Fixing the Flyers, Step Two: Amnesty Briere, Keep Bryzgalov (For Now)

Fixing the Flyers, Step Two: Amnesty Briere, Keep Bryzgalov (For Now)

Beyond missing the playoffs and having some obvious needs to
fill, the Flyers have a problem. The salary cap is set to decrease from $70.2
million to $64.3 once the new league year begins, and according to one
projection, as of today they would be over the threshold by about $3 mil.

It should be noted that this is only an estimate. Capgeek’s
current numbers
are showing some two-way contracts for young players who
finished this season in Philly, but may or in some cases are likely to be back
with Adirondack come October. There will also be some additional relief once Chris
Pronger (and just a guess, but perhaps Max Talbot as well) is placed on
long-term injured reserve, although that will be minimal.

Of course Erik Gustafsson and Oliver Lauridsen are both
restricted free agents who will re-sign, both of whom have earned the
opportunity to compete for a spot on the club next season if one is not already assured. The team may also be
interested in bringing back Simon Gagne at a reduced figure, as well as one or
two other unrestricted free agents – Ruslan Fedotenko, Adam Hall, or Kent
Huskins possibly?

The main point is the Flyers are already up against next year’s cap. That’s where compliance buyouts come in.

To the uninitiated, the buyouts – commonly referred to
as amnesty – were put in place with the new collective bargaining agreement to
assist teams in getting below the reduced cap. Sarah Baicker shares the details,
but in brief NHL teams have a total of two buyouts to be used over the next two
offseasons, and those players will no longer be counted toward the payroll.

Due to the nature of their finances, the Flyers basically must use one this offseason, and in my
opinion, it’s a no-brainer.

Victim No. 1

While Danny Briere is great in the locker room, great during
the playoffs, and seemingly a great guy, the organization has to move on this
summer. His $6.5 million cap hit is easily the largest on the team, and the
production nowhere near matches that any longer. One way or another, his departure is very much expected at this stage.

Briere was a complete non-factor this season, scoring six
goals and 10 assists with a -13 in 34 games. His 6.9 shot percentage was less
than half its career mark (14.4). Yes, he battled a wrist injury at the
beginning of the year and later missed time with a concussion, but the writing
was on the wall already last season when Briere posted 49 points in 70 games
with a 9.2 shot percentage, among the lowest totals in his career.

Fan favorite or not, Briere will turn 36 before next season
begins, so even if he rebounds somewhat the expectation is his best days are behind him.
It makes sense from a business standpoint as well – the team still has to pay
two-thirds of an amnestied player’s contract, but Briere only has two years
left on his deal anyway, so it’s not an excessive amount of money the
organization would be “throwing away” so to speak.

The Flyers could also attempt to trade Briere if he agreed, perhaps to a team that could use his salary to boost their payroll above the floor and could use some veteran leadership, or one searching for the final piece. Either way, the fact is his $6.5 million would give Philly's front
office some breathing room this summer, even a little money to play with, while based on what he’s done over the past
two seasons and in 2013 in particular they wouldn’t lose too much production on
the ice. It’s a little sad, but it’s Briere’s time.

Not so fast…

On the other hand, while using a buyout on
Ilya Bryzgalov merits consideration, I would hold off on that for another year at least. Bryz’s
$5.67 million cap hit by itself is not outlandish – that currently ranks ninth
among NHL goaltenders for the upcoming 2013-14 season – not to mention getting
rid of him puts the Flyers right back in the same bind the franchise has been
in seemingly forever.

Yes, Bryzgalov’s numbers were abysmal this year. He managed
to post a .900 save percentage to go with an ugly 2.79 goals against average,
the latter being among the worst in the league. Yet simply looking at statistics
doesn’t tell the whole story. For much of the season, defensive breakdowns plus
ill-timed turnovers left Bryz hanging out to dry, often numerous times per
game. And while he’s not alone in being overworked this season, and some
goalies handled it better than others, overusage couldn’t have helped.

The debate basically hinges on whether or not he is a good netminder,
and while many Flyers fans think no, it’s not necessarily a view shared around
hockey. He’s previously been named an All Star and has finished as runner-up for the
Vezina Trophy. It was even reported recently that Bryz will be Russia’s number
one goalie in the World Championships, ahead of… Sergei Bobrovsky.

It’s not about whether he can play or not – he can, at least
in the right situation. The real issue is contractual. While Bryzgalov’s salary
is not out of line with what veteran starting goaltenders are paid around the
league, the fact that his contract lasts until he turns 40 is a bit unsettling,
especially given how things have gone so far.

Of course, that’s another reason why the organization might
want to wait. While the contract comes off the books as far as the salary cap
is concerned, the Flyers still have to pay two-thirds of $34.5
million they owe Bryzgalov on the last seven years of his deal. Do the math. That’s a lot of
cash to pay somebody to go away.

They might as well keep Bryz for another year and give
him one more chance to prove himself, because even if they did use amnesty,
what are the Flyers going to do in goal? Steve Mason’s numbers for his entire
career are just as bad as what Bryzgalov posted this one season, and unless
they went out and paid another number one goaltender they will be right back in
the mess that landed the cosmonaut in Philly in the first place – a goalie
carousel.

Let Bryzgalov battle it out for Mason for a full season, let 2012
second-round prospect Anthony Stolarz develop for another season at the lower levels,
and make a determination next offseason. What’s the rush to give Bryz the boot?

Previously: Step One: Don't Panic Over a Shortened Season

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Josh Norman goes WWE on division, ready for Alshon Jeffery

Josh Norman goes WWE on division, ready for Alshon Jeffery

Josh Norman is going all WWE on the NFC East. 

Washington's outspoken cornerback is featured in a lengthy Q&A with Bleacher Report and he's, well, outspoken. 

He starts in the story by saying crazy things like this: "I feel like King Leonidas leading an army into battle, leading troops into defending your territory."

Yeah, off to a good start. 

He then goes after his nemesis Odell Beckham Jr. hard, calls Dez Bryant "just a guy" and even has some thoughts on new Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery. 

Norman praised receivers Julio Jones and Antonio Brown, saying there aren't those types of challenging players in the NFC East. He was asked if there was any player he has circled on his schedule. 

Jeffery was the one that came to mind. 

"Alshon [Jeffery] is going to be with us this year," Norman told Bleacher Report. "He's a big guy. He uses his body. And I enjoy going against big guys because they think they can get physical with me. They think that. That's quite the contrary."

Norman will get his shot against Jeffery in the opener, when the Eagles travel to Washington on Sept. 10. 

Comparatively, Jeffery got off easy. Norman was much less complimentary when speaking about Beckham, with whom he has an infamous history, and Bryant, the Cowboys' top receiver. 

On Bryant: "That's a guy. Just a guy. Dez was Dez in 2012, '13, '14. Maybe '14. Now? He's a guy."

Norman might have a little point with Bryant, who has failed to go over 800 yards in either of his last two seasons. In 2016, he caught 50 passes for 796 yards and eight touchdowns. From 2012-14, Dez was over 12,000 yards with at least 12 touchdowns in each of the three seasons. 

He even called Bryant a "fake tough guy" for his behavior on the field.  

But even Bryant got off easy. 

There's no secret about the way Norman feels toward Beckham. And Norman didn't hold anything back. Based on his comments, the WWE speak may turn into WWE-type action during the 2017 season. 

Here's a part of the Q&A about ODB: 

You get Beckham twice a year now.

Yeah, and that game gets so hyped up by the time we play them, it won't even be Giants vs. Washington—it'll be me and him. You know what I'm saying? It's like when it becomes bigger than the game. ... Because now you have us on Thanksgiving Night. C'mon, man!

So when you think of Odell, what is his game?

He tries to be a tough guy. He tries to put on this persona which he's not. Because he's always going to have his head on a swivel. Always. Always when we play each other. He's scary like that. He does things that he normally wouldn't do because of all the pressure and added hype that he has to put on his whole persona. He's not this guy. If you go back and watch the games in which we play compared to the games we don't play each other, he's a totally different guy.

How so?

When people get physical, tough, like the Minnesota game, he acts out. He's a kid. He's a big kid, man.

Like messing around with a kicker's net.

When you really, really want to see what a person's really like, you get in their face, you smell what they ate and you take their soul from them. How do you do that? You put your fist right into their chest and you see what they're made out of.

And you did exactly that with him. What did you see in Beckham?

You see a person who's actually not what they're made out to be. Because they come back at you. And that's not him. They come back at you in a way like, "He's not going to punk me! He's not going to sissy me out!" All right! But then when you go and you do things you're not accustomed to doing, that's pretty much what it is.

This is going to be fun. 

Throughout the whole thing, Norman speaks like a classing wrestling heel. If nothing else, the trash talk is going to make the NFC East more fun. 

ESPN hires Chip Kelly as college football studio analyst

ESPN hires Chip Kelly as college football studio analyst

Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly is joining ESPN as a studio analyst next season.

ESPN announced Friday it has signed Kelly to a multiyear deal.

Kelly will primarily be part of Saturday pregame, halftime and wrap-up shows on ESPN2. He'll also provide NFL analysis on Sundays during SportsCenter.

The 53-year-old Kelly spent the last four seasons in the NFL, coaching the Philadelphia for three years and San Francisco for one. Kelly was fired by the 49ers after going 2-14 last season. He was 26-21 with a playoff appearance for the Eagles.

Before jumping to the NFL, Kelly spent four seasons as Oregon head coach and went 46-7. In 2010, Kelly led the Ducks to the BCS title game and was The Associated Press coach of the year.

"I spoke with a lot of people this offseason about different situations for me -- in coaching and TV," Kelly said in a statement. "I had various opportunities in both. In the end, I have had a relationship with ESPN for many years from when I was coaching and after speaking with them, I decided it was the best step for me to take."

Kelly figures to be in demand at the college level when head coaching jobs begin opening next season. Spending a season or two doing television has been a common path for coaches between jobs. Urban Meyer spent a season at ESPN between resigning from Florida and landing at Ohio State. So did Rich Rodriguez after being fired by Michigan and before being hired by Arizona.

"I have been a coach for nearly the last 30 years," Kelly said. "Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different perspective, but I didn't take the job with the intention it will lead to something specific. I love the game of football and working with good, smart people; ESPN presents an opportunity to combine those two things."

Kelly will fill an opening left by Butch Davis, who became head coach at Florida International.

Kelly was considered one of the most innovative coaches in college football. His up-tempo spread offenses dominated defenses and were mimicked by teams all over the country.

"As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach," said Lee Fitting, ESPN senior coordinating producer. "We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process."