By Nick Tricome
The Flyers wasted no time using their second compliance buyout.
Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who has been one of the Flyers' more interesting characters over the past two years, has been informed by the organization that his nine-year, $51 million contract will be bought out.
“I met with Ilya this morning and informed him that we are going to exercise a compliance buyout of his contract," GM Paul Holmgren said in a press release. "This was a very difficult business decision to make for us and we want to thank Ilya for his time here and wish him all the best moving forward.”
The announcement on Bryzgalov's contract comes just under a week after the Flyers confirmed that they will use their first compliance buyout on Danny Briere's contract. Both buyouts will come into effect on Wednesday night.
The Flyers acquired the rights to Bryzgalov's contract from the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2011 off-season, coming off a 2010-2011 campaign where they had to use three different goaltenders to get past the Buffalo Sabres in the first round of the playoffs.
Bryzgalov, who helped Phoenix get to the playoffs in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, was brought in to be the clear cut starting goaltender.
The Flyers, now infamously, traded their former captain Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings and star forward Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets, which cleared enough cap space to sign Bryzgalov to what would be seen by many fans as a very steep $51 million deal.
Bryzgalov's first season as a Flyer proved to have many ups and downs, but his words and bizarre personality off the ice tended to make more news than his on-ice performance, which varied from either inconsistent, to good or to player of the month status if you take March 2012 into account.
However, even in the playoffs, nothing about Bryzgalov's play justified him being payed $51 million, and when compliance buyouts were introduced as a result of the NHL Lockout's end, Bryzgalov was an immediate target for buyout speculation.
With only 48 games to work with this past season, Bryzgalov had to prove that he was an elite goaltender. Unfortunately, despite having started 40 of the Flyers' 48 games, a .900 save percentage and a 2.79 goals against average just wasn't going to cut it, especially with the Flyers missing the playoffs.
Bryzgalov was a love him or hate him player amongst Flyers fans, and his relationship with the media was always rough, especially after he gave them a lesson in journalism at the end of the season.
Although Bryzgalov's time in Philadelphia was anything but a smooth run, he tweeted a thank you message to the fans after news broke of the buyout.
I want to say thank you to all my Flyers Fans for being with us in good and not so goods times during this season! Will miss u guys)Bryzgalov also released a statement through his agent Rich Winter, thanking the Flyers organization for his time in Philadlphia:
— bryzgoalie30 (@bryzgoalie30) May 9, 2012
"As my family and I move forward to meet the new challenges ahead, I could not leave Philadelphia without publicly thanking Mr. Snider for the faith he showed in me when he committed to the long term contract that has secured my family's financial future and acknowledging his passion for the game of hockey. Jeniya and I really appreciate his faith in me and what he has done for our family. Mr. Snider has an amazing energy for the deals he does and for winning. Hockey fans in this area should consider themselves lucky to have the team they cheer for led by a man who is as passionate about winning and doing whatever it takes to win as Flyers' fans are. Getting to know Mr. Snider, has been a great experience. To see his passion for this game has been inspiring.
"I am grateful for teammates, to management and fans for the support I felt from so many of them through some very dark days and difficult situations. I have made many friends here -- on the team, in the organization, among the media and throughout the community. Don't ever think that I didn't appreciate the kind comments of support made in the media by teammates and management and in private by so many very nice people I met on the streets of Philadelphia and in the surrounding area.
"I appreciate this experience more than many of you will know. I will learn from it. I have always said that a heavy sword makes a very strong arm. I intend to take this experience with me to my new team, to help me be stronger -- a better player and, hopefully, a better person. At the end of the day, that is the challenge we all need to wrestle with.
"I look forward to the bright future ahead, but will never forget my time with the Philadelphia Flyers. For this time and this experience, I am grateful."Some fans are happy to see Bryz go, while others will miss him. But it can't be denied that he was certainly entertaining.
From philosophical rants about space and the universe to wearing an awesome looking Star Wars mask, Bryz, for better or worse, brought something unique to Flyers' hockey.
(Image from Yahoo Sports)