Flyers' Meszaros an expensive scratch

Posted: October 18, 2013

ANDREJ MESZAROS is the most expensive healthy scratch in Flyers history.

While you are letting that ruminate for a second, consider that fact would not have mattered as recently as 10 years ago, when there was no salary cap in the NHL.

But this is 2013-14 and they are paying Meszaros $67,073.17 per game to watch from the press box while he chews up nearly 7 percent of the team's overall, $64.3 million cap.

Meszaros, 28, will make $5.5 million this season but his salary counts for $4 million on the books.

"I don't even think 'Chief' [Craig Berube] knows what anyone makes, which is a good thing," general manager Paul Holmgren said. "This is all based on merit. I don't mind the way Andrej played when he was in, I thought he was OK and got a little better with each game. But it is what it is; most teams are carrying eight 'D' around the league and Erik [Gustafsson] was practicing hard and waiting to get in."

"There were a few guys Craig wanted to scratch, but Andrej ended up being the first.''

This is nothing new. The Flyers always have iced a lineup the coach feels best gives them a chance to win, even if it means cutting expensive ties with Ilya Bryzgalov ($23 million) and Danny Briere ($3.33 million).

But it also means the Flyers have more or less waved the white flag on Meszaros. He was scratched for the third straight game last night, the longest stretch of his career.

Even entering training camp, Meszaros was surrounded by question marks. Most wondered how he would respond coming off his second straight injury-riddled season. Would his confidence be at the level required to play in the NHL?

But after a 1-4 start, Berube pulled Meszaros from the lineup in Detroit in favor of Gustafsson, who responded with his fifth NHL goal in his 61st game. Berube admitted it was hard to sit Meszaros, but liked the speed and mobility Gustafsson added.

"He's a good player, but I just didn't see enough from him," Berube said. "It's a long year. 'Mez' is working. That's great. He's a good pro."

That left Meszaros wondering what he could do to get his confidence back. He has only played 16 games since March 1, 2012 - a span of nearly 600 days. As he sees it, the only way to do regain confidence is by playing games, not letting your mind stray while your teammates play.

"I felt good out there," a visibly distraught Meszaros said yesterday. "I was getting comfortable out there and just playing. Unfortunately, we were losing games and something has to give, something has to change.

"For me, because I didn't play a lot of games last year, personally I think it would be good just to play and get into that, but unfortunately I can't play right now. I'll just have to sit and wait. It's frustrating, there is nothing I can do about it. It's his decision, I've got to respect that."

The problem is there is a logjam both in front of him and behind him. Hal Gill is buried as the eighth defenseman; Bruno Gervais is in Adirondack; even Oliver Lauridsen, impressive with the Flyers last season, is pushing with the Phantoms.

The Flyers are stuck. This is the final year of Meszaros' deal. He is likely thankful for the plush paycheck, but knows it prohibits him from playing elsewhere. And the Flyers can't send him to the Phantoms, because all but $900,000 of his salary will count against the cap - a rule under this new CBA to prevent big-market teams like the Flyers from burying abominable contracts in the minors.

The bigger issue may be if the Flyers end up needing Meszaros because of injury. If confidence was the issue in his game, what will it be like when he plays again?

"I'm perfectly healthy. I'm not thinking about going out there to get hurt," Meszaros said. "I'm over the injuries. I just want to play. Being more comfortable and more confident, you have to play games to get your confidence. Losing games, the confidence is not there."

Bryz waits

Ilya Bryzgalov's tryout with the ECHL's Las Vegas Wranglers has expired, but the former Flyers goaltender is no closer to an NHL job than 3 weeks ago.

Bryzgalov agreed to join Las Vegas just to train and the team released him from his tryout contract on Wednesday. Bryzgalov's agent, Ritch Winter, says that his client already has turned down one NHL offer - but this is also the same agent who said he had "six NHL general managers" lined up and willing to offer his client a job last June.

For now, Bryzgalov is back in South Jersey, where his children attend school. Last night's opponent, Pittsburgh, wasn't willing to take a flyer, even though they lost veteran backup Tomas Vokoun for 3 to 6 months because of blood clots.

"Bryz will train at home until the right NHL job comes around," Winter told ESPN.com. "There is no rush. He is in great shape and ready to go when the right opportunity arises."


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

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