When it comes to large contracts, I think they have no place in sports. As appealing as it seems to a General Manager, locking up a star player for a long-term deal can be more dangerous than advantageous. If you ask the Philadelphia Flyers, I think they may agree on this point.
After Ilya Bryzgalov had a strong career with the Phoenix Coyotes, even bringing them to the playoffs in his last two seasons there, the Flyers locked up Bryzgalov in 2011 for a long-term deal. The plan was to end their goaltending issues once and for all. This was a nine year deal with the 31-year-old goaltender for $51 million. As much as the Flyers had hoped that Bryzgalov would be the next Martin Brodeur with a 20-year career, the chances of another goaltender doing that are very slim.
After a VERY short time with the club, the Flyers decided to buy out Bryzgalov’s contract, agreeing to pay roughly $1.6 million each year until the 2026-27 season. Although I’m an advocate for a contract year ceiling, I will abstain from arguing that at this point. What’s more impressive is the average age of retirement for players, and why an organization would even choose to sign a goaltender of all positions to a long-term deal at that age.
The graph above shows the ages that NHL players retired throughout the years 2000 until 2010. This graph is similar, and may even lean more towards the younger ages if the data is to only show goaltenders. The average NHL goaltender will retire around the age of 28 years.
Why the Edmonton Oilers signed Bryzgalov
After analyzing the horrific signing nightmare for the Flyers of Bryzgalov, why would the Edmonton Oilers choose to sign Bryzgalov?
First of all, the Oilers signed this contract for one year, worth only $2 million.
Statistically, even if you account for Bryzgalov’s worst NHL seasons, they are still a bit more impressive than the Oilers’ current goaltenders. Bryzgalov’s worst goals against average came in the 2008-09 season when he held a 2.98 average. The best Oilers goaltender in that department in Richard Bachman (started 3 games) with a 3.02 goals against average, while starting goaltender Devan Dubnyk holds a horrific 3.92 goals against average after the 12 games he’s started in.
In terms of save percentage, Bryzgalov’s worst season was last season when he had a .900 save percentage. Dubnyk currently holds a .876 save percentage, Jason Labarbera (4 games started) has a .858, and Bachman leads the club with a 0.916 save percentage.
The main point I’m getting at may be that although Bryzgalov did very bad last season with the Flyers, he can’t be worse than what the Oilers have right now.
Bryzgalov may see some ice time with the Oilers’ affiliated AHL team, the Oklahoma City Barons, tonight after one practice.
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