Florida Panthers Interested In Ilya Bryzgalov?


Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

According to Bruce Garrioch, the Florida Panthers may turn to Ilya Bryzgalov to fill a short-term goaltending need.

Bryzgalov was recently bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers and will be a free agent this offseason. The Flyers decided to cut ties with their colorful goaltender just two years into a nine year $51 million deal. Based on the new CBA rules regarding “compliance buyouts” the Flyers will pay two thirds of Bryz’s remaining contract over the next 14 years which amounts to  $1.63 million per year through 2027.

While the rumor linking the Panthers to Bryzgalov is not substantiated by much at this point, it is worth looking at how this marriage could potentially work. From the Panthers stand-point; the team was hamstrung last season by poor goaltending play and while they have the young Jacob Markstrom waiting in the wings, questions remain about his ability to be a number one goaltender at this point in his development. The Panthers’ other goaltenders could be soon out the door opening up space for a Bryzgalov signing. The 36 year old Jose Theodore is an unrestricted free agent and chances are, he will not be back with the Panthers next year. Backup goaltender Scott Clemmensen has one year, at $1.2 million, remaining on his contract but Renaud Lavoie tweeted today that the Panthers are actively shopping the veteran keeper.

So it is not too hard to suppose ourselves into seeing how this could work. Say, Theodore leaves as a free agent and the Panthers dump Clemmensen. That leaves the Panthers with only Jacob Markstrom on their roster. They could sign Bryzgalov to a two or three year deal, use him as their starter while also giving ample playing time to Jacob Markstrom to facilitate his development. I could imagine the Bryz-Markstrom split being 70-30 next year with Markstrom gradually receiving more playing time in years two and three as the Panthers slowly phase him into the starting role.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves here, let’s look at if this would work from Bryzgalov’s perspective. First off, we know weather is an important factor to the quirky Russian, I mean check out this interview where he waxes on the misery of Canadian cold weather. Just recently Bryzgalov has been linked to Edmonton and true to form, his aptly-named agent Ritch Winter emphasized the importance of climate, “He would really, really hate the weather,” Winter said. “And he and I are very, very much on the same page there”. Winter goes on to say that Bryz would be interested in Edmonton because it is a hockey city and Bryzgalov has never played in a hockey city (slight dig a Philly there??).

Considering a move to the Panthers in light of those comments we can take away two things:

A) Florida is warm. Hey Ilya, if you are worried about the cold weather, do not go to Edmonton, come down to Florida and enjoy the thrill of wearing flip-flops to the rink.

B) The Panthers do not play in a hockey city by any stretch of the imagination. While Winter’s comments seem to indicate that playing in a hockey city could be important to his client, I think Bryzgalov would be better off playing in a place where hockey is not in the spotlight at all times. His career indicates he plays better when he is under less scrutiny as he did not seem to do all that well under the glare of the Philadelphia media but thrived when playing in smaller hockey markets like Anaheim and Phoenix.

It is worth noting that Bryzgalov’s numbers from last year do not represent much of an upgrade, if any at all, over Jacob Markstrom. For the Panthers last season, Markstrom had a .901 SV% and a 3.22 GAA. Bryzgalov had a .900 SV% and a 2.79 GAA. Would Florida be better off just rolling with Markstrom? The Panthers need all the goaltending help they can get and with Clemmensen and Theodore likely out the door, Florida will be in the market for a new goaltender. Bryzgalov’s last season numbers represent a down year and it is not too far-fetched to imagine him rebounding some next season. A Markstrom-Bryzgalov duo would be a huge upgrade over any duo the Panthers had last season.

Quick Hits:

  • As mentioned above, the Panthers are looking to move backup Scott Clemmensen. Clemmer has one year left on his Panther contract at $1.2 million.
  • The Panthers are also trying to move Tomas Fleischmann, who has two years remaining on his contract at $4.5 million a year.