Ilya Is Here! Flyers and Bryzgalov Open Negotiations

Ilya Is Here! Flyers and Bryzgalov Open Negotiations

Over the next two days, the Flyers brass will meet with the goalie whose name they hope to have signed onto a contract in the coming weeks and etched into a certain piece of hardware this time next year. 

Ilya Bryzgalov and his representation have landed in Philadelphia, where they'll spend Thursday and Friday negotiating toward making him a Flyer, or determining that Philly isn't the right fit. Although the team can't actually sign him until the new salary cap number is set, and presumably not until after some cap space is created, the meetings over the next few days will be critical in determining whether it will even be possible. 

The traveling delegation of Bryzgalov, who is set to become the market's top free agent goalie, will need to decide upon the balance between fortune and fame he wants when he signs what will be his most lucrative contract. He's a very good goalie in the prime of his career and can command the top tier salary commensurate with his play. But, Bryzgalov has also known several types of professional frustration while playing in North America. How much it will help the Flyers in their quest to sign him, we don't know.  

Having played his previous few seasons in Phoenix should give Bryzgalov some appreciation of the lack of fulfillment that can define the remaining years of his career if he chooses coin over contender. Few if any NHL situations are as dire as the sadly metaphoric situation of "playing ice hockey in the desert," and Bryzgalov clearly wanted out of the Sonoran. Even without knowing the mind of the Russian goalie, it's probably safe to assume that while the Coyotes' inability to meet his salary demands was a big factor, it wasn't the only reason. 

There's also the frustration of playing for a franchise so damned it needed the league to intervene to keep it alive and in place. On the ice, they were a team that was nothing without its goalie, a reality that can be simultaneously prestigious and confining if you're the guy wearing the mask. Whereas a team like Vancouver can make it all the way to game 7 of the Finals despite being grossly let down by their own All-Star goalie, Phoenix had no shot unless Bryzgalov was unbeatable. Even that may not have been enough. 

The important question only Bryzgalov and those closest to him can answer is, how much will playing for a top franchise influence his decision? Despite already being a Stanley Cup champion, Bryzgalov was not the starter when Chris Pronger, JS Giguere, and the Anaheim Ducks lifted the trophy. I don't think Ilya can truly cross the championship off his bucket list yet. To do so here could cement him as royalty in what is considered league-wide to be a great hockey town. How much motivation will the potential of a sterling, lifetime-and-beyond legacy wield? 

Regardless, it's exceedingly doubtful Bryzgalov will come to the table offering much if anything in the way of a discount, even for the promise of playing for a contender stacked with good forwards and defensemen who will make his life easier than it has been at any time in his NHL career. But will he be willing to take a deal just reasonable enough that the club won't have to dismantle key pieces of its depth and erase its great advantage? 

Obviously, Bryzgalov's camp will be holding the best cards today. They know the goalie has value on the open market, and that Flyers showed their significant interest by trading for the rights to negotiate with him before free agency opened. Plus, ownership has publicly decreed that they will be adding a goalie, possibly at any cost. 

Paul Holmgren is tasked with convincing them that Philadelphia is the best destination for Bryzgalov at this stage of his career. Pointing out the goalie's recent playoff shortcomings won't help bring down the price much, if at all. His agent, Ritch Winter, can just say, "Then what are we doing here? Why did you trade for the rights to sign a goalie if you have doubts about him in the playoffs?" 

The only validity the playoff performance argument will have is within the context of the Flyers' confining cap situation. Homer can point to the fact that the Coyotes simply weren't good enough in front of Bryzgalov for his talent to even matter. In order for that not to happen in Philly, they need to keep the forward and defensive depth intact as much as possible.

A short-term deal isn't going to happen. The extreme opposite very well could. Due to their limited space under the cap, the Flyers would have to get creative in order to make Bryzgalov as rich as he wants to be. This "creativity" could amount to something a little dangerous and scary—a very long-term deal for a goaltender, spreading the money over many years to reduce the cap hit in any given season.   

That would likely be attractive to Bryzgalov, as well as help fit him under the cap. But it binds the Flyers to him far longer than we know he'll be effective. Hell we don't exactly know how effective he'll be in a given season, let alone five or more of them. They're already facing the specter of Chris Pronger's role being diminished just a few seasons into his long-term deal. 

It's hard to say what happens next, but at least the two sides are coming to the table with interest in making Bryzgalov a Flyer. Whether that's the best course of action for the team, given what it will cost in immediate salary cap relief as well as long-term flexibility, is anybody's guess. I doubt very much that Tim Thomas' performance last night and throughout the playoffs has cooled the Flyers' interest in acquiring a goalie, and Bryzgalov is currently at the top of their list. We should know pretty soon whether he'll be staying there.

MLB Notes: White Sox scratch Chris Sale after 'clubhouse incident'

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USA Today Images

MLB Notes: White Sox scratch Chris Sale after 'clubhouse incident'

CHICAGO -- Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale has been scratched from his start against the Detroit Tigers after he was involved in what the team says was a "non-physical clubhouse incident."

The White Sox declined to describe the incident, but said it's "currently under further investigation by the club" and that Sale was sent home from the park.

The move was announced less than a half hour before Saturday's game. Sale was going to attempt to become the first 15-game winner in the majors.

The White Sox planned to use multiple relievers in his place. The start of the game was delayed by rain.

With the White Sox fading from playoff contention, Sale's name has been mentioned as a possible trade target for contending teams.

The left-hander is 14-3 with a 3.18 ERA.

TWINS: Suzuki leaves game after taking foul ball off mask
BOSTON -- Minnesota Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki left Saturday night's game against the Boston Red Sox in the second inning after getting hit in the mask with a foul ball.

Suzuki appeared to have a cut on his chin as he walked to the dugout with a team trainer.

Boston's Dustin Pedroia was at the plate and fouled one off the catcher.

Suzuki was replaced by Juan Centeno.

PADRES: Cuban prospect signs deal with $7 million signing bonus
WASHINGTON -- Top Cuban prospect Jorge Ona and the San Diego Padres have agreed to a minor league contract with a $7 million signing bonus.

The 19-year-old outfielder receives $4.9 million within 30 days of the deal's approval by the commissioner's office and $2.1 million on Jan. 15. The deal is pending a physical.

Ona was ranked as the No. 8 international prospect of the 2016 class by MLB.com and the fourth-best available Cuban player earlier this year by Baseball America.

General manager A.J. Preller said during a conference call Friday that the contract is for 2017. He hopes Ona will play in the fall instructional league and then report for spring training and start his pro career next season.

Instant Replay: Pirates 7, Phillies 4

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Associated Press

Instant Replay: Pirates 7, Phillies 4

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- Gregory Polanco and David Freese hit two-run singles during a five-run fifth inning to rally the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 7-4 victory over the Phillies on Saturday at PNC Park.

Polanco’s hit put the Pirates ahead 4-3 and chased starter Aaron Nola. Freese’s hit off Severino Gonzalez pushed the lead to three runs and Francisco Cervelli capped the inning with a sacrifice fly as Pittsburgh won for the fourth time in six games.

Nola (5-9) allowed six runs in four-plus innings to take the loss. Center fielder Odubel Herrera went 3 for 4 with a triple as the Phillies outhit the Pirates, 12-7.

Catcher Cameron Rupp left the game in the third inning after being struck in the left ear flap of his helmet by a pitch from Pirates rookie right-hander Tyler Glasnow (see story). Rupp was found to have no concussion symptoms.

Starting pitching report
The bad Nola returned after pitching six scoreless innings in his previous outing Monday against the Miami Marlins. Prior to shutting down the Marlins, Nola allowed a combined 30 runs in five starts while failing to get past the fourth inning four times.

On Saturday, Nola gave up six hits, walked two and struck out five. He needed 80 pitches to get 12 outs.

Nola’s clunker came after Phillies starters allowed no more than one run or five hits in four of the previous five games. On Friday night in the opener of the three-game series in Pittsburgh, rookie right-hander Zach Elfin pitched a three-hitter for his first career shutout in the Phillies’ 4-0 victory over the Pirates.

At the plate
Herrera is 6 for 9 in the first two games of the series after going 4 for 41 in his previous 11 games. He tripled in the sixth inning and scored the game’s last run on a single by Andres Blanco.

Cesar Hernandez hit a pair of RBI singles and was one of four Phillies with two hits along with Blanco, Tommy Joseph and Carlos Ruiz, the last of whom took over behind the plate for Rupp. Joseph also hit an RBI single.

The Phillies held a 12-8 edge in hits.

Up next
The Phillies finish their three-game series with the Pirates at 1:35 p.m. Sunday then open a three-game series against the Marlins on Monday night at Miami.

The projected starters for the next four days:

Sunday afternoon --- RHP Vince Velasquez (8-2, 3.15) vs. RHP Jameson Taillon (2-1, 3.44)

Monday night --- RHP Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 3.84) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (5-4, 4.99)

Tuesday night --- RHP Jerad Eickhoff (6-11, 3.98) vs. RHP Tom Koehler (7-8, 4.42)

Wednesday afternoon --- RHP Zach Eflin (3-3, 3.40) vs. LHP Adam Conley (6-5, 3.58)

Former Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn signs 2-year deal with Coyotes

Former Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn signs 2-year deal with Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes have signed former Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn to a two-year contract.

The 26-year-old defenseman had four goals and 12 assists in 72 games with the Flyers and Los Angeles Kings last season. Schenn and Vinny Lecavalier were traded by the Flyers to the Kings last January in exchange for Jordan Weal and a third-round draft pick in last month's entry draft.

In his career, Schenn has 28 goals and 100 assists in 566 games with the Kings, Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs. In three-plus seasons with the Flyers, Schenn scored 12 goals and added 30 assists.

Schenn was the first-round draft pick - fifth selection overall - by the Maple Leafs in 2008.

Coyotes general manager John Chayka called Schenn "a good, young defenseman" who will be "a solid addition" to the Arizona blue line.

- CSNPhilly.com contributed to this story.