The ice on which Ilya Bryzgalov has been standing in goal for the Flyers has developed some cracks.
Despite a solid endorsement from club chairman Ed Snider in late March, followed by a more tepid one in May, the Flyers have begun an internal discussion on whether to add Bryzgalov to the two compliance buyouts this summer, according to sources within the team.
It’s been a fait accompli that Danny Briere, because of his $6.5 million cap hit, would be an automatic buyout because the cap is nose-diving for 2013-14.
Going into the offseason the Flyers seemed opposed to using a buyout on Bryzgalov. Since then, the discussions on him indicate a climate change, though no final decision has been made.
Snider was among Bryzgalov’s biggest fans -- even before he signed -- and has been in his corner since.
“I don't think Bryzgalov has been the problem,” Snider said on March 30. “I mean, he's had to face so many breakaways and 2-on-1s where we turn over the puck suddenly. I think it's the team. I think we're fine in goal.”
In a May interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Snider said he still believed in the Russian netminder, who has more detractors than friends in the dressing room.
CSNPhilly.com asked Snider this week about multiple internet and Twitter reports suggesting a change in the organization where Bryzgalov would now be bought out.
“Ask Paul [Holmgren],” Snider replied.
During the Flyers' “breakup day” in late April, Holmgren, the Flyers’ general manager, backed his goalie, saying he had “a good year.”
Holmgren could not be reached for comment.
One Flyers source said there is genuine debate on the eccentric goalie, but the club still hasn’t made a call.
Another added that the decision will likely rest on whether certain events occur before the draft. The Flyers are hoping for a long Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Chicago to give them additional time before committing to a decision, the source said.
The Flyers have long kept an eye on LA Kings backup goalie Jonathan Bernier. Yet before buying out Bryzgalov, they would have to have assurances with the Kings or another club on trading for a goalie.
The Kings are in need of a scoring winger. Matt Read might be an option there, but Kings GM Dean Lombardi is going to want much more knowing that Bernier could become the Flyers’ No. 1. TSN reported on Friday that Lombardi has contacted 10 clubs about moving Bernier, raising the stakes on his goalie in a trade.
Another trade possibility is Minnesota’s Nick Backstrom.
One league personnel executive with strong ties to the Flyers said it wouldn’t surprise him whichever way a decision goes on Bryzgalov.
He then added, however, that Bryzgalov’s comments this past season on fans, the city of Philadelphia, Stalin, etc., had raised concerns with Flyers management as to whether he really wanted to be here.
Compliance buyouts can’t be rendered until 48 hours after the Cup Final ends. The compliance buyout period ends 5 p.m. on the day of the NHL Draft in New Jersey on June 30.
Bryzgalov, who has a $5.66 million salary cap hit, has seven years left on his original $51 million contract and is owed $34.5 million in actual dollars. His two-thirds buyout would cost $22.7 million. The payout can be doubled over the number of remaining contract years (14).
Bryzgalov’s backup, Steve Mason, was outstanding in his brief stint once acquired from Columbus. That’s given the Flyers cause to wonder whether he’s back to his rookie form.
Even so, the Flyers don’t appear ready to anoint Mason as the next No. 1. They need to see how he plays over a long stretch of games, not just seven at the very end of the season.
Regardless, a decision is now nearing on Bryzgalov’s status where one didn’t exist a few months ago.
The salary cap for 2013-14 falls from $70.2 million back to $64.3 million, where it was in 2010-11.
The Flyers are already treading water and need to find additional cap space because of the acquisition of defenseman Mark Streit, not to mention retooling their roster this summer.
Streit is expected to sign a multi-year deal in excess of $5 million.
It doesn’t end there, either. Thinking ahead, team captain Claude Giroux will be a restricted free agent commanding mega bucks after 2014.
The Flyers are expected to re-sign Giroux this summer after clearing the table on what has to be done for the coming season. Giroux’s current $3.75 million cap hit will likely balloon to at least $8 million.
That, in itself, is a strong reason why the club would exercise a buyout on Briere, who has the largest cap hit on the team.
Briere is owed just $5 million on the final two years of his deal and would cost the Flyers $3.3 million on a buyout, payable over four years.
Stolarz named to camp
Flyers goalie prospect Anthony Stolarz was hoping to be named to Team USA’s National Junior Evaluation Camp and he got his wish on Friday.
He’ll be going to Lake Placid, N.Y., Aug. 3-10. Stolarz participated in last year’s summer camp as well.
Stolarz was the Flyers’ second-round (39th overall) pick in last year’s draft. That pick was obtained from Columbus in the Sergei Bobrovsky trade.
Agent Pat Brisson said Friday his talks with Holmgren on a new deal for Streit continue. Brisson also represents Briere and Giroux, so he figures to be pretty busy with Holmgren this summer. Brisson confirmed on Friday to CSNPhilly.com that he has already begun negotiations with Holmgren on a new deal for Giroux.