Flyers fans — and those in the media — you won't have Ilya Bryzgalov to kick around anymore.
After much internal and external debate the Flyers decided to part ways with their enigmatic goaltender Tuesday, two years into what was supposed to be a nine-year, $51 million deal. As was the case with popular forward Danny Briere last week, they will exercise a compliance buyout of his contract, which will cost them $22.8 million over the next 14 years as stipulated in the recent CBA.
But it will also free nearly $6.5 million off the salary cap, which will give them some wiggle room to fortify the roster .
"I met with Ilya this morning and informed him that we are going to exercise compliance buyout of his contract,'' said GM Paul Holmgren in a statement. "This was a very difficult business decision to make for us. We want to thank Ilya for his time here and wish him all the best moving forward."
So ends one of the more disappointing — yet at the same time fascinating — chapters in Flyers' history. While the Bryzgalov era didn't provide the results team owner Ed Snider was seeking when he engineered the 2011 deal to bring his franchise some sorely needed stability in goal, it was seldom dull.
Bryzgalov spent much of that time making outrageous statements not only about hockey, but the universe, politics, the city of Philadelphia and Flyers fans. In the process, he often infuriated his bosses and his teammates. Yet if he had stopped the puck enough to overcome his eccentricities, he'd likely still be around. In two seasons here Bryzgalov's 2.79 goals-against-average ranked well below the upper echelon netminders in the NHL. He could be spectacular at times, but he was prone to giving up soft goals, never more evident than in last season's playoffs.
This year, thanks to a defense riddled with injuries, Bryzgalov faced a mammoth workload. He played well mostly, but still not good enough.
Now the job will likely go to 25-year-old Steve Mason, the former Calder Trophy winner acquired from Columbus at the trading deadline. Mason played brilliantly (4-2, 1.90) in his brief stint down the stretch. In addition, the Flyers will seek a quality, cheaper backup. Potential targets include one-time Flyer Ray Emery, former Bruin Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo, whose exorbitant contract is likely to be bought out by Vancouver.
For Bryzgalov, who arrived with such promise, his Philadelphia Story is over. Even though it didn't have a happy ending, most are glad that it is.