their goaltending bridge with Hart off the roster. There is far less leeway, and most of the prospects are still a few years away, but Alexei Kolosov could be an interesting name to watch out for – nevertheless, inexperienced.

According to CapFriendly, a buyout would save the Flyers $4 million next season but would cost the club $2 million in dead money in 2025-26. That’s not entirely a terrible idea with the cap expected to rise exponentially over the next coming years, but with where the Flyers are currently situated, it doesn’t seem like a dire need to free up money for the sake of it.

2024-25 will also be the final years on the contracts of Cam Atkinson, Travis Konecny, Noah Cates, Garnet Hathaway, Morgan Frost, Tyson Foerster, and Cam York. With the salary cap expected to be around $92 million, the Flyers will have plenty of options to choose from, a lot of decisions to make, and every penny is going to matter, especially for the likes of Konecny, Cates, Frost, Foerster, and York.

As for the present and the rest of the 2023-24 season, the Flyers are going to need a steady presence from the veteran but he has shown flashes in his brief appearances. Once again, it is Ersson’s net moving forward, but with the amount of back-to-backs on the horizon and with the Flyers realizing Ersson can’t be run into the ground, Petersen has a legitimate shot at restoring his value in the coming months.

Flyers fan born in the heart of Leafs nation

More in Analysis