The Philadelphia Flyers have taken a step towards solidifying their goaltending situation after acquiring the rights to goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov from the Phoenix Coyotes for a third round pick in 2012.
After a two straight years of disappointment in Philadelphia, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren wasted no time in potentially locking up a goaltender for his hockey team next season.
Philadelphia sent a third round draft pick in next years draft, prospect Matt Clackson, as well as a conditional pick to the Coyotes in exchange for the negotiating rights to Bryzgalov.
The Russian netminder is coming off a career season with the Coyotes, earning 36 wins and posting seven shutouts with a .921 save percentage, which helped the Coyotes finish sixth in the Western Conference, making the playoffs for the second straight year with Bryzgalov between the pipes.
The Flyers' lack of steady goaltending took criticism after they were eliminated by the Boston Bruins in the second round of the playoffs. After losing in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final with the goaltending tandem of Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher, the Flyers took the same pair into the playoffs after rookie Sergei Bobrovsky was taken out early in the first round. As the carousel went round and round, it seemed to be a valid question of who would be starting in goal for the Flyers on any given night.
Bryzgalov seems like the perfect fit for Philadelphia, though his new contract might come with a bigger price tag than the Flyers can afford. Bryzgalov made $4.25 million in the last year of his contract, and after posting career-high numbers, there's no doubt that the 30-year-old netminder will be looking for a pay increase as he's established himself as one of the premier goaltenders in the league.
This may pose as a problem for the Flyers, who are already in cap trouble going into the offseason. According to capgeek.com, the Flyers have almost $59 million committed to 18 players for next year, with virtually no cap room left with the current lineup they have. This includes having to resign restricted free agents Darroll Powe and Andreas Nodl, as well as already being committed to Scott Hartnell ($4.2 million) and Kris Versteeg's ($3 million) high salaries for the next year.
If Bryzgalov is going to be signed, Holmgren will have to make another move, and it seems as if the Flyers GM has something up his sleeve. Philadelphia has several large contracts they've committed to for the next few years, and there are a few expendable assets they could move to make room for Bryzgalovs contract.
Andrej Meszaros is slated to earn $4 million over the next three years, but the defenseman put up just 32 points in 81 games in 2010-11, making him a hard contract to move. Matt Carle is in a similar situation as he will make just under $3.5 million for another year, after contributing 40 points in all 82 games the Flyers played this season. Carle spent the majority of the year alongside Chris Pronger, but had just four points and was a team-worst minus-8 in the playoffs while Pronger spent most of the post-season out of the lineup.
The Flyers have less than a month to make room for Bryzgalov, but as of July 1 he will become an unrestricted free agent and can test the open market. Boucher also becomes a UFA this summer, while Leighton is signed on for another year in Philadelphia.
For the Coyotes, the trade shows Bryzgalov's lack of desire to re-sign in Phoenix, though he struggled for the team in the playoffs this year. Bryzgalov failed to win a game this post-season, and his 4.36 goals against average was part of the reason that the Coyotes were swept in the first round by Detroit.
Should they be unsuccessful in signing Bryzgalov like the Coyotes, the Flyers also have other options heading into the free agency. Topping the list of free agent goaltenders this season are Florida's Tomas Vokoun, Toronto's Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and should he decide to play another season, 41-year-old Dwayne Roloson from Tampa Bay. For a more affordable option, Marty Turco will be a UFA after losing his starter job to Corey Crawford this season, and the former-Dallas Stars veteran made just $1.3 million this year for the Blackhawks.