The stakes for both the Philadelphia Flyers and top unrestricted free agent goalie Ilya Bryzgalov are undeniably high right now.
The Flyers have made their yearning for a big-name goalie painfully clear, especially considering high-ranking executive Ed Snider’s recent comments. The team must find a way to make Bryzgalov affordable, however, because they’re already tight up against the salary cap without adding what could be a hefty salary cap hit for the talented Russian netminder. You may recall that they were unsuccessful in their last two attempts to land free agents by acquiring negotiating rights early* (Evgeni Nabokov and Dan Hamhuis in 2010), so they’re probably going to work that much harder to avoid that fate again.
Bryzgalov has plenty riding on the line, too. Most obviously, he has buckets of cash to gain. It’s likely that he would like to avoid a Nabokov-like fate of just taking a bunch of money to play in the KHL, though. He probably wants the best of both worlds: the top-notch competition of playing on an elite NHL team while enjoying the riches of a high-end contract.
It will probably be difficult for both sides to meet in the middle, but they took an important step in at least trying to get that done by meeting up today. CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio reports that Bryzgalov showed up at the team’s Skate Zone facility with his agent Rich Winter to meet members of the franchise staff and being hammering out the details of a possible contract.
Panaccio writes that the Flyers are trying to play this one close to the vest, although they need to make significant progress with Winter and Bryzgalov before they leave on Friday.
Among the first to talk to Bryzgalov was goalie coach Jeff Reese.
“He seems like a really pleasant, easy going guy and he has very good perspective on the game,” Reese said. “If we sign him, I think we’ll be able to get along great. I was impressed with him.”
Winter, no stranger to Flyers’ brass, met with Holmgren as the two sides attempt to negotiate a long-term contract before July 1, when Bryzgalov becomes a free agent.
The Flyers acquired the Russian’s rights on June 7 in a trade with Phoenix.
“Winter’s not an easy guy to deal with, but if there is some give and take on both sides, this will get done,” said one observer.
As usual, the Flyers look to be an interesting player in this off-season. The consistently aggressive team would need to make some tough calls if they land Bryzgalov for the type of money most people are expecting him to demand, so stay tuned with PHT as the scenario unfolds.
* – One thing to note is that they haven’t always been unsuccessful when it comes to acquiring negotiating rights before free agency, though. GM Paul Holmgren was able to land Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen to being the team’s rapid rebuild that way, after all.