Just when I was starting to look forward to a giant Bernie Parent card being in goal for the Flyers next season, it seems Philadelphia is getting really close to signing Ilya Bryzgalov.
Aiming to finally solve the franchise’s most historic problem area and also strip the blogging community of the league’s easiest joke, the Flyers acquired the rights to Bryzgalov from Phoenix earlier this month. After shipping winger Matt Clackson, a third round pick and future considerations to the desert, the Flyers were able to begin negotiating a contract extension with the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent goaltender.
There was immediate jubilance in Flyer-land, a joyous if mythical place where players in orange take unique measures to ensure their suspension, earning punishments when the season is actually over. After the Flyers’ humiliating goalie carousel of Sergei Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher, and Michael Leighton led to a second round sweep at the hands of the Bruins, securing some stability in goal was a clear priority.
However, as Lewis noted a while back, merely acquiring the rights to a player doesn’t guarantee that he’ll be on your roster next season. We’ve seen numerous examples of teams sacrificing assets for player rights, and then whiffing on the subsequent signing. It’s sounding like the Flyers are about to avoid that fate, but general manager Paul Holmgren still has some tricky salary cap tight-rope walking to do.
Bryzgalov spoke to the Russian newspaper Sport Express, a story that was translated to English over the weekend and relayed by the Philadelphia Daily News. In a series of meetings likely held at local parks, Bryzgalov brought his entourage (his wife and agent) to Philly and meet with the Flyers’ brass last week. He then slipped this little inside scoop to Sport express:
“Tuesday or Wednesday everything will be [done]. We are waiting for [Philadelphia].”
While there’s little reason not to trust a man who’s always brutally honest, the small matter of Philadelphia’s tight salary cap situation still has to be addressed. In the final year of his contract this past season with the Coyotes Bryzgalov had a cap hit of $425,000, and the Flyers currently have the lowest cap space in the league ($430,845). Only five UFAs will be coming off the books, which includes Boucher, defencemen Nick Boynton and Sean O’Donnell, and forwards Ville Leino and Nikolai Zherdev. Between the extensions given to Claude Giroux and Jeff Carter, and the acquisition of Kris Versteeg, the Flyers added nearly $6 million to next year’s cap.
At 27 years old Leino began to blossom this year after scoring a career-high 19 goals and 53 points. Addressing Philly’s epic crease catastrophe will make it nearly impossible to retain Leino, a talented young forward who formed a nice secondary scoring complement to the team’s core of Giroux, Carter, and Danny Briere. Although the salary cap is reportedly set to rise to $64 million for next season, the Flyers are still due to be about $1 million over.
We’re smack in the middle of the annual Carter rumour season, and the bruising forward just signed an 11-year contract extension worth $58 million last November, which sucks up about $5.2 million annually. The weight of that contract can be crippling when trying to address other areas. But moving Carter would plug one hole while creating a giant leak in another, as he’s a skilled, big-bodied forward who led the Flyers with 36 goals last year.
Any movement in the team’s top six will create a hole to some extent. But when Boucher is being trotted out for a playoff game, the loss of scoring becomes a necessary risk, and one the Flyers’ third-ranked offence can sustain. An unproven goalie like Leighton backstopping a team to the Stanley Cup Final was an aberration, and certainly isn’t the norm.
Instead of moving an elite forward like Carter, the more favourable option would be to put together a package that includes Kris Versteeg and Scott Hartnell, who combine for a cap hit of roughly $7.2 million. Any move involving Hartnell is made more complicated by his no-trade clause, which takes control away from Holmgren.
All cap numbers courtesy of Cap Geek, of course.