The turbulent relationship between the Philadelphia Flyers and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov will come to an end this summer.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren made that official Tuesday when he announced the organization would use its second and final compliance buyout to terminate the remaining seven seasons of Bryzgalov's contract.
"I met with Ilya this morning and informed him that we are going to exercise a compliance buyout of his contract," Holmgren said in a statement released by the team. "This was a very difficult business decision to make for us and we want to thank Ilya for his time here and wish him all the best moving forward."
Last week, Holmgren announced forward Danny Briere would be given a compliance buyout of the final two seasons of his contract.
The decision to buy out Bryzgalov means the Flyers have utilized both of the buyouts available to them under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The window to announce compliance buyouts runs for 48 hours after the decisive game of the Stanley Cup Final, which was Monday night. The team cannot officially buy him out until 11 p.m. ET Wednesday.
Philadelphia will save $5.667 million in salary-cap space for the next seven seasons, but the club also has to pay him $23 million over the next 14 years (two-thirds of the remaining $34.5 million on Bryzgalov's contract). The Flyers signed Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million deal on June 23, 2011.
"Obviously it's a costly mistake that we made," Holmgren said of the contract. "You know, Ilya, it's hard to fault him. I still believe he played pretty good, but in a salary-cap world you need to make decisions from time to time that put you in a better light moving forward, and this is one of those."
In a statement released by the team, Flyers chairman Ed Snider supported Holmgren's decision: "I fully support Paul Holmgren in his decision to use our final compliance buyout for Ilya Bryzgalov. It was a very difficult decision from a financial standpoint, but if Bryz remained a Flyer, the dollars would be far greater in a shorter time frame. We now have cap space, which will allow us to improve our team."
"In the meantime, Bryz can try to find a situation where he can achieve true happiness."
In a statement released Wednesday through his agent, Bryzgalov thanked Philadelphia management for giving him an opportunity to play for the Flyers.
"As my family and I move forward to meet the new challenges ahead, I could not leave Philadelphia without publicly thanking [team chairman Ed] Snider for the faith he showed in me when he committed to the long-term contract that has secured my family's financial future and acknowledging his passion for the game of hockey," Bryzgalov said. "Jeniya [wife] and I really appreciate his faith in me and what he has done for our family.
"I am grateful for teammates, to management and fans for the support I felt from so many of them through some very dark days and difficult situations. I have made many friends here -- on the team, in the organization, among the media and throughout the community. ... I appreciate this experience more than many of you will know. I will learn from it. I have always said that a heavy sword makes a very strong arm. I intend to take this experience with me to my new team, to help me be stronger, a better player and, hopefully, a better person."
Bryzgalov went 19-17-3 with a 2.79 goals-against average and .900 save percentage this season, and in 99 regular-season games in his two seasons with the Flyers he went 52-33-10 with a 2.61 GAA and .905 save percentage. He also had a 3.46 GAA in 11 Stanley Cup Playoff games, all last season. His play never rose to the levels he reached previously with the Phoenix Coyotes, and his quirky personality made him stand out, not always in a positive manner.
However, Holmgren was adamant the decision to buy out Bryzgalov strictly was business, not personal.
"I think Ilya is a colorful guy," Holmgren said. "Does he say things out of the blue sometimes? Absolutely, but I don't think he's any different than a lot of other players I have been associated with. I didn't have an issue with that. This is strictly a business decision. … But moving forward it probably makes the most sense when you start looking down the road on trying to keep other players like Claude Giroux in the fold, and the cap this year is a little bit of an issue obviously. But moving forward from a business standpoint, this probably made the most sense."
Bryzgalov's departure leaves Steve Mason as the Flyers' lone NHL-ready goaltender on the roster. Acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets in April, Mason went 4-2-0 in seven games, with a 1.90 GAA and .944 save percentage.
"We think a lot of Steve moving forward," Holmgren said, "so right now we obviously are in the market for a goalie who can play in tandem with Steve and what we feel comfortable with."
Where Holmgren finds that goalie, he wasn't ready to say.
"I have ideas," he said. "Obviously, we're in need of another goalie. Probably a couple. I feel like where we're at right now, we've got Cal Heeter, we've got a kid, Carsen [Chubak] here on an American league deal, and we've got Steve Mason. So we're in the market for goalies. How we do it remains to be seen. I'm not trying to be [difficult]. There's options out there right now and we'll go at it the best way we can."
One of those options, however, likely won't be Roberto Luongo. The Vancouver Canucks goalie has asked for a trade, and Canucks general manager Mike Gillis earlier in the offseason said it was unlikely Luongo would return to the team. However, Luongo has nine years left on his contract.
"I don't see how that one would work," Holmgren said of Luongo. "To be honest with you, probably not an option. That's not one of my ideas."
Asked if Luongo would be an option if he were bought out by the Canucks, Holmgren said, "Who knows? I can't really speculate on other teams' business right now."
As far as Bryzgalov, Holmgren said he wouldn't be surprised to see him find another NHL job.
"I don’t see why not," he said. "He's a good goalie."
Selected in the second round (No. 44) of the 2000 NHL Draft by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Bryzgalov spent six seasons with the Ducks, and was the backup to Jean-Sebastien Giguere when the Ducks won the 2007 Stanley Cup. He was claimed on waivers by the Phoenix Coyotes on Nov. 17, 2007, and in four seasons backstopped the Coyotes to the postseason in 2010 and 2011. He was a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2010. In 425 NHL games in parts of 11 seasons, Bryzgalov has 208 wins, with a 2.55 GAA and .913 save percentage.