If the Philadelphia Flyers end up spending $7 million a season on Ilya Bryzgalov(notes), which both Nick Kypreos and Elliotte Friedman have heard is the price tag for the goalie, there's only one guy to blame: The Chairman of the Board.
Ed Snider, the 78-year-old chairman of the Philadelphia Flyers, believes the goaltender is "the final piece on this team" and gave GM Paul Holmgren marching orders to find the Flyers the best one available. Holmgren traded for the negotiating rights to free agent Ilya Bryzgalov of the Phoenix Coyotes, and Mr. Chairman was pleased.
"It had to be done," Snider told the Daily News, just after arriving here for tonight's NHL Awards show at The Palms Casino and Resort. "I was part of making it happen. It was hard to sit there and watch the Stanley Cup final, knowing what [Tim] Thomas was doing for Boston."
(You think you had it hard? Try being Luongo, sir.)
That's why Bryzgalov will likely become a Flyer; now, is he worth $7 million a season for what Kypreos believes will be seven years?
This contract would make Bryzgalov the highest-paid goaltender in the NHL based on average annual salary. Henrik Lundqvist(notes) of the New York Rangers is at $6.875 million while Cam Ward(notes) ($6.3 million) and Ryan Miller(notes) ($6.25 million) trail behind him. Bryzgalov would be only the sixth goalie in the NHL with a cap hit north of $6 million, joining the three players mentioned above along with Niklas Backstrom(notes) of the Minnesota Wild and Jean-Sebastien Giguere(notes) of the Toronto Maple Leafs (for now).
Backstrom and Bryzgalov are comparable players. Bryzgalov just turned 31; Backstrom was 31 when he signed his four-year, $24 million deal with the Wild. Both goalies made the transition from heralded backups to starters. Both goalies, it can be argued, were products of a defensive system in front of them.
Neither goalie has been all that good in the playoffs, save for Bryzgalov's six-game winning streak for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2006. Take that run out, and he's 6-13 overall; he's also posted GAA of 3.44 and 4.36 in the last two playoffs for the Coyotes.
So in essence, the Flyers would be paying Bryzgalov $1 million more annually than Backstrom, and that's not all that implausible given their accomplishments.
But let's take a closer look at those accomplishments. Our buddy JP passed along a note about Bryzgalov's even-strength save percentage over the last three seasons in relation to that of his backup netminders:
His primary backups: .92589
Then there's the mental toughness question. The Detroit Red Wings torched Bryzgalov this postseason because the Winnipeg question and free-agency and playoff stress were crushing him. He was a sieve.
And yet, based on that flameout, the Flyers expect him to excel in a pressure cooker of a market that eats goalies like most of us eat Doritos. And for $7 million a season, which the fans certainly won't hold against him. (Uh-huh).
The other problem for Philly is that these contracts aren't executed in a vacuum. As Travis Hughes of Broad Street Hockey wrote on the rumored contract:
If Paul Holmgren can get the salary cap hit down to somewhere manageable -- $5 million to $6 million per year -- I can live with the signing of Bryzgalov. It'll mean the departure of somebody important, but if done right, I could learn to accept it and I'll get over the anger of what I believe is ultimately a bad move for the long-term (and short-term) future of the team.
But $7 million is an incredible amount of money against the cap each year, and it would make Bryzgalov one of the highest paid players in all of hockey. In the top-20, for sure, and with a cap hit that high, he'd probably be the highest paid Flyer too. More than Danny Briere(notes). More than Chris Pronger(notes). More than Mike Richards(notes).
Flyers fans can rage about the money, which seems absurdly high even if Bryzgalov believes he's worth it. They can rage about the years, knowing that nearly every long-term contract given to a goaltender in the NHL as resulted into controversy (Luongo) or calamity (DiPietro).
It doesn't matter. The chairman wanted a goalie. Cost and duration be damned.