Thursday, June 23, 2011
Posted: 4:55 p.m. Updated: 10:14 p.m.
By Sarah BaickerCSNPhilly.com
Really, it was only a matter of time.
After days of rumors, reports and denials, the Flyers have finally inked goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year deal worth 51 million.
Ilya is one of the top, upper-echelon goalies in the league, general manager Paul Holmgren said. In bringing him in, he does give us stability. We still have young guys we think a world of who can grow with our team. Well see how that goes. By adding Ilya and maintaining the defense we had last year, we think were in a good spot.
Though the actual deal doesn't come as a surprise the general sense from both the Flyers and Bryzgalov's agent Ritch Winter in recent days was that an eventual agreement was expected it is a bit heftier than the seven-year dear originally reported earlier this week.
Bryzgalov, according to CapGeek.com, will earn 10 million in the first year of the deal next season, making him, as of now, the highest paid player in the NHL.
When we made the deal to get negotiating rights to Ilya, it put the wheels in motion with a lot of teams, Holmgren said. We fielded a lot of calls from teams over the last 10 days."
The newly 31-year-old Bryzgalov (his birthday was Wednesday) appeared in 68 games last season, posting a 2.48 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage. He had seven shutouts (the Flyers had none).
His postseason performance, however, did leave something to be desired. Bryzgalovs Phoenix Coyotes were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Detroit Red Wings, and Bryzgalovs goals-against average plummeted to 4.36.
Bryzgalov is a former runner-up for the Vezina Trophy, however (in 2009-10) and was the backup to J.S. Giguere in 2007 when the Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup. Hes played with both Chris Pronger and Sean ODonnell.
The Flyers acquired the rights to negotiate with Bryzgalov on June 7, sending left wing Matt Clackson, a third-round draft pick in 2012, plus another conditional pick to Phoenix.
The Flyers then began negotiations with the top-tier goalie in earnest, having until July 1 to strike a deal or else risk losing Bryzgalov to free agency Bryzgalov made just one trip to Philadelphia, but all along it appeared as though a deal were imminent.
When we acquired his rights we had every intention of signing him, Holmgren said.
The Flyers and Bryzgalov first held meetings on June 16. As recently as Wednesday of this week the Flyers said a deal with Bryzgalov was still a work in progress if not a while away but rumors that a seven-year deal worth about 7 million a year was to be expected.
The big question now, of course, is what happens to young goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who will enter his sophomore year with the team.
Bobrovsky, 22, wowed the Flyers from the very beginning of last season, forcing them to keep him in the NHL instead of sending him to the Adirondack Phantoms of the AHL to gain North American experience. Though his performance fell off a bit as the season progressed, and certainly did so in the playoffs, Bobrovsky proved he can play at a high level.
In addition, Bobrovsky and Bryzgalov are both Russian which could absolutely benefit Bobrovskys continued maturation and acclimation to the NHL.
But playing behind a veteran workhorse who can easily handle 60-plus games per season means Bobrovskys playing time would be drastically cut. Last year, his rookie year, he played in 54 games.
Will 20 or so games a season be enough to help Bobrovsky grow into the player the Flyers hope hell become? Or could Bob be the next Flyer offered up on the trading block?
We like him as a good young goalie in our league, Holmgren said. What it does to him, I am not sure. We like him. Our intention is to have him and Ilya as our goaltending tandem.
E-mail Sarah Baicker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @SBaickerCSN.
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