Tyler J. Altemose
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren made a splash today when he acquired the rights to goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. In exchange for the rights to the Russian net minder, the Flyers forfeited enforcer prospect Matt Clackson, a third round draft pick in the 2012-13 NHL draft, and a conditional draft pick.
The Flyers have until 1 July to sign Bryzgalov before he hits the open market as an unrestricted free agent.
This is big news. There is no denying that. But I would be remiss if I didn't take the time to reflect upon this situation from a rational perspective. Could Ilya Bryzgalov be the solution that the Flyers have been waiting all these years for? Perhaps. But at the end of the day three things come to mind that make me think, "No thanks, Mr. Bryzgalov."
Money, money, money
Perhaps the most glaring issue is the money situation. Bryzgalov is coming off of a 3-year, $12.75 million contract. He is going to want more, and his new agent Ritch Winters is going to do his best to make sure that happens.
Darren Dreger of TSN said it best earlier this evening in a tweet to his followers. "Bryzgalov wants to be paid as a top player...not just a top goalie. Demands too rich for Yotes."
Too rich for the 'Yotes? The Coyotes are ranked 28th in terms of spending for the 2011-12 season, with just a little over $31 million invested in 14 players. The Flyers? They're tops in spending, with nearly $59 million already invested in just 18 players.
If it's too rich for the 'Yotes, it's really too rich for the Flyers.
At the end of the day, Bryzgalov is going to be demanding a contract in the $24-$30 million range; 4-5 years, roughly $6M. Even with the rising salary cap next season and unloading a big contract (e.g. Jeff Carter), the Flyers won't have enough to pick up the smaller pieces. Which leads me to my next point.
Last offseason, Paul Holmgren made it clear that his intent was to strengthen the defensive corp of the Flyers. During the Stanley Cup Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks there were glaring weaknesses in the team's defensive depth, so the situation was addressed.
This season, goaltending was the biggest problem for the Flyers during the playoffs. So naturally one would expect this kind of move to be made. But even when Mr. Holmgren looks like he's doing it right, he isn't doing it right.
Don't get me wrong. Holmgren actually did very well for himself here. All he forefeited was a prospect who would never amount to anything (so much so that Phoenix reportedly doesn't even want to sign him), a conditional draft pick which I'm hearing is not a first or second-rounder, and a third round draft pick in next season's draft. In exchange he has been afforded the opportunity to sign one of the league's top goaltenders. Not too shabby.
But the point here is that although he prioritized acquiring a goaltender, he improperly prioritized acquiring a cap-friendly goaltender. And not even cap-friendly, per se. He could have gone upwards of $3-$4 million. But to obtain the rights of a goaltender looking for a long-term contract at $6 million per year? Now that's just foolish, Mr. Holmgren.
Furthermore, the Flyers have a bunch of smaller pieces up front that, if signed, could really help out the team. I speak specfically of Darroll Powe, Andreas Nodl, and Ville Leino.
Please, Paul. Can I call you "Paul"? I'm going to call you "Paul". Please, Paul. Stop sacrificing this organization's future in order to satiate your desire to win now. The fans have waited 37 years for this. Trust me--they're patient enough to wait a little longer. If they haven't gone anywhere by now they won't be going anywhere at all.
Screwing up the system
Finally, one must consider the effects this will have on goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Paul Holmgren has sung his praises about the young Russian net minder on several occasions. And based upon the direction management has been directing the team, it is clear that they are placing a lot of pressure on the kid to develop into a bona fide top NHL goaltender.
But here is the catch. As Justin Goldman of The Goalie Guild pointed out, what happens to Bobrovsky when a guy like Bryzgalov is playing 65-70 games during the regular season and gets a brunt of the workload in the playoffs?
The answer is simple. Either Bobrovsky sits on the sidelines as Bryzgalov's backup or he goes down to the AHL as starter for the Phantoms. Either way you look at it, he won't be seeing the NHL ice time he needs in order to properly develop into the goalie the Flyers want him to be. And that is a big problem. Even worse is that if the latter option is chosen, Bobrovsky must clear waivers. Since he played more than 60 NHL games this season, he is no longer waiver-exempt. That certainly isn't a risk worth taking.*
No matter what your perspective of the situation may be, it is clear that a big decision lies ahead for Paul Holmgren and company. And despite whatever arguments you, me, or the other guy may have, our only option is to sit back and hope that the right decision is made.
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*Thanks to Geoff Detweiller of Broad Street Hockey for that piece of information on Sergei Bobrovsky no longer being waiver-exempt.