When Phoenix Coyotes GM Don Maloney traded the rights to free agent Ilya Bryzgalov(notes) to the Philadelphia Flyers, he said the goalie was "looking to be one of the top-paid goaltenders and one of the top-paid players in the league."
Cleaning crews are still working hard to mop up the floors onto which so many jaws fell ...
Is Bryzgalov, 30, a top five goaltender? He's close. Is he a proven playoff performer? He's 12-13 with a 2.55 GAA for his career in 27 games, including his terrible 4.36 GAA and .879 save percentage this postseason (under mitigating circumstances, of course — the potential relocation of his team and the added stress of impending free agency).
But this summer, he's the best goaltender available, and the Flyers are a team whose owner put a premium on acquiring one. They're also a team that traded for the rights to Dan Hamhuis(notes) and didn't sign him last summer, and no general manager wants to get burned on that kind of transaction a second consecutive time.
They simply have to sign him, which means that that the goalie has all the leverage here.
What will it take to get this deal done? How much will it cost? And will it be worth it for the Flyers in both cost and cap casualties?
Wayne Fish of PhillyBurbs.com sees a possible investment of $5 million per season on a goaltender whose acquisition "had to be made now" in light of the advancing age of the Philly roster:
The thing in this age, however, is that there's no sure thing. Bryzgalov, a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2009-10, has done some remarkable work in the regular season but still has a losing mark in the playoffs, albeit for some underdog teams. Should he sign here (the Flyers have until July 1 to sign the impending free agent after acquiring his rights from Phoenix this past week) and then falter, the Flyers are left with egg on their faces and few options.
It's never easy. But at least the Flyers are trying.
Bryzgalov's mild postseason record (12-13) aside, the Flyers have been granted a golden and rare opportunity to add a game-changing goalie to their repertoire for years to come. It would buck the team's reputation of being chronically and laughably goalie-less, while also giving the Flyers an excuse-free season to target the Stanley Cup.
For that reason, among others, an aggressive and determined Holmgren should pull all the financial stops and hire Bryzgalov for the Stanley Cup-chasing task at hand.
Ah, but not everyone waves the pom-poms for Bryz. Check out Jerry Brown of the East Valley Tribune torching Bryz as he leaves Phoenix:
There is nothing in Bryzgalov's postseason resume to indicate he's simply a $60 million payday away from being that guy. Then there is Bryzgalov off the ice
• The guy who disappears into protected areas of the dressing room when he has a bad night, leaving his teammates to take the bullets and defend him.
More than once, heads were shaking and eyes were rolling around the room when Bryzgalov left the building after a 6-0 or 5-1 loss, took the next day off and waited for the heat to die down before resurfacing.
Good luck in Philly with that, Bryz.
• The guy who practiced when he felt like it, took a night off when it suited him (look at the teams Jason LaBarbera(notes) faced last season), and had his often strange and combative comments to the press explained away by the organization.
Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Daily News took a more whimsical approach to the talks, imagining a Q&A session between Paul Holmgren, Bryzgalov and his agent Rich Winter:
Winter: He's your man. I mean, he almost single-handedly carried Phoenix into the playoffs last season.
Winter: Yeah, but look at his record (36-20-10) and save percentage (.921) - and his goals-against is misleading. He had a mediocre defense in front of him. Put him behind Pronger, Kimmo Timonen(notes), Andrej Meszaros(notes), and the rest of the Flyers defense and you'll have a guy who will contend for the Vezina Trophy.
Holmgren: You make a good point. Let me check to see how much is left in Mr. Snider's checkbook.
Chuck Gormley of the Courier-Post crunches the numbers and thinks the Flyers' cap situation puts one man in the spotlight:
The only way for the Flyers to keep Bryzgalov's salary at a manageable $5 million or less is to stretch out his contract over seven or eight years, perhaps starting the deal at $7 million and ending it at $2 million.
The Flyers are just $450,000 under the salary cap, which is expected to rise this week from $59.4 million to about $63 million. If they place Ian Laperriere(notes) (concussion) on long-term injury next season they'll pick up another $1.2 million of cap space but not enough to fit Bryzgalov.
Hellllloooo Dale Tallon, Florida Panthers and a need to get to the salary floor.
Moving Carter still doesn't seem like something the Flyers want to do; although when the Big Boss Man wants a goalie, you have to move the necessary parts to get that man his goalie.
If he moves, will it be the Columbus Blue Jackets acquiring him? Probably; name another team that would be so eager to take on a guy signed through 2020-21 at $5.27 million against the cap per season, in exchange to a high draft pick and young assets.
Oh, right: Hellllloooo Dale Tallon, Florida Panthers and a need to get to the salary floor. (Just spitballin' here. No idea if they're interested.)