Ilya Bryzgalov has been quite possibly the Flyers best player this year, but it's pretty clear that Paul Holmgren was extremely interested in adding goaltending at this 2013 NHL trade deadline.
Early in the day, there was reported interest in Ben Bishop, and then in the final hour before the 3 p.m. deadline, they made a move and picked up Steve Mason from the Columbus Blue Jackets, shipping off Michael Leighton and a third round pick for the former Calder Trophy winner. This could truly mean one of two things.
1. The Flyers are uncomfortable with their backup situation. And, period. That's all. The Flyers were looking for an upgrade behind Ilya Bryzgalov and they think Steve Mason is an upgrade over Leighton and Brian Boucher.
It's become pretty evident that the Flyers don't trust their current backup situation for even a game or two, given that Bryzgalov has played essentially all year. Getting a different backup allows them to rest Bryzgalov a bit more and that they don't have to worry about burning out their No. 1.
But with Mason, there's no guarantee that he'll be an upgrade. He has potential -- I mean, he won the Calder Trophy -- but he's literally been one of the worst regular goalies in the NHL since that Calder season in 2009. That's why, to me, it seems like this is a bit more than just a stab at improving the depth in goal.
2. They don't see Bryzgalov here long-term. When you sign a guy for nine years, it's pretty obvious you expect him to be around long term. But even despite his strong play this year, have the Flyers had a change of heart?
The advent of amnesty buyouts certainly give the Flyers options, and with problems on defense that likely will require long term cap space to fix, maybe they've determined that they will get that space by making a change in goal. That would mean looking elsewhere for a solution in goal, of course, and taking a chance on Steve Mason could be at least a step in that direction.
That's not to say Mason is the answer long-term in the Flyers crease. All recent evidence says that he is not. But trading for him seems to be an indication that the Flyers are at least thinking about life post-Bryzgalov.
For starters, it's not hard to find backup goaltending in the NHL. There are plenty out there, even this summer via free agency. You don't go after a guy and then claim he has a ton of potential just because you see him as an improvement in the backup role. You do that because you think he can be more than a backup.
Secondly, Mason's due a lot of money on his next contract, and as Frank Seravalli points out, Paul Holmgren doesn't like paying goalies a lot of money. They could sign him before he hits restricted free agency to get that number down, but that's no guarantee.
Thirdly, the Flyers attitude today doesn't seem complimentary of their current goaltender.
A wow quote from Holmgren on if he told Bryzgalov: "I didn’t know (the Mason deal) was going to happen and, to be honest ... (con't)— Frank Seravalli (@DNFlyers) April 3, 2013
Holmgren (con't): "Even if I knew, I wouldn’t have talked to him anyway. His job is to stop the puck when he’s in the net.... (con't 3)— Frank Seravalli (@DNFlyers) April 3, 2013
Holmgren (con't): "It’s not to worry about other things like that."— Frank Seravalli (@DNFlyers) April 3, 2013
That seems unnecessarily harsh from Holmgren regarding the player his organization gave $60 million and a long-term commitment to just two summers ago. It certainly seems like the organization is down on Ilya Bryzgalov right now, and given today's developments, Bryz's departure from Philadelphia might come sooner than we all thought.