Flyers Buyout Ilya Bryzgalov’s Contract

Flyers Buyout Ilya Bryzgalov’s Contract

What a difference two years make. Two years ago the Flyers were excitedly introducing Ilya Bryzgalov to Philadelphia. Paul Holmgren touted Bryz as an upper-echelon goaltender. Ed Snider hoped this was the final piece.

Two years later, on a Tuesday afternoon, the Flyers quietly announced Bryzgalov has played his final game in Orange & Black. The team has opted to use the second of its two compliance buyouts on the controversial netminder, terminating the remaining seven years of his nine-year, $51 million contract.

Bryzgalov’s cap figure of $5.67M is erased from the ledger immediately when the transaction becomes official late Wednesday evening. However, they still must pay the goalie two-thirds of his remaining salary over a period of 14 years, a sum in excess of $23 million.

Holmgren’s statement:

 “I met with Ilya this morning and informed him that we are going to exercise a compliance buy out of his contract,” general manager Paul Holmgren said. “This was a very difficult business decision to make for us and we want to thank Ilya for his time here and wish him all the best moving forward.”

Many followers will find the buyout to be a long time coming. When it was revealed the new collective bargaining agreement would contain an amnesty clause to help teams get under the shrinking salary cap, Bryzgalov’s deal was an obvious candidate. Bryz would have been turning 40 as the contract expired.

His performance on the ice didn’t smooth matters over any. His first season was considered a disappointment, save for a run in which he became the franchise’s all-time leader in consecutive shutout minutes. 2013 was worse yet, as he posted a 19-17-3 record, .900 save percentage, and 2.79 goals against average.

And still, the insane contract and subpar numbers may have been merely contributing factors to Bryzgalov’s demise. His recent comments denigrating the city of Philadelphia and its people alone would have made him a tough sell to many fans. There seemed to be a divide inside the dressing room as well, perhaps making a return impossible.

That may be the easiest way to justify the Flyers’ decision on the matter, because with Bryz gone the club is suddenly in need of another goaltender. They have Steve Mason, but he had been a suspect performer in Columbus since his rookie year in 08-09. 2012 second-round pick Anthony Stolarz could be at least a year away from playing in the NHL.

The front office now must pick through free agency or find a suitable trade to replace Bryzgalov, when they could have held on to him for another year and used the buyout next summer. While he received a large amount of criticism for his play, the reality is the shaky defense in front of him made it hard to judge exactly how much he factored into their problems.

Had the organization held on to him though, they ran the risk of Bryz getting injured and not being able amnesty him when the time came. Plus, the Flyers were over the cap even after Danny Briere’s buyout, so the extra money grants the front office additional flexibility. They still have to extend a qualifying offer to Erik Gustafsson, and may be interested in re-signing Simon Gagne at a potential hometown discount, among other moves.

Whether it was coming this year or next, amnestying Bryzgalov was inevitable barring an extreme turnaround in his play. Given what we saw for one month in 2012, such a change wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibility. Even still, his contract was always going to be a burden in the future.

It’s possible Bryzgalov never really got a fair shake here. It’s probable he is the head case many in the media had portrayed since his arrival. When everything is said and done, Bryz made too many enemies across the board, his contract was a mistake, and he didn’t get the job done – all of which conspired to seal his fate in Philly.

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

CHESTER, Pa. — On the eve of his comeback after missing nearly 13 months with a left tibia stress fracture and other related injuries, Union midfielder Maurice Edu fractured his left fibula on Saturday, keeping him out for the 2016 playoffs and beyond.

“I was trying to take the shot on goal and my foot got stuck in the turf,” Edu said Sunday, in his blue Union-issued suit and supported by crutches. “My ankle rolled and twisted and it kind of snapped a little bit. I heard it crack, and a lot of pain from there. I got a scan afterward, and there was a break.”

There's no timetable his return.

Edu, 30, has spent over a calendar year fighting various injuries that have kept him out of game action. His trouble began on Sept. 30, 2015, when he played through the U.S. Open Cup final with a partially torn groin and sports hernia. It was during Edu’s recovery from those injuries that he developed a stress fracture.

"A little bit frustration. A lot of frustration, to be honest," he said. "But all I can do now is get back to work, focus on the positives and make sure that my situation isn’t a distraction from the team."

Edu’s teammates were equally devastated by the news. Edu, the Union captain when healthy, is popular and well-respected in the locker room.

"I feel so bad for him," said Alejandro Bedoya, who wore a dedication to Edu under his jersey on Sunday. "He’s one of my good friends, so I was looking forward to playing alongside him. I know how hard he’s worked to get back, and to see him go out like that, it’s heartbreaking. I’m sad for his loss and I hope he stays strong."

Edu, who has been with the Union since 2014, returned to training in July and played three conditioning appearances with the Union’s USL team, Bethlehem Steel FC. He was on the bench for the Union’s last three games and was set to make his first appearance in over a year against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, a game the Union eventually lost, 2-0 (see game story).

"We’re gutted for Mo," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "He was slated to start today. It’s real upsetting because he’s worked so hard to get back on the field. It’s been a tough 2016 for him, but I know he’ll come back stronger."

While he was visibly shaken by recent injury, Edu is driven to return.

"What happened, happened," Edu said. "I have no control over that. The only thing I do have control over is my next steps from here, how I prepare myself mentally and emotionally and how I continue to support this group."

Point guard Joel Embiid? Sixers' big man works on leading break

Point guard Joel Embiid? Sixers' big man works on leading break

CAMDEN, N.J. — Toward the end of Sixers practice Monday, Joel Embiid participated in a fast-break drill … by himself.

Embiid brought the ball up the floor in a one-on-none situation against members of the Sixers' coaching staff. 

He's already showed off his three-point shooting skills and now he’s running the break? 

“I’ve always thought I was a point guard,” Embiid joked. “So that’s something that I want to do.”

In all seriousness, Embiid worked on his ball-handling skills during his two-year rehab from foot injuries. It’s not that he wants to become an unconventional point guard, it’s that he is striving to be an all-around threat. Embiid focused on recording his first assist, as an example, during the preseason. 

“I think I’m a complete player,” he said. “I think I can do everything on the court. Doing that shows I think it can help my team, too, in other aspects.” 

With running the break comes attacking the basket in traffic. It could be an anxious moment for a coach to watch a player fresh off two years of foot injuries to drive in a crowd. Sixers head coach Brett Brown said he has to be past the feeling of holding his breath whenever he watches Embiid do so. 

“We are so responsible with how we use him and play him,” Brown said. “It’s like us with children. They go out for the night. You’re nervous, but they go out for the night. He plays basketball for a living, and so he plays. We’ve just got to keep putting him in responsible environments and monitoring his minutes.”

As a point guard, T.J. McConnell appreciates Embiid’s skills, especially given his size. 

“To the people that try to pick him up when he brings the ball up the floor, good luck,” McConnell said. “It’s pretty incredible to see.” 

Robert Covington watched Embiid practice his ball handling during his lengthy recovery. He has seen improvements and likes the dynamic it creates for the team on the break. 

“His handle is really tight and then he’s really strong with it as well,” Covington said. “We’re very comfortable with him pushing the ball.”

That being said, Brown isn’t about to anoint Embiid into a point-center role. He knows Embiid’s desire to be active all over the court, but just as he’s said he doesn’t intend for Embiid to become a go-to three-point shooter, he also wants Embiid to focus on his true position. 

“Joel likes to be a player,” Brown said. “He wants to be a guard. He wants to shoot a three. He wants to be a post player. He wants to play. And we all have seen enough to think he actually can. 

“There are times that he rebounds and leads a break, we want him being aware of get off it, get it to a point guard more than not. I don’t mind him coming down in trail if he’s got daylight, him shooting some. He’s got a wonderful touch and I’ve seen it for two years. 

“... All over the place, I want to grow him. I’m not just going to bucket him up. I still say, like I say to him, 'At the end of the day, you’re a seven-foot-two post player. Post player.'”

Watch Embiid running the floor here: