With the news coming Tuesday evening that the Flyers cut a deal with the Phoenix Coyotes to acquire the rights to goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov
, the question shifted from what move would the Flyers make this summer in the goaltending category to will they be able to sign the soon-to-be free agent.
During his conference call with the media following completion of the trade, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren answered that question very quickly and confidently.
“We’re going to give it our best shot. We didn’t make this trade to acquire his rights just to try to hang around. We’re going to try our best to get him signed.”
The Flyers now have exclusivity to negotiate with the 30-year-old goaltender who was a Vezina Trophy Finalist just one year ago.
“At least we get first crack at it, and we’ll see what we can do. We have some ideas we’ll bounce around,” added Holmgren. “I’m sure Ilya’s agent has some ideas of his own that he wants to bounce around. We 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.”
The salary cap is certainly an issue, however the specific cap ceiling has not been set yet and the Flyers goal remains the same as it has every other year.
“With the salary cap, you can only do so much. We’re trying to get the best team we can get to get ready for the 2011-12 season. There’s a lot of things that need to happen between now and July 1. We’re going to see what we can do.”
Fans out in Glendale, Ariz. were able to see first-hand what Bryzgalov can do.
This past season he posted a 36-20-10 record, a 2.48 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage while recording seven shutouts. His 36 wins were tied for sixth in the NHL and seven shutouts tied for fourth in the NHL during the regular season.
“You look at how he played not only when he was in Anaheim, but the last few years in Phoenix, I think he’s probably one of the reason, probably the biggest reason why they became a playoff team the last two years. He’s one of the better goalies in the league. You can make the argument that he’s among the top 10 goalies in the league, if not higher.”
Should Bryzgalov sign and suit up for the Flyers in 2011-12, he won’t have a go at it alone.
During his time with the Anaheim Ducks he was teammates with current Flyers Chris Pronger
and Sean O’Donnell.
With Bryzgalov in a backup role to Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the trio went on to hoist the Stanley Cup in 2007.
The situation would be reversed this time around for Bryzgalov, who would be expected to shoulder a majority of the workload.
That’s something Holmgren doesn’t see a problem with the chemistry of the team and the possibility of now sophomore netminder and countryman Sergei Bobrovsky
working behind him.
“I’ve said numerous times, that I really like Sergei and that he’s got a really bright future as a Flyer, so we don’t want to lose track of that.
“When Chris Pronger
and Sean O’Donnell played with [Bryzgalov], he was a young kid behind [J.S.] Giguere. Some of the information we have on him from his days in Phoenix, it’s all good. He’s a team guy, and he must have gotten along pretty well with the guy who was playing behind him in Phoenix. I don’t see an issue with that. I think the fact that they’re both Russians probably would help.”
The Bryzgalov deal could end up being the big splash of the summer for the Flyers or just the tip of the iceberg.
Regardless, the task remains the same for Holmgren and the Flyers management.
“[We have some] good pieces that you need to win a Stanley Cup. In acquiring Ilya, we have an opportunity here to negotiate a contract and get him signed sort of ahead of other teams that might have had those same ideas in mind.”