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.
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.