The Philadelphia Flyers took one step closer to resolving their goaltender situation as the team traded the Phoenix Coyotes for the negotiating rights to goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
In exchange for his negotiating rights, Phoenix received forward Matt Clackson, a third-round draft pick in 2012 and future considerations. The Flyers will now have sole negotiating rights to Bryzgalov before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
“We’ll see what we can do,” said Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren. “He’s certainly not an old goaltender. We feel like he’s got a lot of good years left in him. We’ll see how it goes. When you get into a negotiation like this, you’re dealing with a salary cap and you try and get a number you can live with.”
Perhaps no team in the NHL more desperately needs a top-tier goaltender than the Flyers, which became evident this spring in the playoffs after the team consistently started different goalies and hardly played the same backstop in back-to-back games.
However, sources close to the situation stated that Phoenix intended to re-sign Bryzgalov, but talks broke down when Bryzgalov indicated that the money he seeks would make him one of the highest paid goalies in the NHL. Whether this is true remains unclear, but Bryzgalov, who finished this past season with 36 wins – including seven shutouts – could command a raise from the $4.25 million he was making previously – especially in a free agent market thin on quality, proven starting goaltenders.
“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,” said Coyotes’ general manager Don Maloney in a statement. “We will now focus our efforts on adding another goaltender to our roster for the upcoming season.”
While the Flyers need a goalie, their cap situation makes it difficult for the team to even match Bryzgalov’s previous contract, let alone make him one of the highest paid netminders in the game. The team currently has less than $500,000 available in cap space for next season with only 18 players under contract. Although the cap is expected to go up, the Flyers will still have to move a player or two in order to fit Bryzgalov under the cap. Rumors continue to circulate that Jeff Carter has been targeted and inquired about by several teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs. With a long-term contract and a cap hit of roughly $5.25 million, Carter would be a cap-friendly commodity for any team looking to beef up their offense.
Don’t be surprised if the Flyers try to unload defenseman Chris Pronger, either. Pronger, whose cap hit is $4.92 million, was plagued by injuries most of last season. At 36-years-old, Pronger may have seen his best days and the Flyers could look to unload the physical defenseman and his hefty contract.
With the NHL Entry Draft two-and-a-half weeks away, the Flyers will most likely try to figure out where they stand with Bryzgalov before the draft and then make any necessary cap moves at the draft or in the days preceding the draft.