Flyers acquire rights to Bryzgalov from Phoenix


Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Posted: 8:03 p.m.Updated: 10:46 p.m.

By Tim Panaccio

Rich Winter, who has represented his share of competitive goalies over the years, doesnt mince words about Ilya Bryzgalov.

If your study his performance the last couple of years, the only Flyer goaltender to have a statistical performance like that was Bernie Parent, Winter said of his newest client.

Look at the best two seasons a Flyer goaltender ever had and the only one who ever had a performance like that was Parent in back-to-back seasons when the Flyers won the Stanley Cup.

Parent posted a .933 save percentage in 1973-74 and .919 save percentage the next seasonthe only two years the Flyers won a Cup.

Bryzgalov posted a .920 save percentage in 2009-10 and .921 this past year in Phoenix.

On Tuesday night, the Flyers acquired the 30-year-old Bryzgalovs negotiating rights from the Coyotes in exchange for left wing Matt Clackson, plus the Flyers third-round pick in 2012, and a conditional draft pick.

Once again, general manager Paul Holmgren is attempting to strike first before Bryzgalov becomes a free agent on July 1.

Holmgren has employed this move beforeacquiring rights before free agencygoing back to 2007 with Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell.

He did it last summer, too, by trading for Evgeni Nabokovs rights (from San Jose) at the NHL draft. The Flyers failed to sign Nabokov.

Were going to give it our best shot, Holmgren said of Bryzgalov. You give up an asset to get in early, so we have every intention of trying to get a deal done.

Winter will be looking for a minimum of a four-year deal worth at least 5 million a season for Bryzgalov, who has six years of NHL experience.

Well see what we can do, Holmgren said of signing the Russian goalie. Hes certainly not an old goaltender. I feel like he has a lot of good years left in him. Well see how it goes. When you get into a negotiation like this you are dealing with a salary cap and you try to get a number you can live with.

For all practical purposes, the Flyers need to clear about 5 million in cap space, although the New York Post reported the cap may rise to as much as 63 million next season from its present level of 59.4.

In other words, the amount of space the Flyers need to sign Bryzgalov could decrease in the weeks ahead once the cap is set for 2011-12. Right now, the Flyers have less than 450,000 cap space going into next season.

Once we know what the salary cap is for next year well have a better idea of what we have to do down the road, Holmgren said. We have options.

Holmgren and the organization have said in recent months they feel Sergei Bobrovsky is their goalie of the future, but needs another year or two of development.

Four or five years might be a stretch to sign Bryzgalov. Holmgren was asked during a conference call about whether he felt confident Bob was still his goalie of the future. This time, he seemed to back off on his earlier pronouncement that Bob was.

I dont know, Holmgren replied. Well see if we can get a deal done with Ilya. I still think the world of Sergei and I think hes one of the top young goalies in our game.

Having said that, and again as I said at the end of the year, we continue to try to make our team better. Right now, the position weve put ourselves in, negotiating with Ilya, if we can get him signed itll make our team better.

Flyers chairman Ed Snider said last month he wants the goalie position solidified. Its not a stretch to say that the clubs nagging question mark during so many years from the late 1990s till now has been in goal.

As good as Michael Leighton was in getting the Flyers to last Junes Cup Final against Chicago, he was mediocre in the Final while Antti Niemi was average and won the Cup for the Blackhawks.

Our idea is to put ourselves in the position to win the Stanley Cup, Holmgren said. We havent really had an opportunity to talk to Ilyas agent yet. Once we get the ball rolling there well see if we can get him signed.

If we do I think well have one of the best goaltending tandems in the league. I feel confident in saying that, anyway.

Bryzgalov made the Coyotes a competitive teamessentially carrying the club start to finishin the Pacific Division which was easily the most competitive in the Western Conference.

In many ways, every game Bryzgalov started for Phoenix, which doesnt have the talent of San Jose or even Los Angeles, forced him into almost a playoff mode. He represented his teams best chance of winning on a nightly basis these past four seasons.

Bryzgalov appeared in 68 games last year with a 2.48 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage. He had seven shutouts (the Flyers had none last season).

He is a former runner-up for the Vezina Trophy (2009-10) and was the backup to J.S. Giguere in 2007 when Anaheim won the Cup. Hes played with both Chris Pronger and Sean ODonnell.

In 27 career playoff games, he is 12-13 with a 2.55 GAA and .917 save percentage.

Winter, who found out about the trade late Tuesday, said he had an inkling that the Flyers might move to get his rights. Holmgren said he had not spoken to Winter yet.

One question is whether Bryzgalov can mentor Bobrovsky. As a source told last month, this probably would not be Bryzgalovs strong suit. Put it this way: goalie coach Jeff Reese has a tight relationship with Bob.

Yet, theres something to say for Bobrovsky having a fellow Russian to lean on.

I dont know him that wellin fact I hardly know him at all, Holmgren said of Bryzgalov.

Just from talking to some of our guyswhen Chris Pronger and Sean ODonnell played with him he was a young kid behind J.S. Giguere. Some of the information we have on him from his days in Phoenix, its all good.

Hes a team guy, and he must have gotten along pretty well with the guy who was playing behind him in Phoenix. I dont see an issue with that. I think the fact that theyre both Russians probably would help.

One thing Bryzgalov brings the Flyers is some pedigree. Again, he backstopped a team that was many degrees lesser than the Flyers.

I know last season he and his team took Detroit to seven games in a hard-fought series, and this year was obviously not as good for Phoenix in the playoffs, but hes one of the better goalies in the league, Holmgren said.

You can make the argument that hes among the top 10 goalies in the league, if not higher.

If the Flyers sign him, this will likely kill any chance of re-signing Ville Leino, who turned down offers from the club last season that would have guaranteed him 3 million a year.

Matt Read, the 24-year-old collegian the Flyers signed in May, has been slotted into Leinos spot on the roster. Unless Leino signs for less money, he wont be back.

Obviously, we still have the intention of trying to sign Ville, Holmgren said. With the salary cap, you can only do so much. Were trying to get the best team we can get to get ready for the 2011 season. Well see how it goes. Theres a lot of things that need to happen between now and July 1. Were going to see what we can do.

Holmgren wants to get a deal done with Bryzgalov before July 1 and ideally would like to have it announced by the NHL draft later this month.

Winter said Bryzgalov was excited at the news buta contract is still a long ways off.

Winter has represented a number of NHL goalies, including Domink Hasek, Ron Hextall and Grant Fuhr.

Now he represents Bryzgalov, who could get an opportunity to play for a Cup in Philly.

Hes carried teams, Winter said.

Whether he carry the Flyers through the month of June remains to be seen.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at

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