The Flyers' Ilya Bryzgalov dilemma

Posted: April 30, 2013

ILYA BRYZGALOV performed his final stand-up routine of the season yesterday; please, tip your servers and try the caviar.

It really was a Tour de Bryz. His target this day was the media. At one point, he said that perusing stories written about him - which he apparently does with a highlighter - often leaves him thinking, "Sometimes you're reading and it's like, 'Oh my God, who is this lunatic?' "

But, he said, it doesn't bother him.

"Not anymore," Bryzgalov said. "Not anymore. You guys [are] just here to blame someone. You never look yourselves in the mirror, eh? You're always good. You never make the mistakes. Your articles are always perfect. In reality, what have you done for this city? If you ask yourself, what have you done besides only criticize? Not much."

When asked the other day, he eventually acknowledged - after offering a diversionary wisecrack - that he wanted to come back next season. When asked again yesterday, Bryzgalov replied that there was no need to repeat himself. He couldn't bring himself to say the words.

Later, listening to general manager Paul Holmgren, it sounds as if Bryzgalov is coming back - even though Holmgren acknowledges that there is a division of opinion within the Flyers' dressing room about the goaltender's personality.

So, he's likely coming back. But why? Into what is likely to be a super-intense amount of pressure surrounding next season, why?

Newly acquired goalie Steve Mason would represent a leap of faith, and there is no denying that. But even as Bryzgalov is a known quantity by comparison, well, what do we know that is so comforting after two seasons? His performance has been decent, but hardly approaching the NHL's top echelon. And his personality is, at the very least, a topic of conversation among his teammates.

Still, Holmgren says he is not worried about it.

"I don't see it as an issue," he said. "I think, if you ask the older guys on the team, they'd probably say that it's not a big deal. The younger guys on the team maybe perceive it a little differently - but I think the older guys on the team probably perceive the younger guys on the team a little different, too.

"He's part of the team. There's different elements on each team. I think Ilya offers a . . . "

And here Holmgren grasped for the right word.

" . . . a . . . ," he said, continuing to grasp.

" . . . a different element," Holmgren said, finally, with a slight laugh.

Do his teammates respect him?

"Yeah," Holmgren said. "I think they all believe he's a good goalie."

And what kind of year did Bryzgalov have?

"I think Ilya had a good year," Holmgren said. And that was that. For the record, his .900 save percentage ranked 48th out of 57 NHL goalies who played at least 10 games this season.

Bryzgalov still has 7 years and $34.5 million left on his deal. But because the NHL has a mechanism where teams can buy out bad contracts at two-thirds of their remaining value, here are your basic financial choices - assuming, of course, that there is no way he is going to play seven more seasons here under the terms of the original deal. Using a present value calculation, and the rules of the NHL, the two choices are these:

First, get rid of him now. The Flyers would owe Bryzgalov $23 million, to be paid out over the next 14 years. If you were going to fund that liability right now, you would need to put about $18.2 million into Treasury bills.

Second, hang on to him for another year and then get rid of him. That way, the Flyers would owe Bryzgalov $8 million for next season and then about $17.7 million, to be paid out over the subsequent 12 years. If you were going to fund that liability right now, you would need to put about $22.3 million into Treasury bills.

So, if you are down on Bryz, you can make the argument that it is cheaper just to get rid of him now. If you think Bryz' glass is half-full, however, you can make the argument that it only costs about $4 million in 2013 dollars to try to coax a great season out of him next year.

All of which means that the money really is not the determining factor.

It's the rest of it, the whole aura around the guy, and that is what Holmgren needs to figure out. There are plenty of players who have kind of goofy personalities, and they get along fine in many locker-room situations. Holmgren apparently has decided that Bryzgalov is one of those players.

He had better be right - because let's not kid anyone here: next season is going to be as high pressure a season as this franchise has lived in a while.

The Flyers have several core young forwards who underperformed this season and whose careers will largely be determined by how they rebound next year. They have a defense that needs an immediate infusion of talent and durability. They have a coach who, given the general impatience in the NHL and the particularly impatient history of this franchise, is already on borrowed time.

This is a lot of heat on a lot of people. Now, throw the Tour de Bryz into that mix.

Holmgren had better be right.


Email: hofmanr@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @theidlerich

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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