Ilya Bryzgalov's subpar performance in the playoffs leaves the Flyers with an expensive problem on their hands. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
Following the Philadelphia Flyers’ first round elimination of the Pittsburgh Penguins, there were concerns the Flyers shaky goaltending and poor defensive play in that series would carry over into their second round match-up against the New Jersey Devils.
Those concerns were justified against the Devils’ aggressive forecheck and disciplined defense, which made short work of the Flyers in five games.
Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, in the first season of a nine-year, $51-million contract, entered the Devils series with the second-worst goals-against average and save percentage of all starting goalies in the first round.
While his play improved against the Devils, he still finished the playoffs with a 3.46 GAA and .887 SP, the worst of all starting goalies after two rounds this spring.
The play that epitomized Bryzgalov's inconsistent season came in the first period of Game Five. With the score tied, his clearing attempt struck Devils right winger David Clarkson and bounced into his own net. The tally became the game-winning goal.
Bryzgalov's play will have some Philadelphia fans calling for him to be traded or bought out if there's an amnesty buyout period in the next collective bargaining agreement.
Forget about moving that expensive contract (which contains a full no-movement clause) and there's no guarantee of an amnesty buyout, meaning Bryzgalov will likely be a Flyer for some time.
GM Paul Holmgren has bigger concerns this summer. He currently has more than $61.2 million invested in 20 players, with right winger Jaromir Jagr and blueliners Matt Carle and Pavel Kubina set to become unrestricted free agents, while right winger Jakub Voracek and defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon will be restricted free agents.
Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer claimed a source said the Flyers would prefer to re-sign Jagr and Carle and if Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter tests this summer's UFA market, they would have interest in him.
Carchidi suggested the Flyers could receive cap relief of $4.9 million if defenseman Chris Pronger (concussion) can’t rejoin the lineup next season and additional cap room with the anticipated increase of the ceiling. But if Pronger is able to return at some point in the season, the Flyers would need to be prepared to shed salary.
While the cap is expected to rise to $69 million, it could actually be reduced under the next CBA if the league succeeds in its rumored plan to reduce the players’ share of revenue from the current 57 percent to 50 percent.
Carchidi also suggested Philadelphia could free up additional cap space by dealing left winger James van Riemsdyk ($4.3 million per season), who was linked to the Toronto Maple Leafs for blueliner Luke Schenn during the regular season.
Another source for possible cap relief is banged-up defenseman Kimmo Timonen.
Sam Donnellon of the Philadelphia Daily News wondered if the 37-year-old Timonen, who has one season left on his contract, would return or retire.
Though Timonen is slated to make $3 million next season, his actual cap hit will be more than $6.3 million, with a no-movement clause. Given his contract, age and injury history, trading Timonen would be a long shot, but if he feels he cannot face the rigors of another NHL season, retirement is an option.
Other than Jagr and Voracek, the Flyers have all their key forwards under contract for next season, so Holmgren could use his depth at forward in a trade to bolster the blueline.
Holmgren has proven more than capable of maintaining a strong roster, while operating close to the cap ceiling.
He stunned the hockey world last summer by shipping out forwards Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to free up the cap space to sign Bryzgalov, while at the same time using the returns from those trades (Voracek, right winger Wayne Simmonds, centers Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier) to add depth at forward.
While Holmgren's unlikely to make more blockbuster deals this summer, expect him to find some creative measures – trade, free agency, promotions from the farm, demotions or other means – to retain his key free agents and address defensive depth.
Rumor Roundup appears Monday-Friday only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla's Korner.