Philadelphia Flyers: 5 Goalies the Team Could Have Had Instead of Ilya Bryzgalov
After being swept by the Boston Bruins in the 2011 NHL Eastern Conference Semifinals, Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren, as well as every Flyers fan, knew what the team needed to find most in the offseason: a starting goaltender.
After starting three different goalies in the 2010-2011 season, the deficit in net became most obvious in the playoffs.
Brian Boucher was too inconsistent, Sergei Bobrovsky was too inexperienced and Michael Leighton couldn't recreate his performance of the previous postseason that took the Flyers to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Ilya Bryzgalov seems to be a strange choice for the Flyers. His stats in the regular season consistently place him in the top starting goaltenders.
However, his postseason stats are the bigger question.
After an impressive postseason with Anaheim in 2006, Bryzgalov's playoff numbers have become worse each year, ending with this past season where he posted a .879 save percentage and a 4.36 goals-against average in four straight losses to the Red Wings. The Flyers managed to find yet another goaltender who struggles in the playoffs.
These numbers make Bryzgalov, at best, a gamble—a gamble who signed a nine-year contract with a $5.67 million cap hit. A gamble who forced Philadelphia to move center Jeff Carter.
Here are five goaltenders who would have been less costly and less risky for the Flyers than Ilya Bryzgalov.
Is Bobrovsky part of the problem in Philly or part of the solution?
In his rookie year, Bobrovsky played 54 games for the Flyers, posting a .915 save percentage and a 2.59 goals-against average.
Compare that to the rookie years of Tim Thomas (9.17 save percentage, 2.77 goals-against average in 38 games), Roberto Luongo (.904 save percentage, 3.25 goals-against average in 24 games) and Pekka Rinne (.917 save percentage, 2.38 goals-against average in 52 games).
Unfortunately, much like every other goaltender on Philly's roster, Bobrovsky couldn't find his game in the postseason. In six games, his save percentage was .877—just as bad as Bryzgalov.
But again, it was his first year.
At 22 years old, Bobrovsky is already showing potential to be a great NHL goalie, and he is under contract to play in Philly for two more seasons. Holmgren easily could have given Bobrovsky one more season as a starter and brought in an aging veteran on a one-year deal to back him up.
The signing of Bryzgalov now means Bobrovsky will either be a backup for two more seasons or trade bait.
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For at least half the teams in the NHL, Cory Schneider would be a starting net-minder.
For the Vancouver Canucks, Schneider is the backup for Roberto Luongo, and considering Luongo is under contract in Vancouver for 11 more years, that is unlikely to change.
After this season, Schneider will be a restricted free agent and likely will look for a pay raise on his $900,000 contract. Being a cap team, Vancouver will probably not want to spend much more on a backup goaltender, so either Schneider or Luongo will be on the trading block.
And despite a lackluster Stanley Cup Finals performance, the Canucks are not ready to give up on their former captain and franchise investment, Luongo.
Though he only played 25 games, Schneider's regular-season play ranks alongside the NHL's elite. He played five games in the 2011 playoffs, posting stats nearly identical to Luongo's.
The drawback for Schneider, though, is he hasn't had the opportunity to show he can handle 60-plus games in a season, but he won't get that chance shadowing Luongo.
Schneider could have taken his game to the next level in Philly.
Of course, trades can be more expensive than signing a free agent. No one really knows what the Canucks would want for Schneider or if they are willing to move him at all.
But after seeing who the Flyers were willing to move to clear cap space for Bryzgalov, it seems a deal certainly would have been possible.
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At 41 years old, Dwayne Roloson isn't the answer for teams looking to be competitive in five years.
But for a team close to being a Stanley Cup champion, such as the Flyers, Roloson could be the missing piece.
His playoff stats are even better.
In 50 playoff games, Roloson posted a save percentage of .918. He entered Game 7 of the 2011 Eastern Conference championship having never lost an elimination game.
Given his age, Roloson should expect nothing more than a one or two-year contract. That length would be perfect for the Flyers, as their superstars are aging and will be past their prime in a few seasons. Even as a backup for Bobrovsky, Roloson would give the Flyers the consistency they need in net.
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Having spent the past 12 seasons with the Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers, Thomas Vokoun has not had the opportunity to prove himself in the postseason much. His last playoff game was on April 20, 2007 when the Predators were eliminated by the San Jose Sharks.
Most recently, Vokoun represented the Czech Republic in the 2010 Winter Olympics, posting a .932 save percentage and a 1.78 goals-against average. Even on the second-worst team in the NHL in 2011, Vokoun posted six shutouts and ranked 10th overall in save percentage.
Vokoun passed on offers to re-sign with the Panthers and took a hefty pay cut to sign with the Washington Capitals. His contract of $1.5 million next year is even less than the new contracts of mediocre goaltenders Mike Smith and Craig Anderson.
With that amount, the Flyers would have been able to sign him and not trade Jeff Carter or Mike Richards.
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On the same day the Flyers traded Jeff Carter and signed Ilya Bryzgalov, GM Paul Holmgren made another big move: He traded Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings for Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and a 2012 second-round pick.
Perhaps Holmgren could have taken the trade in a different direction and acquired a goaltender; after all, he had Bobrovsky and the rights to Bryzgalov to negotiate.
The Kings have two promising young net-minders, both named Jonathan and both under contract for the next two seasons. Quick has more experience and has proven he can be a starting NHL goaltender. He was ranked sixth overall in goals-against average and posted six shutouts in 2011.
Of course, on the downside, Quick has limited playoff experience and hasn't played past the quarterfinals. This would be another risky move, but a risk without the nine-year, $5.67 million cap hit.