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With just three games under their belt, the Philadelphia Flyers have found themselves in a spot they never hoped to be in, last place. After starting the season with a hard hitting loss to their cross state rival Penguins, the Flyers trekked across state lines and into Buffalo, New York were their second loss within two days was awaiting them. Yet the bleeding wasn’t over just yet. Two days later the Flyers fell once again, this time to the division leading New Jersey Devils in a visit to the Garden State.
With three losses and not a single point to show for their efforts, the Flyers have started their season in a metaphorical hockey hell. With no relief on the horizon and no hope for a drastic improvement in play after losing forward Scott Hartnell indefinitely to a foot injury, it is easy to doubt the team’s potential in a shortened, sprint style season.
With a defense that can’t seem to get on track and an offense that has yet to match the scoring potential of their opponents, the Flyers are in rough shape. With no signs of a quick turnaround in sight, the likeliness of an early season roster shake up is becoming more and more realistic, leaving players like goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov at risk of being traded.
If the team is in hockey hell, Bryzgalov’s career with the Flyers is in limbo. After only one season in Philadelphia, Bryzaglov has certainly become the most debated player on the Flyers’ roster. Coming from the Phoenix Coyotes as a highly anticipated offseason acquisition, Bryzgalov has done very little to live up to the hype, ending the 2011-2012 regular season in the bottom half of the stat column. In 59 games, Bryzgalov allowed in 141 goals (14th most in the league) and averaged 2.48 goals against per game with a .909 save percentage (31st in the league).
After a substandard season Bryzgalov’s future with the team has become suspect. Reports from inside the Flyers organization do little to deny the fact that Bryzgalov’s play has the ownership and management worried. Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren, though quietly, has begun talking with other teams around the league in search of a potential replacement for the wayward netminder. The early candidate in favor of taking over the position is Vancouver Canucks’ goaltender Roberto Luongo.
Luongo, a four time NHL All Star and the 2011 William M. Jennings Trophy winner; for allowing the fewest goals as a starter, led the league in wins in the 2010-2011 regular season with a 2.11 goals against average (second in the league) and a .928 save percentage. That same year Luongo led the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals only to fall to the Boston Bruins in game seven.
Despite Luongo’s past achievements a recent falling out between him and the Canucks, due to rumors that Cory Schneider was being groomed to replace him as the team’s franchise goalie, has put the once celebrated goaltender on the trade block. With such a decorated past, teams from all over the league have reached out and shown interest in the 33 year old Canadian.
With the Flyers in an early season bind it is no wonder why they would attempt to throw their hat in the ring in hopes of landing the proven goaltender. In lieu of what could be, Holmgren is still apprehensive to give up too much for a player that is feared to be past his prime, only to make a slight improvement to the team. In the 2011-2012 season Luongo finished with a 2.41 goals against average and a .919 save percentage, barely besting Bryzgalov‘s productivity (2.48 GAA, .909 SV%).
With such a marginal difference between the two goaltenders many reports show Holmgren will not be in a rush to push a deal that would not be in the Flyer’s favor. Adding to the Flyers’ hesitancy to set in motion a deal is Bryzgalov’s sudden surge in play. Despite losing his first three games, Bryzgalov has impressed many with his seemingly more comfortable play in net.
If Holmgren does chose to hold off on making a deal at this point in the season he is still left with a few options. Due to the new CBA buyout clause, implemented during this season’s lockout hearings, the Flyers now have the ability to end Bryzgalov’s contract while only having to pay off two-thirds of his remaining salary. Once Bryzgalov’s contract is rendered null and void, the Flyers are free to pursue other interests.
One player who has come up on the radar of general managers across the league is two time Vezina Trophy winner, Tim Thomas. After a year off from hockey the former Bruin will most likely be looking for a new place to call home after being replaced in Boston’s lineup by Tuukka Rask. With one Staley Cup championship and a Conn Smythe award to go along with his four All Star game appearances and two Vezina trophies, Thomas will undoubtedly be a player every team will want to add to their roster in the months following the end of the season.
With such high potential for the future it is unlikely Holmgren will pull the trigger and jump on an early season acquisition like Luongo, instead opting to wait for the chance to make a move in the offseason. Despite some apprehension from critics and unruly fans, it appears safe to say that the Flyers are sticking with unpredictable play of Ilya Bryzgalov for the time being.