Brian Elliott signs in Philadelphia for two years, $5.5 million
The Philadelphia Flyers’ search for a new starting goaltender after parting ways with Steve Mason has been far from a secret. Also less than secret has been that they had come to terms with Brian Elliott, lately of the Calgary Flames. That has been reported since Friday morning, but it is now official:
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) July 1, 2017
The deal is for two years at $2.75 million apiece, according to Andy Strickland.
Elliott spent five seasons backstopping the St. Louis Blues, where he posted a .920 overall in 181 games. By 2016, it had become clear that the franchise preferred Jake Allen and he was traded to Calgary with a year left on his contract.
Away from the Blues stifling defense, Elliott struggled, posting a .910 overall in 49 games. As InGoal’s Greg Balloch noted in March, it took time for him to learn to trust his instincts with the new team, leading him to play too deep and too cautiously early in the season.
“Learning to trust his defensive system took time and practice, but Elliott worked on positioning himself at the top of his crease and setting his feet. That stopped him from drifting, and allowed him to focus on the primary threat.”
Elliott’s strong play down the stretch was a big reason Calgary even got into the playoffs. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late. After struggling while the Flames were eliminated by the Anaheim Ducks in the first round of this season’s playoffs, the writing was on the wall for him in Calgary.
If there was a lesson Elliott took away from his year with the Flames that he can apply in Philadelphia, it was doing more to understand the nuances of a new system and defensemen to avoid early struggles.
“Wherever I go next, I’m going to focus a lot right away on communication so I can hit the ground running,” Elliott told Elliotte Friedman for a recent 30 Thoughts column. “Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, whether they would slide on a two-on-one, take away the back door or focus on the slot, I’d been with them (in St. Louis) so long I knew what they’d do. I knew when I could cheat a little more, or should do it less. It took a lot of video work with (Calgary goalie coach) Jordan Sigalet, but finally I felt better and could be more aggressive. It was a reminder that players aren’t going to change their tendencies in front of you, so you have to learn how to read a different team.”
Management in Philadelphia have to hope Elliott hits the ground running and regains the form that helped land the Blues four playoff berths in five seasons. With an improving but still young defense corps, the question is how much support the Flyers can give him and how well he’ll be able to cope with the kinds of errors young defensemen make. He’ll need to adjust quickly to the new environment.
As Elliott, who was the 291st pick in the 2003 draft by the Ottawa Senators, started in St. Louis on a two-way contract and spent time in the AHL with the Blues, told Friedman, he’s at his best when challenged.
“I thrive on that type of atmosphere: if you tell me I can’t do it, I’ll be the first guy to tell you I can, and show you how I can,” he said. “That’s how you get better. You have to battle your self-doubts and prove everyone wrong. I’m not going to shy away from a new city, a new team.”