Ilya Bryzgalov
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Spaceman returns? Bryzgalov looking to play in the NHL again

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Ilya Bryzgalov isn’t ready for aeronautics quite yet.

The veteran netminder — who infamously said he would’ve been an astronaut had he not played pro hockey — is gunning for an NHL comeback, per the NHLPA.

More:

[Bryzgalov] just returned from a local Philadelphia rink on a Tuesday afternoon where he spent a few hours on the ice stopping pucks with his 10-year-old son, Vladislav, also a goaltender.

As he steps outside to chat – the cell reception inside of his house ‘isn’t great’ – it’s immediately clear Bryzgalov is seeking another shot at playing in the NHL.

“When I told my son I was looking to play in the NHL again, his eyes lit up,” said the 35-year-old, who is currently an unrestricted free agent. “He was so excited. Now he’s older and he understands the game more. It would be great if he could watch me play again, maybe to learn some things that can help him.”

Bryzgalov hasn’t played at all since the ’14-15 campaign, during which he made eight appearances for Anaheim… and went 1-4-1 with a .847 GAA and 4.19 GAA. That poor performance led to the Ducks waiving him and sending him to the AHL, before reversing course by placing Bryzgalov on unconditional waivers for the purpose of his release.

Once his stint with the Ducks was over, Bryzgalov was reportedly mulling retirement.

Best known for his mammoth nine-year, $51 million deal — one the Flyers used a compliance buyout on, just two years after tabling it — Bryzgalov is pretty far removed from his banner campaigns with the Coyotes, when he emerged as one of the league’s top netminders (finishing second in Vezina voting in ’09-10).

His comeback seems like a pretty big longshot.

Report: Bryzgalov mulling retirement

Ilya Bryzgalov
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One of the most interesting personalities of recent memory might be at the end of his playing career.

While helping young goalies at a summer camp, Ilya Bryzgalov told HC Lada of the KHL’s official website that he might decide to retire in the next month and a half.

His plan for now is to return to Philadelphia to be with his family. He doesn’t see himself signing with a KHL team, but he didn’t want to rule it out either.

In the end, we could see things play out similarly to how they did last season when he entered the campaign without a contract and wasn’t actively looking for an NHL gig, but ultimately chose to return when the Ducks approached him. Of course, it also wouldn’t be surprising if history didn’t repeat itself given that he posted a 4.19 GAA and .847 save percentage in eight contests with Anaheim. He decided to return to his family after the Ducks sent him to the minors in February.

It’s also worth noting that regardless of what he decides, he will be collecting paychecks from Philadelphia through 2027 due to his buyout in 2013.

If this proves to be the end of his career then he’ll be retiring with a 221-162-54 record, 2.58 GAA, and .912 save percentage in 465 career games with Anaheim, the Coyotes, Flyers, Edmonton Oilers, and Minnesota Wild.

(H/T Puck Daddy)

Change of plans: Ducks put Bryzgalov on unconditional waivers (Updated)

Anaheim Ducks v San Jose Sharks
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Just days after accepting his demotion to the American Hockey League, Ilya Bryzgalov has changed course.

On Thursday, the Ducks announced they’ve placed the veteran goalie on unconditional waivers, which is often the first step in terminating a player’s contract. In early December, Bryzgalov signed with Anaheim on a one-year, $2.8 million deal.

The Russian’s second stint with the Ducks — he began his NHL career with the club in 2001-02 — didn’t go very well. Bryzgalov appeared in just eight games, going 1-4-1 with a .847 save percentage and 4.19 GAA.

It’s still unclear what caused this latest change of heart. Bryzgalov had spent a brief time in Norfolk already this season, appearing in two games during a conditioning stint.

UPDATE: The Ducks have issued a statement explaining the situation…

“At the beginning of the NHL season, I spent all of my time with my wife and my children,” said Bryzgalov. “I drove my son and daughter to their practices and games and enjoyed life. I had no plans to return to the NHL this season until the Ducks reached out to my agent, Ritch Winter. I agreed to return because of my respect for the Ducks organization, the quality of the team they had assembled and my long relationship with Bob Murray and the team. Given the way things have worked out, I have decided to return home to be with my wife and children, who did not move with me to Anaheim. It’s not the way I had hoped things would work out. But when you can return to a family you love, could life be any better?”

“Ilya has handled this difficult situation with class and dignity, and I fully understand and accept his decision,” said Murray.” I have great respect for what he’s accomplished in his career, and specifically what he’s done for our franchise. He made an indelible mark on our club in the 2006 and 2007 playoffs and helped us to a championship. That’s not something our organization and fans will soon forget. We wish him the best of luck in the future no matter what he decides to do.”

Bryzgalov will report to Ducks’ AHL affiliate

Anaheim Ducks v Phoenix Coyotes
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Ilya Bryzgalov is on his way to the American Hockey League.

The veteran netminder, who cleared waivers on Monday, informed the Ducks he would accept his assignment to AHL Norfolk, the club announced today. Bryzgalov will re-join the Admirals for the second time this season; earlier, he appeared in a pair of games on a conditioning stint, going 1-1-0 with a 2.53 GAA and .915 save percentage.

There was some thought that the 34-year-old wouldn’t report to the AHL, but heading to Norfolk makes sense for Bryzgalov. One, the Ducks are still in a state of flux with regards to their goaltending; Frederik Andersen is out injured and John Gibson, for all his promise, remains a 21-year-old rookie with just 14 games of NHL experience.

After those two, the No. 3 gig is essentially up for grabs between Bryzgalov and fellow veteran Jason LaBarbera, and it stands to reason Bryzgalov could play his way back into form with some reps at the American League level.

That said, it doesn’t sound like Ducks GM Bob Murray is overly hopeful:

Bryzgalov clears waivers, Ducks recall LaBarbera

Anaheim Ducks v San Jose Sharks
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Ilya Bryzgalov cleared waivers on Monday — to nobody’s surprise — and, shortly thereafter, the Ducks moved quickly and replaced him on the active roster recalling veteran Jason LaBarbera from AHL Norfolk.

For Bryzgalov, this could be the end of his NHL activity for the season. Signed to a one-year, $2.88 million deal — which is a fairly big price tag, given he’s only played eight games for the Ducks — the 34-year-old netminder could report to AHL Norfolk, though it remains unclear if he’ll accept a move to the minors.

For Anaheim, the move gives them three goalies at the NHL level. LaBarbera joins John Gibson and Frederik Andersen — who’s close to returning from injury — and it sound as though Gibson will start and LaBarbera will back up tonight when the Ducks take on Detroit.