For Flyers, top goalie a priority

Ilya Bryzgalov of Phoenix is the top free-agent goalie available this offseason. He may be too expensive for the Flyers.
Ilya Bryzgalov of Phoenix is the top free-agent goalie available this offseason. He may be too expensive for the Flyers. (PAUL SAKUMA / Associated Press)
Posted: May 11, 2011

Phoenix's Ilya Bryzgalov is the marquee goalie among this year's crop of unrestricted NHL free agents, but Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren and his staff are mulling over whether the team needs to make a move for a goaltender.

Holmgren, in his season-ending session with reporters Tuesday at the Flyers' Voorhees training facility, made it clear that Sergei Bobrovsky, who had a strong rookie season but slumped toward the end of the year, was a major part of the team's future.

"He's a tremendous young goalie in our league," said Holmgren, whose team was swept by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals. "How that plays out down the road in terms of when he becomes a No. 1 goalie - which I fully believe he will - I don't know. Could it be next year? I mean, he was at times this year for us. We just have to wait and see how things play out this summer, but I'm very excited about Sergei as a goalie and as a part of our organization."

The Flyers already are near the $59.4 million cap, which is expected to rise by a few million, for next year - and that's without factoring in resigning some of their own free agents. They would have to clear lots of cap space to sign Bryzgalov.

Bryzgalov, a 30-year-old Russian who had a combined 15 shutouts and a goals-against average just under 2.40 in the last two seasons, will probably command about $5 million to $6 million per season. The Flyers plan to "take a look" at Bryzgalov, said an NHL source familiar with the team's plans.

"The pat answer for me is we're always looking to make ourselves better at every position," Holmgren said.

Holmgren did not dismiss re-signing goalie Brian Boucher, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Boucher, however, seems a long shot to return.

"Brian had a tremendous year for us," Holmgren said. "I thought Brian, like a lot of guys in the playoffs, struggled with things. We will see how that plays out. . . . I know he wants to continue playing. I know he likes it here, his family likes it here. But we'll see."

The amount that the salary cap increases this summer may have an effect on Holmgren's decisions.

"Do we need major changes? I would say no," Holmgren said. "But over the course of the summertime, the salary cap has an effect on all teams, and we'll see how the summer plays out."

The Flyers do not want to make any quick offseason decisions, said Peter Luukko, president of the team's parent company, Comcast-Spectacor.

"When you lose, you have to access where you were as a team, not only in the playoffs but the whole year," Luukko said. "We need to take a couple weeks to reflect."

Luukko said there's "always pressure for us to get better. It's self-imposed. We need to stabilize the goaltending situation, and that's something Paul will address."

Will that mean Bobrovsky, 22, will be the No. 1, and a new No. 2 will surface? Or will the Flyers make a pitch for Bryzgalov to become Bobrovsky's mentor - or a free agent like soon-to-be-35 Tomas Vokoun?

In the playoffs, the Flyers made seven in-game goalie changes, including two in one game that were injury-related. They used three starting goalies in the series against Buffalo. In 11 postseason games, the Flyers had a 3.46 goals-against average, 14th of the 16 playoff teams.

"As far as goaltending goes, yes, we can look at the first series against Buffalo and point the finger and say you know they made some mistakes," Flyers center Danny Briere said. "Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has bad games. I don't think goalies could have changed much in the second round against Boston. I don't think that's fair to put the blame on goaltending."

But it's fair to question whether the Flyers have the goaltending needed to end a Stanley Cup drought that has lasted for three-plus decades.


Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi ar scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/BroadStBull.

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