Ilya Bryzgalov

Ilya Bryzgalov might not bolt to KHL if there’s a lockout after all

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Earlier this summer, Ilya Bryzgalov seemed pretty confident that he’d play in the KHL if there was a lockout.

On second thought, he told CSNPhilly.com’s Lisa Hillary that it might not be such a sure thing.

“You know, it’s a tough decision,” Bryzgalov said. “Maybe we’ll return to Russia and find a school for the kids, I don’t know. Maybe we stay here. It’s a family decision. We’ve got to sit together and decide what we’re going to do.”

Breezy gives the impression that he won’t really make that call until the dreaded date of Sept. 15.

Sarah Baicker explains why it could be such a “tough family decision.”

Bryzgalov’s two children returned to school Wednesday morning: son Vladislav started first grade and daughter Valery entered third grade. Certainly, it would be less than ideal for the family to pick up and move to Russia in the middle of the two kids’ school years.

What will Bryzgalov do if he isn’t playing hockey?

Bryzgalov said he has “plenty of things to do,” including “having fun.”

(Hopefully while practicing tiger safety.)

Bryzgalov: If there’s a lockout, I’ll play in Russia

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The last time Ilya Bryzgalov played in Russia, he was a 20-year-old suiting up for Lada Togliatti of the Super League.

Twelve years later, he might be going back.

Bryzgalov, now 32, told SovSport that if there’s a NHL work stoppage this fall, he’ll take his talents to the KHL.

From Puck Daddy:

SovSport: If there is a lockout, would all players go to Russia?

Bryzgalov: I will. But I wouldn’t talk for everyone. Some players like Switzerland, Germany…  I cannot make any decisions about the KHL myself until September 15. The lockout won’t be announced until that day. So I have a contract with Philadelphia.

It’s unclear which Russian team Bryzgalov would consider playing with. His former club, Togliatti, has since been relegated to the second division (VHL, or Russian Major League) and during the last lockout, he played with Anaheim’s AHL affiliate in Cincinnati.

Holmgren raises possibility of Leighton being Bryzgalov’s backup

Michael Leighton
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The Philadelphia Flyers got a decent haul of draft picks when they traded Sergei Bobrovsky to Columbus. Still, it did leave them without a clear understudy for Ilya Bryzgalov and while there will certainly be appealing candidates on the free agent market, Philadelphia is somewhat limited by its poor cap situation.

They need someone relatively cheap and Flyers GM Paul Holmgren apparently already has someone in mind.

“We talked about Michael Leighton, who is still really our guy,” Holmgren said, according to Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News and Inquirer. “Ilya plays a lot of games and we’re counting on him playing a lot of games next year. We’ll do our work and come up with a good guy.”

Leighton did have one good run with the Philadelphia Flyers back in 2009-10, which convinced them to sign him to a two-year contract worth $3.1 million. Over the course of that deal, he spent almost all of his time in the minors and ended up playing in just one NHL game. Seravalli claims that Leighton “made no friends inside the organization.”

Leighton is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and is likely to take a significant pay cut.

It’s worth noting that he did put up good numbers in the AHL, so maybe he’s still capable of being a decent backup under a goaltender that’s capable of making 65-plus starts. That being said, Leighton sounds more like a fallback option that the Flyers should only consider for the number two gig if things don’t go their way in the first week of July.

Giroux on Bryzgalov: “He’s gonna be the best goalie in the league next year”

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We’ve seen past instances of Flyers forward Claude Giroux showing public support for his embattled goalie, Ilya Bryzgalov.

On Tuesday, he took it to the next level.

Giroux joined Mike Missanelli on 97.5 The Fanatic to discuss a variety of subjects — the EA NHL 13 cover vote, his wrist injury, if he’s watching the Stanley Cup finals — with his most intriguing comments came on the subject of Bryz.

On the team getting frustrated with Ilya Bryzgalov’s act during the regular season:

GIROUX: If you don’t know what to expect coming into Philly, it’s not like in Phoenix — they don’t have a lot of media and stuff. It’s Philly, everybody’s a big Flyers fan and it’s great.

He didn’t know how it would be, but at the end of the season, like you said, he kind of adapted himself and he was good with the fans and he was playing his best hockey at the end, too.

Obviously next year he’s gonna know what to expect and if I had to predict anything he’s gonna be the best goalie in the league next year — I’m pretty sure that’s what’s gonna happen.”

As mentioned above, this isn’t the first time Giroux has gone this route. Prior to Game 5 of the Pittsburgh series, he told reporters Bryzgalov was “going to be great tonight” and Bryzgalov responded by stopping 50 of the 54 shots he faced in Games 5 and 6.

But…best goalie in the league? That’s setting the bar awfully high.

Does Philly need a better backup for Bryzgalov?

Ilya Bryzgalov
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Over at CSN Philadelphia, John Boruk takes a closer look at the Flyers’ goaltending situation behind Ilya Bryzgalov.

With this year’s backup, Sergei Bobrovsky, coming off a less-than-stellar campaign — and with no real guarantee he’ll be back next season — Boruk figures the Flyers will have to go shopping for a backup if/when “Bob” is dispatched to the AHL.

The Flyers need to find a reliable veteran backup on a one-year contract who can offset Bryzgalov, especially during those stints when he gets lost in that heavily wooded bear-infested wilderness that swallowed him up this past season.

It may not be one of the Flyers’ biggest, flashiest or more-expensive moves, but it could prove to be just as important come July 1. 

Boruk threw five names out: Tomas Vokoun, Johan Hedberg, Josh Harding, Scott Clemmensen and Chris Mason. All of them are unrestricted free agents with Harding (27) the youngest and Hedberg (39) the oldest.

One name overlooked is that of Martin Biron, the 34-year-old caddy to Henrik Lundqvist in New York that’s received high praise, most notably from CBC’s Elliotte Friedman:

If I’m Paul Holmgren, I’m doing what I can to get Martin Biron back in a Flyer uniform this summer. (Biron is a UFA.) You have to get Bryzgalov the best possible backup, a team-oriented veteran who will do whatever it takes to make your starter comfortable. This is your guy. The Verizon Center has a really tight visitor’s room. Biron would leave it during intermissions so Lundqvist had more room to spread out and relax. It’s a small thing, but a big thing and, for all of his friendliness, Biron understands the larger picture. Plus, he’d do a lot of talking, which would also ease Bryzgalov’s burden.

A real, real wildcard would be former Chicago goalie Cristobal Huet. He’s coming off an insanely good year in the Swiss league — posting a 1.99 GAA and .932 save percentage — and starred for Team France at the recently-completed World Hockey Championships.