Flyers Trade for Rights to Bryzgalov
In a move that was unpredictable and yet expected at the same time, the Philadelphia Flyers traded for the rights to Russian goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov early Tuesday evening. Although the Flyers are pressed against salary cap restrictions, the move may signal the end to the longtime and well-documented goalie carousel on Broad Street. Only time will tell if the former Phoenix Coyote will wear orange next season, but the statement that the franchise made Tuesday was digested immediately.
When team chairman Ed Snider spoke candidly following the Flyers’ second round playoff defeat about wanting a number one goalie, the directive was sent out. Not since the days of Ron Hextall have the Flyers had an elite goalie in net, and plan A was surely to end that. Regardless of possible cap casualties or the domino effect that signing a top-flight net-minder may have, when Snider talks, everyone within the organization listens.
That’s why he’s the chairman.
Philadelphia has until July 1st to sign Bryzgalov, and the immediate past has shown that it’s far from inevitable. Last offseason, the team acquired the rights to another goalie, Evgeni Nabokov as well as defenseman Dan Hamhuis. Neither ended up in a Flyers sweater, but the desire was there. That desire for a depth defenseman was lifted when general manager Paul Holmgren traded for Andrej Meszaros. In net, the desire was seemingly lifted with rookie Sergei Bobrovsky’s emergence through the regular season.
But, the playoffs told another story. Regardless of the performance that Bobrovsky and veteran Brian Boucher put forth statistically, the backbreaking soft goals killed momentum. Furthermore, they killed the Flyers’ chances of winning the Stanley Cup. It’s impossible to shelf the blame entirely on anyone’s shoulders, but the idea that Boucher and Bobrovsky were elite was only wishful thinking.
The defense was built with intentions of lightening the load on whoever was in net, as was the case when great defense helped the team reach the Stanley Cup Finals with Michael Leighton in net. With an injury to Chris Pronger and the wear and tear of a season showing on veteran Kimmo Timonen, the depth at the blue-line was rendered useless.
There are many different dominoes that may fall in result of the Flyers’ attempts to sign Bryzgalov. Maybe Jeff Carter is traded. Perhaps Ville Leino walks into a payday elsewhere in free agency. Tuesday’s move sent the message that the Flyers want to negotiate until the sun goes down on Bryzgalov, as they will have 23 days to figure something out. Most any stone that can be turned over in an effort to make the goalie a staple in Philadelphia will be lifted.
With 23 days to hammer out a deal, Holmgren has given himself a cushion that could turn out to be extremely valuable. The NHL draft will occur in that time span, and the crafty general manager can attempt to deal Bryzgalov’s rights if signing him seems impossible. He will also have the ability to mull over some options with the rest of the league in terms of trading a roster player if the Russian goalie’s signing is inevitable. The draft is always a hotbed of trade discussion and movement, so the Flyers may have their bases covered in terms of timing.
Regardless of the final outcome, the writing is on the wall for the frenzied fans in Philadelphia. The Flyers won’t settle for less than an elite goalie this time around, and they seem hell-bent on acquiring one. Once Snider makes his desire known, that desire can become a demand. Whether or not anyone else thinks that Bobrovsky is the future in net at Wells Fargo Center is irrelevant. The chairman has been heard. The acquisition of Bryzgalov’s rights say that loud and clear.
There's no guarantee that Bryzgalov will sign in Philadelphia. It’s entirely possible that he and his agent shut the Flyers out and he walks to free agency where other teams will clamor for his services. If that happens, it will be the first time this season a goalie under contract in Philadelphia has shut out anyone.