In the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim selected goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov, with the 44th-overall pick.
Bryzgalov spent the 2000-01 season playing in the RSL for Tolyatti Lada before joining the Anaheim organization in 2001-02. With the Mighty Duck’s crease manned by Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Martin Gerber, he spent most of his first four seasons in the AHL. Bryzgalov became Anaheim’s backup goalie in 2005-06. However, injuries to Giguere gave him plenty of opportunities to prove his worth. Bryzgalov played in 31 games, going 13-12-1, with a .910 SV% and a 2.49 GAA. When the postseason arrived, he received some action and performed well. After an outstanding first two rounds, he struggled against the Oilers and was replaced by Giguere.
The following season, Bryzgalov remained Giguere’s backup and questioned the confidence Randy Carlyle had in him. There were times where he took on the role of starting goalie, even in the playoffs. However, whenever the spotlight got bright, Carlyle went back to Giguere. Even though Bryzgalov played a part in making the Ducks Stanley Cup Champions, it was Giguere who received the most credit.
By the beginning of the 2007-08 season, Anaheim appeared to move on from Bryzgalov. They re-signed Giguere and acquired young goalie Jonas Hiller. The Ducks wanted to trade Bryzgalov but could not find any suitors. Anaheim placed him on waivers, and he wound up with the Coyotes.
In his very first game with Phoenix, he made 27 saves and shutout the Los Angeles Kings. The Coyotes rewarded him with a three-year extension and the chance to be their starting goaltender. Then, Bryzgalov helped Phoenix make the 2010 playoffs with 42 wins. It was the first time the franchise had made the postseason since 2002. The Coyotes would make the playoffs the following year as well. Again, a lot of their success was contributed to top-notch goaltending.
Unfortunately, Phoenix and Bryzgalov could not agree on a new contract. On June 6, 2011, the Coyotes dealt his negotiation rights to the Flyers.
Flyers Sign Ilya Bryzgalov to Nine-Year Deal
During the two seasons before the acquisition of Bryzgalov’s negotiation rights, goaltending was an issue in Philadelphia (go figure). The tandem of Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton brought the Flyers to the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals. However, neither player performed consistent enough to be considered a true number one netminder. Rookie, Sergei Bobrovsky, took the place of Leighton the following year in the Flyers goalie duo. Again, solid goaltending was an inconsistency in Philly.
For obvious reasons, improving the goalie situation was at the top of Paul Holmgren‘s priority list during the 2011 offseason. He needed to ink the newly acquired Bryzgalov to a long-term deal and would do whatever it took to do so. That meant clearing the necessary cap space. Holmgren cleared that cap space by shocking the hockey world, dealing Jeff Carter to Columbus and Mike Richards to Los Angeles. The Flyers then signed their new franchise netminder, Bryzgalov, to a nine-year contract worth $51 million.
Unfortunately, the massive deal seemed doomed right from the start. The beginning of the 2011-12 season did not start well, and Bryzgalov was openly bashing his performance in the media. Sadly, this became a regular occurrence. Although he may be known for his bizarre comments about the universe, Bryzgalov’s hockey comments usually involved putting himself down. He even went as far as stating that Bobrovsky would be starting over him in 2012 Winter Classic, giving the Flyers a chance to win. It was apparent that he was not happy in Philadelphia. Bryzgalov could not handle the pressure that comes with playing for a big market and he turned to constant self-criticism.
Bryzgalov’s tenure with Philadelphia only lasted two seasons. On June 25, 2013, the Flyers informed him that they would be buying out the final seven years of his contract.
Transaction Grade: F
The Bryzgalov signing and all that came with it was hands-down Holmgren’s worst move as Flyers General Manager. Not only did the Russian netminder fail to live up to expectations, he couldn’t even last past year two of the deal. Goaltending in Philadelphia remained a joke. Now it wasn’t just something to laugh at on the ice, but during postgame interviews as well.
During his time with the Flyers, Bryzgalov was nothing more than a sideshow act, shielding his poor performance with humorous comments. Unfortunately, this sideshow led Philadelphia to part ways with Bobrovsky, who would turn into one of the better goalies in the NHL. Signing Bryzgalov was supposed to fix the goalie problem in Philly. Instead, bringing him in only made more of a issue. An issue the franchise still cannot seem to fix.