Hoping to strike a deal before free agency begins on July 1, the Philadelphia Flyers acquired the rights to impending free agent goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov from the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night in exchange for minor-league left wing Matt Clackson, a 2012 third-round draft pick and a conditional pick.
Bryzgalov, who turns 31 on June 22, will become an unrestricted free agent if he does not reach an agreement with Philadelphia. He went 36-20-10 with a 2.48 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage this season and won 130 games over the last four seasons with Phoenix, which claimed him off waivers from the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.
The deal is similar to a move made by the Flyers four years ago, when they acquired the negotiating rights to pending free agents Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell from Nashville before the July 1 deadline, then signed both players to long-term contracts.
Evgeni Nabokov from the San Jose Sharks but failed to sign him, as he opted for a more lucrative deal in the KHL.
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren is hopeful he'll be able to strike a deal with Bryzgalov.
"We're going to give it our best shot," Holmgren said during a conference call when asked if he's confident the two sides can reach an agreement. "You give up an asset to get a chance to get in early, so we have every intention of trying our best to get a deal done. We'll see what we can do. I feel like he's still got a good years left in him. We'll see how it goes."
Bryzgalov was a member of Anaheim's 2007 Stanley Cup championship squad along with current Flyers defensemen Chris Pronger and Sean O'Donnell. He appeared in 27 games that season, posting a 10-8-6-1 record with a 2.47 GAA and .907 save percentage, and was 3-1 with a 2.24 GAA and .922 save percentage in five Stanley Cup Playoff appearances en route to the championship.
Bryzgalov was selected by Anaheim in the second round (No. 44) in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Over parts of nine NHL seasons with Anaheim (2001-07) and Phoenix (2007-10), Bryzgalov has a career record of 156-116-35 in 326 appearances along with a 2.53 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage. He has appeared in 27 career playoff games, posting a 12-13 record with a 2.55 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.
A native of Togliatti, Russia, Bryzgalov has represented his country in three Olympic Games (2002, 2006 and 2010), winning a bronze medal at Turin in 2006. He also won a gold medal with Russia at the 2009 World Championships and a silver medal at the 2000 World Junior Championships.
But Tuesday's deal marks the end of his tremendous run with the Coyotes, who will now begin to search for his replacement.
"After several discussions with Ilya and his agent, it became very clear to us that we were not in a position to sign Ilya to a long-term contract," Coyotes GM Don Maloney said. "We will now focus our efforts on adding another goaltender to our roster for the upcoming season."
Clackson, 26, was selected by the Flyers in the seventh round (No. 215) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and joined the club's American Hockey League affiliate at the end of the 2007-08 season. Over that time and the next three full seasons with the Phantoms, Clackson -- the son of former NHL forward Kim Clackson -- had 6 goals, 13 assists and 574 penalty minutes in 204 games.
The Flyers would likely have to move one of their key pieces before the start of the season in order to make a long-term commitment to Bryzgalov. According to capgeek.com, Philadelphia has $58.9 million committed to 18 players for 2011-12.
"Once we know what the salary cap is going to be next year, we'll have a better idea of what we need to do down the road," said Holmgren, who added that the conditional pick -- which he said will not be in the first or second round -- is contingent on the Flyers reaching a deal with Bryzgalov. "We have options. I don't know. We'll just see how it goes."
Should an agreement be reached, Philadelphia would boast one of the top goaltending tandems in the League in Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky, who went 28-13-8 with a 2.59 GAA and .915 save percentage in 54 appearances as a rookie in 2010-11.
"I still think the world of Sergei," Holmgren said. "I think he's one of the top young goalies in our game. Having that said, we continue to try to make our team better. I think if we can get (Bryzgalov) signed, we can make our team better.
"We'll see if we can get a deal done. We've got our foot in the door now. We have some time to look at certain things and try to work through the issues and get a deal. We didn't make this trade to acquire his rights to just kind of hang around. We're going to try our best to get him signed."
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