A top tier goaltender is not easy to find in the NHL these days, it really has never been and for the Philadelphia Flyers, it has been well over a decade since the franchise had a Stanley Cup caliber netminder. For Flyers fans, it has been the same story year in and year out, instead of spending money on a quality goaltender, the Flyers go the cheaper route and it never seems to work out. But on Tuesday the Flyers traded minor league winger Matt Clackson and a third-round draft pick in 2012 for the rights to Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
The Flyers now need to sign Bryzgalov and if they do, will also give up a conditional pick, which general manager Paul Holmgren said will not be a first or second-rounder. It sounds like he really wants to be a member of the organization, so the question might not be whether Bryzgalov signs, but rather who the Flyers will move to make room for him.
“Philadelphia is a great city, a great organization and a great team with a rich history. I believe the Flyers are right there and I would love very much to be a part of the team that brings the Stanley Cup back to Philadelphia. It would be a great honor. And it’s time,” he said in a statement.
Bryzgalov, who turns 31 this month, wants big-time money and is reportedly seeking either a four or five year contract, worth at least $5 million per season. If the Flyers sign him at his asking price, a high priced player could be on his way out. The first two names that come to mind are forward Jeff Carter or defenseman Matt Carle and it could leave free agent Ville Leino looking for another team.
This season with the Coyotes, Bryzgalov posted a record of 36-20-10, with a 2.48 goals-against average and an impressive .921 save percentage. He also had seven shutouts, which was seven more than the Flyers had, as they were the only NHL team not to hold an opponent to a goose egg.
In the playoffs, the Russian native struggled as the Coyotes were swept by the Detroit Red Wings, however he has the experience from the past and even started five postseason games during 2007 with the Anaheim Ducks, won went on to win the Stanley Cup. Current Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger and Sean O’Donnell were also members of that team. In 27 career playoff games, Bryzgalov is 12-13 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.
Two years ago, he was the runner-up for the Vezina trophy and with the defense he potentially could have in front of him, he might just be able to add that hardware to his collection.
We will have to wait and see if the Flyers finally hushed the naysayers and answered the goaltender issues but they certainly have one of the best in the world now, if he signs before July 1.