Holmgren: ‘Costly mistake’ resulted in Bryzgalov buyout, largest in NHL history

51 Comments

Say this about Paul Holmgren — he’s shouldering the load.

The Flyers GM owned up to a massive error in judgment on Tuesday, calling Ilya Bryzgalov’s nine-year, $51 million deal “a costly mistake.”

Holmgren is shouldering all the blame for this failed experiment, one that resulted in the largest buyout in NHL history — surpassing the Islanders buying out the final eight years and $17.6 million of Alexei Yashin’s deal in 2007.

And the Flyers GM is taking this on solo because, in May, owner Ed Snider shot down the notion of being the driving force behind the deal.

From the Courier-Post:

Q: True or not, the fan base believes that you are most responsible for the Flyers trading for Bryzgalov two summers ago and then signing him to a nine-year, $51-million contract. A lot of people also believe if Bryzgalov’s contract isn’t bought out that you’ll be the reason.

A: First of all, I didn’t pick Bryz. That’s not my job.

Our staff picked Bryz of the available goaltenders and (general manager) Paul Holmgren basically decided that was the guy he wanted. My role in the whole thing was to say, ‘We’ve got to get a quality goaltender. We can’t go through what we went through that year with the goaltending in the (2010) playoffs.’

I think we would have won that Cup (instead of losing in the Final to Chicago) if we had been a little more solid at the time in goal and not switching around so often.

The point is that I don’t get involved. I don’t ever say, ‘I’m signing this player.’ I don’t know enough about the players. We have scouts. We have Paul Holmgren. We have all the people that work for Paul that make these decisions.

That’s in stark contrast from the picture painted at the time of the signing.

In June 2011, this piece ran in the Philadelphia Daily News, suggesting Snider had plenty of influence on the deal:

Snider made it clear that he is the one who wants Ilya Bryzgalov in a Flyers uniform next season, setting in motion a directive at the end of last season that put general manager Paul Holmgren on a mission.

The Flyers acquired Bryzgalov’s rights on June 7.

“It had to be done,” Snider told the Daily News, just after arriving here for tonight’s NHL Awards show at The Palms Casino and Resort. “I was part of making it happen. It was hard to sit there and watch the Stanley Cup final, knowing what [Tim] Thomas was doing for Boston.”

As with most things, the reality probably falls somewhere in the middle — but that’s of little consolation to Holmgren, now responsible for what could be argued as the worst deal in hockey history.

After Stepan trade, Zibanejad negotiations become even more crucial

Getty
Leave a comment

For a good while, the center position in New York was largely carried by the one-two punch of Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan.

Now, the Derick & Derek show is no longer.

Stepan was shipped out during draft weekend in a blockbuster deal with Arizona. Brassard exited a year earlier in a move to Ottawa that brought Mika Zibanejad to the Blueshirts.

Zibanejad, 24, was acquired by GM Jeff Gorton in the hopes of one day becoming New York’s No. 1 center. He certainly showed he was capable this season — despite missing nearly 30 games with a broken fibula, he put together a fine offensive regular season and then surged in the playoffs, finishing with nine points in 12 games.

And now, a big negotiation sits on the horizon.

Zibanejad is a restricted free agent coming off a two-year, $5.25 million deal with a $2.625M cap hit. As we wrote earlier, Gorton is “open to anything” with regards to the extension, saying he’d be willing to go either short- or long-term.

One has to think Zibanejad has a ton of leverage. His acquisition price (Brassard) was significant, Stepan is now gone, and so too is depth center Oscar Lindberg, who was acquired by Vegas at the expansion draft. Right now, New York’s center depth consists of Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes and maybe some spot duty from J.T. Miller.

Lias Andersson, taken seventh overall at Friday’s draft, said he wants to make the Rangers this year. But there’s no guarantee he’ll even play in North America this season, as Gorton could opt to send Andersson back to the Swedish League for further development.

The free agent market isn’t especially inspiring down the middle, unless someone thinks they can land Joe Thornton, and there’s no doubt Zibanejad’s seen the paydays scored by some other good, young, top-line centers. Winnipeg gave Mark Scheifele $49 million over eight years, while Calgary gave Sean Monahan $44M over seven.

Is Zibanejad at their level? If you surveyed folks around the league, the answer would be probably no. But he could be soon and, what’s more, the Rangers may be forced to pay him as if he already is.

Sabres bring back defenseman Fedun on two-year deal

Getty
Leave a comment

Taylor Fedun, the Sabres depth defenseman that was set to become a UFA on Saturday, has agreed to a two-year, two-way extension, Buffalo announced on Monday.

Fedun, 29, appeared in 27 games for the Sabres last year, splitting time between the NHL and the club’s AHL affiliate in Rochester. He was a very productive player for the Amerks, scoring 23 points in 29 games.

Moving forward, most expect Fedun to continue in the same role he served this year — a guy that can provide veteran stability at the minor league level, and fill spot duty at the NHL level when injuries strike.

Ottawa extends Pyatt — two years, $2.2 million

Getty
Leave a comment

Tom Pyatt, the veteran forward who enjoyed some success reuniting with Guy Boucher in Ottawa last season, has re-signed with the Sens on a two-year, $2.2 million deal, per TSN.

Pyatt was a steady contributor for the Sens, scoring nine goals and 23 points while appearing in all 82 contests. He averaged over 15 minutes per night and was a vital part of the club’s penalty kill, leading all forwards in blocked shots.

He also appeared in 14 playoff games, scoring twice.

Prior to playing in Ottawa, Pyatt had skated under Boucher in Tampa Bay. They spent parts of two years together with the Lightning, before heading off to Switzerland — Pyatt with Geneve Servette, Boucher with Bern SC.

Pyatt was set to become an unrestricted free agent on Saturday, but clearly liked the fit in Ottawa. He’ll get a pay bump — up from the $800,000 he made last year — a bit more long-term security, and possibly a bigger role with the Sens moving forward.

Ottawa has already stated it will cut ties with veteran tough guy Chris Neil, and decisions are still looming on UFA forwards Viktor Stalberg, Chris Kelly and Tommy Wingels.

 

 

Kassian gets three-year, $5.85 million commitment from Oilers

Getty
Leave a comment

Zack Kassian, after some terrific performances for the Oilers in the playoffs, has signed a three-year contract extension in Edmonton.

The deal is worth $5.85 million, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie. That’s a cap hit just below $2 million.

Kassian, 26, seems to have salvaged his NHL career after missteps in Vancouver and Montreal. The big winger had seven goals and 17 games in 79 games for the Oilers during the regular season. But it was in the postseason where he really made an impact — especially in the first round against San Jose.

Twice Kassian scored game-winning goals against the Sharks. He was also a physical force:

Granted, Kassian was less noticeable in the second round, but the fact he received a three-year commitment from the Oilers speaks to the organization’s belief that he’s truly turned his life around.

Related: Kassian opens up about struggles with alcoholism