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Bryzgalov’s Rights: Where to Go From Here?

08 Jun

Yesterday evening twitter feeds and hockey blogs blew up with the news the the Flyers had traded Matt Clackson, a 3rd round pick, and a conditional pick (Holmgren confirmed not a 1st or 2nd) to the Phoenix Coyotes for goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov’s rights in hopes of getting him signed before free agency on July 1st. As Flyers fans, we’ve been speculating since our untimely exit from the playoffs on the Flyers motives for addressing our goaltending issue. This move comes as good news to most Flyers fans who hoped for a goalie to mentor Bob and be ready to win now. But it also comes up as a problem due to our salary cap situation, so how are we going to do this?

Even with Zherdev and Carcillo’s return not likely, we still do not have enough space to sign Bryzgalov. As I mentioned in a previous post, Bryzgalov’s asking price may be too rich for Paul Homgren’s blood. Assuming that we can clear Shelley and Leighton’s salaries off the books through AHL loan, waivers, etc. we have $3 million to work with. That might be close enough to sign Leino, but not nearly enough for Bryzgalov’s likely $5+ million salary. Someone will have to be moved. Likely candidates are Matt Carle, Kris Versteeg, and Jeff Carter considering their value is high and they command decent salaries without having a no-movement clause. Other possibilities would be Kimmo Timonen or Scott Hartnell whom both have no-movement clauses, but would free up over $6 million and $4 million respectively. Hypothetically, if we could move Timonen along with burying Shelley and Leighton, we’d have a good chunk of cap space left around $9.5 million. We could sign Bryzgalov and have room to even re-sign Leino OR sign a defenseman to round out our 2nd pairing. This is all hearsay though. It will be hard to move Timonen or Hartnell.

Matt Carle and Jeff Carter are the easiest targets for trade because Kris Versteeg was acquired by giving up two draft picks, one of which was this year’s first rounder. I know he did not produce down the stretch, but I think he will have a better season next year with a full-offseason with the team. Learning Lavvy’s system is known to be hard, and the Flyers took from December till March to finally “click” in 2009-2010. Give him time to establish his role on the team and not rely on doing everything himself like he was used to for over half the season in Toronto. I would not be opposed to trading him if we can get some return, but I think he’s going to stay here especially if Leino walks with our lack of true-wingers on the roster.

Carter’s goals and solid two-way play will be hard to replace if he were to be moved this summer, not to mention his new lengthy contract that most teams would not want to absorb in exchange for quality prospects/draft picks. Toronto would probably love to have him, but I don’t see them overpaying for his services. If he were to be moved, he would clear over $5 million that could go straight to Bryzgalov. Carle might seem like the best option to move right now with his salary clearing up $3 million which added to our cap space, should be plenty to sign Bryzgalov. However, that hurts our defensive depth greatly. That puts greater pressure on Timonen and Pronger to play big-time regular season minutes over the age of 35 after both having off-season injuries. I fully expect Gustafsson and/or Bartulis to round out our bottom pairing with Walker or a cheap veteran, but how can our top two pairings be as dominant without Carle? Even with a cheap re-signing of O’Donnell or if the Flyers want to take another chance on upcoming free agent Randy Jones, how are we going to address all of our needs?

And OH YEAH, we still have to re-sign Darroll Powe and Andreas Nodl who will need small raises and both contracts should equal to under $2 million. And then James VanRiemsdyk and Kris Versteeg (if he’s still here) are due for new contracts next year. So basically, I’m glad I’m not Paul Holmgren this summer. Not to mention that we still have Bobrovsky on the books and he arguably can be a year or two removed from becoming a legitimate starting goaltender. If Bryzgalov is here for 4-5 years, Bob might be moved. I’m not sure I want to deal with that, especially after losing Joacim Eriksson this week. In a perfect world, Bryzgalov would mentor Bob and Bobrovsky could either back him up and play in a good amount of games or get a whole season in the AHL under his belt. Either way, he needs to play. His talent is there, he just needs more hands-on practice at being a NHL goalie. If he does go to the Phantoms to polish his game, then that has us either re-signing Boucher on his small salary, using Backlund, or finding an alternative.

The salary cap should be going up by a few million this summer, which can help us in giving us extra space in signing players. The bottom line: Even with dropping some players and the increase of the cap ceiling, someone needs to be moved if the Flyers hope to retain Ilya Bryzgalov past July 1st. We have the advantage here in having a full 3 weeks to negotiate with him individually and knowing he wants to play for a contender, but there’s just too many questions know what’s going to happen. The skeptic in me questions this move, but the fan in me is really excited hoping we can get him to start next season for us. A lot of people have questioned his play in the playoffs, but that is a whole different team and whole different timezone away. He was arguably their MVP during the past two years there, and was facing some top-level Western Conference talent on a team that does not nearly have the scoring and defensive depth the Flyers do. A fresh start can be a great thing for athletes. Look how Leino flourished after being cast out of Detroit, or how Patrick Sharp (ugh) finally came around in Chicago.

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