After the Flyers and GM Paul Holmgren stunned the NHL world this afternoon making two blockbuster trades sending Jeff Carter to Columbus and Mike Richards to Los Angeles and clearing out more than $10 million in salary cap space, the Flyers had other business to tend to.
With that new found salary cap space, the Flyers took care of business with goalie Ilya Bryzgalov signing him to a nine-year, $51 million deal that will give the Flyers the franchise goalie they’ve been hoping to find for the last 20 years. With that kind of deal, Bryzgalov is set to play in Philly until he’s 40 years-old.
With a salary cap hit of $5.67 million over that time, the Flyers had better hope that he makes it all more than worthwhile in the end. With most of the money being paid out over the first seven years of the deal ($48 million) it makes the deal more interesting over the first seven years. With Bryzgalov’s money on the cap, the Flyers are at around $57 million against the cap for next year with a host of restricted free agents to sign like Ville Leino, Andreas Nodl, and Dan Carcillo and with the cap set at $64.3 million, that doesn’t leave them much room to do it.
What the Flyers will get out of Bryzgalov is something they haven’t had since Ron Hextall called the goal his home in the mid-80s: A top flight starting goalie. Since Hextall’s days a steady stream of hopeful failures have called the Flyers net their home. While youngster Sergei Bobrovsky gave the Flyers hope that he could be that guy this season, the Flyers obviously felt differently and opted trade for Bryzgalov’s rights and then rearrange the roster to get him signed on before he was due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Bryzgalov carried the Phoenix Coyotes to the playoffs the last two seasons including starting the bulk of their games in the second half of the season while winding up with 68 games played this season. Bryzgalov has played more than 60 games the last four seasons with Phoenix and Anaheim including 69 games last season. That’s a heavy workload and Bryzgalov running out of gas in the playoffs this past season showed that perhaps he’ll benefit from having a steady backup like Bobrovsky or Michael Leighton this year.
One thing is for sure, seeing how Bryzgalov handles the media and fan crush in Philadelphia will make for must-see television and reading. Should the Flyers likely end up in the Winter Classic, seeing him on HBO’s 24/7 will help make him into more of a star as his personality can shine. At least we’re thinking he won’t be too combative with the local press anyhow. Either way, he’s got nine years to get used to it or not. If he brings Philadelphia a Stanley Cup, he’ll be the king of the city.
Bryan Rust is really having himself a series.
After opening the scoring in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, Rust took matters into his own hands after Jonathan Drouin evened the score for Tampa Bay, notching his second goal of the game — just 30 seconds after Drouin scored — to put Pittsburgh back out in front, 2-1.
Before digging into the Rust goal (posted above), let’s take a moment to appreciate Drouin’s snipe, one that whizzed by Pittsburgh netminder Matt Murray:
Now, back to Rust.
With that second goal he’s now racked up eight points for the playoffs, just three back of the 11 he put up over the course of the entire regular season. The former Notre Dame standout has become a major storyline, and now sits tied with Patric Hornqvist for the team lead in even-strength playoff goals.
Not bad for a guy that spent a fair chunk of the year in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, eh?
What an Eastern Conference Final for Bryan Rust.
Rust scored his second goal of the series — and third point in as many games — to open the scoring on Friday night, giving the Penguins a 1-0 lead over the Lighting at Consol.
After scoring just 11 points during the regular season, Rust — in just his second season at the NHL level — now has seven points in 16 playoff games, and has emerged as a vital bottom-six contributor in the process.
Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin notched assists on Rust’s goal, which came early in the second period. The Pens out-shot the Bolts 8-5 in the first period, but were unable to get one past Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Oh, and speaking of Kunitz, he’s also produced extremely well in this series — he now has six points in his last five games.
As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.
Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.
Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.
That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.
Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.
It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.
To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.
Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.
In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.
And then Stamkos took the warmup.
As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.
“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”
No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.