Veteran goalie and amateur cosmonaut Ilya Bryzgalov is headed back to where it all started.
Per ESPN, Bryzgalov is set to join the Anaheim Ducks on a tryout basis, returning him to the club he broke in with during the 2001-02 campaign — and the one he captured a Stanley Cup with in 2007.
The 34-year-old netminder will join Anaheim after the team suffered a rash of injuries in goal: John Gibson, the club’s prized rookie prospect, is out ’til late December with a groin ailment; journeyman Jason LaBarbera, who replaced Gibson as Frederik Andersen’s backup, is dealing with an upper-body injury.
The ailments have forced the Ducks to roll with an Andersen-Igor Bobkov tandem lately, which is high on promise but low on NHL experience. Bobkov’s never played in the NHL and Andersen still only has 48 games on his resume.
As for Bryzgalov, this will mark his fourth team in three seasons. He was bought out of his mega-deal by the Flyers following the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, then split last season between Edmonton and Minnesota.
Bryzgalov returned to the Wild for this year’s training camp, but didn’t sign with the club following the end of the exhibition campaign.
Before the start tonight’s rivalry game between the Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers on NBCSN, Bob McKenzie sat down to talk about a wide array of hot topics in the NHL. As you might suspect, Marc-Andre Fleury’s newly inked four-year extension and the Anaheim Ducks’ injury woes in goal came up.
One of the most interesting statements McKenzie made was the idea that the Ducks might sign free agent goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. He’s a controversial choice after his disastrous tenure with the Philadelphia Flyers, but he got his start with Anaheim and the team feels comfortable with him.
St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko’s upcoming contract negotiations were also discussed as his value continues to rise thanks to his explosive start.
You can watch that segment below:
What they’re saying about the Fleury extension
Calvin Pickard made his first two career starts on Thursday and Saturday because the Colorado Avalanche are missing goaltenders Semyon Varlamov (groin) and Reto Berra (neck). In light of that Ilya Bryzgalov’s agent reached out to the Avalanche, but the team isn’t interested in his services, according to Sportsnet.
Bryzgalov took part in the Minnesota Wild’s training camp, but he wasn’t able to secure a contract with the team. He had a 2.68 GAA and .909 save percentage in 32 games with Edmonton and the Wild in 2013-14.
Colorado’s reported rejection of Bryzgalov might have less to do with him and more to do with the team’s overall circumstances though. The possibility of signing free agent goaltender Martin Brodeur was also shot down, in part because the Avalanche don’t view Varlamov and Berra’s injuries as serious enough to warrant bringing in a veteran.
After winning the Central Division last season, Colorado is off to a 1-4-1 start in 2014-15.
The Minnesota Wild have once again parted ways with Ilya Bryzgalov — though perhaps not entirely.
On Monday, the Wild released Bryzgalov from his training camp PTO but, according to the Star-Tribune, the club is still in talks with the veteran netminder about his future.
Bryzgalov was invited to Wild camp in mid-September with the club’s goaltending situation in a state of flux. Josh Harding broke his foot and Darcy Kuemper was embroiled in a contract dispute, leaving Niklas Backstrom as the lone NHL netminder available (John Curry was also in camp, but has just six games of NHL experience.)
That Minnesota reached out to Bryzgalov wasn’t surprising. The Russian netminder had earlier expressed an affinity for the organization and city, instructing his agent to try and work out a deal to return to Minnesota under any circumstances.
Per the Star-Tribune (Aug. 21)
“Ilya would very much like to return to the Wild and further the success the team had down the stretch last year,” agent Ritch Winter said. “It was one of the most satisfying experiences he has had in his career.
“Ilya loved his teammates in Minnesota, loved the city and loved and appreciated the support he received from the coaching staff and Wild fans. He would love to be a part of helping this team to enjoy the success they had together last year.
“He has instructed me to do all I can to facilitate a return to the Twin Cities even if it requires him to compromise somewhat to accommodate the budget issues facing the team if that becomes a possibility.”
In light of this, it’s not surprising to hear the Wild and Bryzgalov remain in contact about his future. He could join AHL Iowa in the hopes of getting called up should Backstrom or Kuemper go down to injury.
Shortly after word surfaced that Josh Harding will be out indefinitely, many believed that Darcy Kuemper might finally gain the leverage needed to strike a beneficial deal with the Minnesota Wild. That may still be the case, but Wild GM Chuck Fletcher played his remaining chess piece on Wednesday by handing Ilya Bryzgalov a professional tryout.
The team announced that the 34-year-old will be in camp with the team on Friday.
Naturally, the intrigue doesn’t stop here.
Will this pressure Kuemper to take a compromised deal? Could this mean that Bryzgalov might be more inclined to accept a two-way offer he wasn’t particularly interested in before?
It all makes for about as interesting as a training camp situation as one can ask for in the NHL, aside from maybe when a team hits a wall with a prized player and people start airing out dirty laundry.
Really, it’s surprising that Bryzgalov hasn’t found a friendlier offer in free agency, though. For all of his weird quotes and recent struggles, he’s an experienced goalie (457 regular season games with a solid .913 career save percentage) who isn’t that far removed from being a Vezina-caliber netminder with the Phoenix Coyotes. He’s “carried the mail” as a No. 1 before, which is something very few backups can say.
All of that aside, would it be worth it if the Wild saved money and went with Bryzgalov + Niklas Backstrom for at least the beginning of the season instead of spending a little more to see how promising Kuemper really is?
It’s a pretty fascinating situation, and as we know with “Breezy,” things tend to become more entertaining when he’s involved.