Even though he knows Minnesota’s goal crease is crowded, Ilya Bryzgalov still wants back with the Wild.
“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.”
Bryzgalov, 34, is currently an unrestricted free agent and the Wild aren’t exactly in the market for a goalie, with Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom already under contract and a new deal being hammered out for RFA Darcy Kuemper.
That said, this latest development could give Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher some added leverage at the negotiating table. There appears to be a significant rift between what the Wild think Kuemper’s worth and what Kuemper’s camp is angling for, something Fletcher alluded to in early August.
“Darcy certainly has great potential and played very well in stretches for us this season, but at the end of the day I think he’s played around 30 games in the NHL,” he told the Star-Tribune. “Usually this isn’t the time to fight for the big contract. We feel Darcy right now is trying to establish himself in the league and once he does that it’ll be a little simpler to come up with terms.”
Fletcher has also stated publicly that “everything’s a go” with Harding and Backstrom health-wise. Harding’s shown improvement from his setback with multiple sclerosis, while Backstrom is apparently recovered from season-ending core muscle surgery he underwent in March.
All of this could put the squeeze on Kuemper… or, it could possibly open the door for Bryzgalov to return on, say, a two-way deal and be the first call-up should either Harding or Backstrom struggle with their health again.
Bryzgalov actually played OK for the Wild last season, going 7-1-3 with a 2.12 GAA and .911 save percentage in the regular season. After getting yanked as the team’s playoff starter early in the Colorado series, he rebounded to play reasonably well near the end of Wild’s second-round loss to Chicago, posting a .927 save percentage over the final two games.