The Philadelphia Flyers are getting a jump on the offseason by trading for the exclusive negotiating rights to former-Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryzgalov is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, but the Flyers would like to lock-up the netminder before he hits the open market. The proactive move gives GM Paul Holmgren and the organization the opportunity to negotiate a contract without any competition for the rest of the month. In exchange for the chance to sign the talented Russian, the Flyers had to give up a few assets.
From the Philadelphia Flyers official site:
“The Philadelphia Flyers announced today that they have acquired the rights to goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov from the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for LW Matt Clackson, the Flyers’ 3rd round draft choice in 2012 and a conditional draft choice, according to general manager Paul Holmgren.”
One of the worst kept secrets of the offseason is that the Flyers are in the market for a capable goaltender to go with the rest of their capable team. Rumors involving everyone from veterans Bryzgalov and Florida’s Tomas Vokoun to youngsters like Canucks’ back-up Cory Schneider and Kings’ back-up Jonathan Bernier have been floating around for a while. The search hit another level about a month ago when Flyers executive Ed Snider said he wanted a true #1 netminder and “(the Flyers) are NEVER going to go through the goalie issues we’ve gone through in the last couple of years again.” With this move, it looks like Paul Holmgren got the memo.
If the Flyers are looking for an elite goaltender, Bryzgalov certainly fills the bill. He finished second in the Vezina voting at the end of the 2009-10 season helping surprise most of the hockey world in leading the Coyotes to the 4th seed in the playoffs. Last season, he followed up his career year with another impressive campaign and another trip the post-season. His play slipped in the first round against the Detroit Red Wings—but then again, the entire team saw their play slip.
This isn’t the first time Philadelphia has been proactive in the free agent market. Last season, the Flyers traded for the rights to impending free agent Dan Hamhuis at the NHL Entry Draft in hopes of signing him before he hit the open market a week later. It didn’t work, but the experience didn’t deter them from trying it again with Bryzgalov this season. If it becomes clear that they won’t be able to sign the netminder before July 1st, they’ll also have the option of trading his rights to another potential suitor before the market opens.
If the Flyers can find a way to sign Bryzgalov, they’ll still have quite a bit of work to do in the summer. As it stands today, they’re right up against the salary cap ceiling. Even if the cap increases into the $62.2-$62.4 range as expected, they still need to make decisions on Ville Leino, Sean O’Donnell, Nick Boynton, and Nikolai Zherdev. It wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone involved if all four were allowed to walk away, but they’ll still need to fill those holes on the roster with other capable NHL players. Needless to say, if the Flyers are able to sign Bryzgalov, expect someone’s salary to be sent out of town sometime this summer.
Wherever there’s a will, there’s a way. If GM Holmgren has taught us anything, it’s that the Flyers always find a way to fit any salary they want under the cap. It may be at the expense of someone like Jeff Carter or Scott Hartnell (if he waived his no trade clause), but if the Flyers want a goaltender they can depend on, it might be the price they have to pay.
First thing is first: will they be able to get him to sign before July 1?