Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A New Face In The State Of Hockey: Ilya Bryzgalov

Ilya Bryzgalov
213 lbs
Catches: Left
Born: June 22, 1980
Birthplace: Togliatti, Russia
Acquired: Via trade with Edmonton on 3/4/2014

As noted yesterday, the Wild made a trade yesterday with a little over 24 hours from the trade deadline. They acquired goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for a 2014 fourth round pick (the one acquired from Buffalo in the Jason Pominville trade). Bryzgalov is a 10 year NHL veteran, making stops in Anaheim, Phoenix, Philadelphia, and Edmonton along the way. 

When he first came onto the scene with Anaheim, Bryzgalov was only a back to J.S. Giguere. He played three seasons as the backup in Anaheim before he was moved to Phoenix. His best performance in Anaheim came in the 2005-06 playoffs when he was forced into action and posted a 1.46 GAA/.944 save percentage in eleven games played.

Upon his arrival in Phoenix, it was very clear that Bryz was going to be the number one goalie going forward. His second season in the desert, he struggled mightily (2.98 GAA/.906 save percentage) but rebounded in his final two seasons there (combined 2.39 GAA/.921 save percentage ).

Heading into the summer of 2011, Bryz was a pending unrestricted free agent and was coming off a less than stellar performance in the playoffs. But his play had been good enough for Philadelphia to trade for his rights in June, then sign him to a nine year, $51 million contract. 

In Philly, Bryz was never that same goalie he had been in Phoenix. He posted save percentages of .909 and .900 respectively, and was simply terrible when it came to the Stanley Cup Playoffs (both seasons he posted a sub .900 save percentage in both postseasons with Philadelphia). Following the lockout shortened season of 2012-13, Bryzgalov was bought out by Philly as they used one of their compliance buyouts (meaning the cap hit comes off the books for the team, but they are still going to have to pay 75% of the player's remaining salary over double the time left remaining on the contract).

This year, Bryzgalov had struggles making an NHL club due to his poor play and a decreased salary cap, but was able to land with Edmonton in November.

Bryzgalov is one of the more curious cases in the league. He can give a truly outstanding performance one night, then look like the worst goalie in the game the next night. He was a huge beneficiary of playing in a great defensive system in Phoenix, before moving to a more run and gun style team in Philly which did not work out to his benefit.

At this point, Bryz is probably better suited to be a backup in this league. He can handle being a number one goalie throughout the regular season, but falters horribly when it comes to the postseason. He is not likely to start more than three to five games for the Wild this year, so bringing him in purely as a back up was a good move for Minnesota.

This was a rental type of move for Minnesota. One should not expect Bryzgalov to return next year, given how many goalies the Wild have on the roster. There is just no room for him next year. 

Welcome to the Team of 18,001 (for a few months) Ilya Bryzgalov!

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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