Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The Bryzgalov predicament

Should playoff-missing Flyers buy out erratic, odd-duck goalie or keep him on board?

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RALEIGH, N.C. -- Should the Flyers buy out goalie Ilya Bryzgalov's contract after the season or have him battle Steve Mason for the No. 1 job in 2013-14?

Management is divided on the issue. The Flyers don't have to submit their buyouts -- teams are allowed to use up to two -- until the June 30 draft, so the brass has a little over two months to kick around its options.

There are numerous factors that will influence the decision, one that will have a huge effect on shaping the franchise's future. Here are some pros and cons to consider:

Five reasons to keep Bryzgalov

--1. By having Bryzglaov and Mason, the goalies would push each other in an attempt to win the starting job.

-- 2. A more-than-capable backup would be waiting in the wings in case of an injury.

-- 3. $$$$$. To buy out Bryzglaov, the Flyers would have to pay him $23 million -- two-thirds of the remaining seven years ($34.5 million) on his contract.

-- 4. Teams are allowed a total of two buyouts over the next two off-seasons. If Mason wins the job and regains his rookie-of-the-year form from 2008-09, the Flyers can always buy out Bryzglaov next year. If Mason struggles, then Bryzgalov is an attractive option.

-- 5. Keeping Bryzgalov would be a reward of sorts for his workhorse season. He is not the reason the Flyers have failed to make the playoffs.

Five reasons to buy out Bryzgalov

-- 1. Bryzglaov's zany personality can be a distraction to his teammates. To restore order, buy him out and use his annual cap hit ($5.7 million) to sign/acquire a quality winger or puck-moving defenseman.

-- 2. The buyout is expensive, but it can be spread over 14 years (twice the remaining length of his contract). If you average it out, it's $1.6 million per year.

-- 3. Cutting ties with Bryzgalov would send a confidence-building message to Mason: You are our guy.

-- 4. In his brief time here, Mason seems to have developed a quick rapport with goalie coach Jeff Reese, who has tweaked the goalie's game by moving him back in the crease to utilize his 6-foot-4 frame.

-- 5. Even though he has already played five seasons, Mason is just 24. Goalies have been known to bloom later in their careers. (See Parent, Bernard). In addition, Mason is more athletic than Bryzgalov, better at steering a puck to a teammate to start a rush, and better at stopping breakaways.

The Flyers may not make a decision on Bryzgalov until after June 30 -- by then, we will know if coach Peter Laviolette is staying. By then, they may have made a trade leading into the draft.

If the Flyers need cap space to acquire a forward or a top defenceman, they may part ways with Bryzgalov.

The cap, currently at $70.2 million, will drop to $64.3 million next season. The Flyers have $67 million committed to 21 players for 2013-14.

If they buy out or trade Danny Briere ($6.5 million cap hit) and place Chris Pronger ($4.9 million) on the long-term injured list, their cap would be at $55.6 million at the start of next season, assuming Bryzgalov is still here. (Briere, who is only owed a total of $5 million for the next two seasons, might waive his no-trade contract and go to a team that needs a high cap hit to get to the cap floor.)

The Briere and Pronger moves would leave the Flyers with about $8.7 million in cap space. If that's not enough to land two productive players (defenceman Keith Yandle? Winger David Clarkson?), they have the option of buying out Bryzgalov.

Then again, maybe the Flyers will get lucky in the draft lottery and select a player who can step right into the lineup and make an impact, saving them money and helping to put the team back on the playoff track.

-- The Philadelphia Inquirer

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 21, 2013 B6

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