Inside the Flyers: How the Flyers' negotiations with Bryzgalov might play out

Posted: June 12, 2011

Shortly after the Flyers' underachieving season ended, a frustrated Ed Snider proclaimed he "never again" wanted to suffer through another goalie carousel like the one that plagued the team in this year's playoffs.

Snider, chairman of the Flyers' parent company, Comcast-Spectacor, made a clear plea to general manager Paul Holmgren: Fix it.

Being the good soldier he is, Holmgren, who has been with the franchise in some capacity for 32 years, didn't take long to comply with "Mr. Snider's" wishes.

On Tuesday, Holmgren acquired the rights to the best available goalie, Ilya Bryzgalov, from Phoenix. The Flyers traded little and received the negotiating rights to the soon-to-be-31-year-old goalie, hoping to come to terms before he hits the free-agent market on July 1.

Now comes the tricky part: Trying to sign the colorful Bryzgalov - a five-year deal in the $27 million neighborhood is a reasonable guess - and fit him under the crowded cap.

Holmgren had a preliminary conversation with Bryzgalov's agent, Ritch Winter, on Thursday. Both sides plan to meet this week.

The meeting may go something like this:

Holmgren: Welcome, Ilya. I understand you're a history buff and are familiar with Philadelphia.

Bryzgalov: I know all about Ben Franklin, William Penn, and Tastykakes. And [half-kiddingly] if I get the right contract, I could buy Pat's, Geno's, and Jim's and save Tastykake from any financial problems it may still have.

Holmgren: [Chuckling] Well, we want you here. We think you could be the missing piece we need to win the Stanley Cup. Then again, we thought the same thing when we brought Chris Pronger here a couple of years ago, so you never know.

Winter: Bryz is the best goalie in the NHL - and, unlike Pronger, he's in his prime. Guess how many NHL goalies had more wins in the last two years? None.

Holmgren: Hey, you don't have to sell me on Ilya. We know what he brings to the table.

Winter: He plays his best in big games. The better the competition, the better he plays.

Holmgren: Well, not to be negative, but he did lose all four playoff games against the Red Wings this year. And if I'm not mistaken, he allowed more than four goals a game and had a save percentage in the .800s. . . .

Winter: True, but look at his lifetime playoff numbers. They're very good. This year was an aberration. And here's a stat you may not have known: In about 50 percent of his starts for the Coyotes this season, Ilya was named one of the game's three stars. Think about that!

Bryzgalov: Has the recent sale helped Tastykake?

Holmgren: I spend my time worrying about staying under the cap - thank God for Barry Hanrahan's help - so I have no clue about Tastykake. But, seriously, tell me what you know about the Flyers.

Bryzgalov: I know the fans are starving for a championship - and a top-flight goalie. It seems to me the Flyers have always been one of the league's elite teams - look at this year's regular season - but they haven't had a lock-down goalie since Ron Hextall.

Holmgren: Yeah, it's been a while.

Bryzgalov: I wasn't even born when Bernie Parent won your last Cup here in '75, but I would love to end that drought.

Holmgren: To sign, how many years are you guys looking for?

Winter: The longer the better.

Bryzgalov: I want to end my career in Philly.

Holmgren: How would you feel if in, say, the fourth year of your deal, we started to get Sergei Bobrovsky more involved?

Bryzgalov: I love Bob, but to tell you the truth, I don't see him taking my job away - even then. May the best man win.

Holmgren: I like your confidence.

Winter: Not only is he confident and a great goalie, but he can be hilarious - and I hear your locker room could use a guy like him to loosen things up if Pronger isn't healthy. Have you seen the YouTube video from when he played in Anaheim and he defended his teammate, Pronger, and called Edmonton the North Pole? Cracked me up. Cracked a lot of people up. I think it got a quarter-million hits.

Holmgren: That's all well and good, but we want him for his goaltending, not his one-liners.

Winter: He's your man. I mean, he almost single-handedly carried Phoenix into the playoffs last season.

Holmgren: Not to be a spoilsport, but his goals-against average (2.48) was similar to Bobrovsky's (2.59) and Brian Boucher's (2.42).

Winter: Yeah, but look at his record (36-20-10) and save percentage (.921) - and his goals-against is misleading. He had a mediocre defense in front of him. Put him behind Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, Andrej Meszaros, and the rest of the Flyers defense and you'll have a guy who will contend for the Vezina Trophy.

Holmgren: You make a good point. Let me check to see how much is left in Mr. Snider's checkbook.


Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com or on Twitter at BroadStBull.

 

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