Ilya Bryzgalov's days in Philadelphia are limited. Many have already speculated that this could be the case, but GM Paul Holmgren made a telling move today before the NHL trade deadline by acquiring Steve Mason from Columbus.
But even though Mason is just 24 and has some talent does not mean that he is the long-term solution in Philadelphia. But he does make it that much more likely that the Flyers will look to release Bryzgalov this summer via the new contract amnesty clause, part of the new CBA.
It is ironic, and probably disheartening for Flyers fans, that Philadelphia traded Sergei Bobrovsky to Columbus last summer, where he has been one of the best goalies in the league this year, only to give up their own backup and a third-round pick for the guy backing up Bobrovsky.
But it is how it is, and the Flyers now sit with Bryzgalov and Mason as their tandem for the remainder of this roller-coaster season.
To retain Mason, who will be a restricted free-agent this offseason, the Flyers would owe a bit over $3 million. While he is obviously an upgrade over Leighton, that is way too much money to pay a backup, especially considering Bryzgalov's price tag.
The Flyers owe Bryzgalov $34.5 million over the next seven seasons, which is sure to make Flyers fans groan. And if they keep Bryzgalov while re-signing Mason as a RFA, they would be paying nearly $9 million to goalies next season, an absurdly high number,
So it makes sense that Mason, who would not be much of a downgrade from Bryzgalov, would be the logical choice to keep next year, at less than half the price of Bryz.
As per Philly.com, Holmgren made some comments after announcing the deal that were pretty revealing in regards to Bryzgalov's standing with the organization.
He commented that Mason is now "one of [Philadelphia's] two goalies, not only the rest of this year, but moving forward," and did not mention anything about being committed to Bryzgalov as the starter over the long run.
And it seems now more likely than ever that Bryzgalov will be playing somewhere else next season. His reaction to the deal should be interesting, and could give more insight about his future.
Look out for Mason to get re-signed before the end of the season for less money than what he would get as a RFA also. If that happens, then Bryz is as good as gone, and even if Mason doesn't re-sign early, all signs still point to Bryz being on his way out.
And all things considered, even though he has been one of their best players during this disappointing season, that would have to be thought of as a good thing at this point. He just is not worth the deal that Philadelphia currently owes him.