Flyers will pay Ilya Bryzgalov $20k to play against them

Flyers will pay Ilya Bryzgalov $20k to play against them

Ilya “Costly Mistake” Bryzgalov made it back to the NHL last month, though he doesn’t look the part quite yet. Bryz still dons a plain white mask when he’s between the pipes for the Edmonton Oilers.

It’s a wonder he hasn’t adorned his mask with rare jewels, courtesy of the Philadelphia Flyers. Bryzgalov hit the jackpot over the summer when the organization used a compliance buyout on the quirky goaltender, agreeing instead to pay him $23 million in yearly installments of $1,642,857.14 until 2027.

That’s $20,034.84 per game over an 82-game season—almost as much as Edmonton will pay him to play against the Flyers on Saturday night.

A lot of people might retire after winning the lottery. Bryz decided to go back to work, only finding a job wasn’t going to be easy.

Let’s just say NHL teams weren’t exactly lining up at the door to acquire Bryzgalov’s services. His eccentric attitude was a red flag even before he arrived in Philly, and was only exacerbated by the shark pool that can be the local media. And while he was a popular scapegoat for the Flyers’ failure to make the playoffs last season, nobody could argue his performance helped the silly off-the-ice stuff go away.

So Bryzgalov took his moneybags and belongings to Las Vegas, presumably in an armored transport of some sort. There he joined the Wranglers hockey club in the ECHL, a minor league one step below the AHL, and began putting his career back together.

Frankly, it doesn’t sound like the situation got him down. In Saturday’s edition of the Daily News, Frank Seravalli recalls a story about who paid the bill when Bryzgalov took his new teammates out for breakfast one morning.

AFTER ILYA Bryzgalov signed a tryout agreement in October with the ECHL's Las Vegas Wranglers in attempt to make his way back to the NHL, he took his new teammates out to breakfast.

When the bill arrived, Bryzgalov picked up the tab.

"Don't worry, guys," Bryzgalov reportedly said. "This is courtesy of the Flyers."

Finally, in November, the goaltender-needy Oilers phoned Bryzgalov for help. Now he’s back, standing in the crease opposite his former mates.

Bryz has appeared in eight games so far for the last-place Oilers. He has a 2-4-0 record, .915 save percentage, and 2.80 goals against average. Last season in orange and black, he was 19-17 with a .900 SV% and 2.79 GAA.

The Flyers are better off, or at least the organization is happier for now with the modestly price duo of Steve Mason and Ray Emery in net. Plus, getting out from under a nine-year, $51 million commitment provided the front office much more flexibility.

But between the $16.5 million the Flyers paid over the first two years of the deal, the $23 million from the buyout and his future potential future earnings, Bryzgalov will likely wind up earning most of that money anyway, if not more. So no matter if he wins or loses, Bryz will always have the last laugh against Philadelphia.

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: