Two years ago the Philadelphia Flyers completed a disappointing 10-game run through the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs that saw them start three goaltenders, all of whom had little to no success.
The response was for the team to invest heavily in a franchise goaltender.
Two years and a lot of money later, the Flyers still are looking for that player.
Nearly two years to the day they announced goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov had signed a nine-year, $51 million contract, Philadelphia announced it would use its second and final compliance buyout to terminate the remaining seven years 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," Flyers general manager Paul 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."
Flyers to buy out Bryzgalov's contract
The Philadelphia Flyers announced Tuesday that they plan to exercise a compliance buyout of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. READ MORE ›
The deal saves the Flyers just over $5.66 million per season on the NHL salary cap, but will cost them approximately $1.65 million per season for the next 14 seasons to have him not play for them. The team also lost cornerstone forwards Jeff Carter
and Mike Richards
, who were traded the day Bryzgalov signed his deal, to give the Flyers salary-cap flexibility. In addition, the Flyers traded Sergei Bobrovsky
to the Columbus Blue Jackets
in the summer of 2012 and had to watch him take home the Vezina Trophy as the League's best goaltender this season.
In two seasons with the Flyers, Bryzgalov went 52-33-10 in 99 games, with a 2.60 goals-against average and .905 save percentage. He had a 3.46 GAA in 11 playoff games, all last season.
So what's next for the Flyers in net? Steve Mason, acquired in April from the Blue Jackets, played well after arriving, going 4-2-0 in seven games with a 1.90 GAA. However, he's coming off three-and-a-half forgettable seasons with the Blue Jackets after winning the 2009 Calder Trophy.
There isn't another NHL-ready in-house candidate to compete with Mason, so where will the Flyers look next in net? Here are a few options:
Roberto Luongo: Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis termed it unlikely Luongo would return to his team, and it's well-known Luongo wants out after losing his starting job to Cory Schneider. A trade will be difficult; Luongo has a no-movement clause in his contract, which has nine years and about $48 million left on it. If the Canucks opt to buy out Luongo's deal, the Flyers then could be interested.
Mike Smith: Stop us if you're heard this one: Goalie goes from scrap heap to starting job in Phoenix, emerges as Vezina candidate and looks to cash in big in free agency. Smith is traveling the same path Bryzgalov went down; could the next stop on that trail be Philadelphia? It's tough to see the Flyers taking another drink from this well, but not impossible.
Ryan Miller: Miller will be entering the final season of his contract in 2013-14 and reportedly has made it known he's not particularly interested in going through a rebuilding process in Buffalo. Miller's numbers might not look great from this season, but he didn't have a lot of support from a porous defense. At 32 he should have a few good seasons left, but the Sabres will ask a lot in any trade discussions.
Ray Emery: Emery isn't a stranger in Philadelphia -- after his one-season stint in Russia, he returned to the NHL with the Flyers in 2009, but a career-threatening hip injury ended his time with the team after 29 games. Healthy and with a Jennings Trophy and a Stanley Cup ring on his resume, could an older, more mature Emery help raise Mason's level like it did Corey Crawford's in Chicago?
Jake Allen: A dark-horse candidate, but the impending restricted free agent could be a prime candidate for an offer sheet -- and as we saw last summer, Holmgren is not shy about going after restricted free agents. The Blues will have to spend big to sign defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk to new deals, as well as forward Chris Stewart, all of whom will be restricted free agents if not signed by July 5. If the Flyers make a big-money offer, will the Blues match and potentially risk being unable to sign one of their other core players?
2013 NHL Draft: Zachary Fucale of the Halifax Mooseheads is NHL Central Scouting's top-rated North American goaltender and considered by some scouts to be a future starting goaltender in the NHL. It's likely he'll be available for the Flyers, who hold the 11th pick. But with holes to fill on defense and on the wing, could the team afford to pass up some of the talented position players available? Not to mention the team has high hopes for goalie Anthony Stolarz, the team's second-round pick last year.