Flyers rookie phenom Sergei Bobrovsky broke onto the scene seemingly out of nowhere last season.
When he was named the Flyers starting goaltender before the regular season opener in Pittsburgh, it left a lot of Flyers fans puzzled. It didn’t take long for the Flyers faithful to get excited about Bobrovsky, who was outstanding in his rookie year.
Of course, he faltered a bit in the playoffs, being replace by Brian Boucher after a couple of shaky starts against the Buffalo Sabres in the opening round of the playoffs. As I stated then, and I stand by it now, I feel “Bob” wasn’t given a fair shake in the playoffs, but that’s another story for another day.
For the first time in a long time, Flyers fans were excited about one of their goaltenders. “Bob” was the future, or so we were told. Now, things may change drastically.
On Tuesday, the Flyers acquired the rights to soon to be unrestricted free agent goaltender, Illya Bryzgalov. Bryzgalov, 30, is set to be one of the hottest goaltending commodities on the open market come July 1st. Something the Flyers hope to avoid all together by working out a contract with him before free agency opens. Bryzgalov is rumored to want a 4-5 year deal worth around $4.5- $5.5 million dollars. A hefty salary, but one the Flyers may find worth it to bring aboard a proven goaltender.
So, where does that leave Sergei Bobrovsky?
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren stated a few weeks ago that Bobrovsky was still their goalie of the future, but that he still needed some time to develop. Many fans took that as meaning “Bob” would spend next season with the AHL’s Adirondack Phantoms.
Well, as the Philadelphia Daily News’ Frank Seravalli pointed out in his column yesterday, sending Bobrovsky to the AHL may not be possible. According to Article 13.4 of the NHL’s Collective Bargaining agreement, Bobrovsky can no longer be sent to the AHL without clearing waivers. Bobrovsky played in 60 NHL games last season, including playoffs, ending his exemption from being placed on waivers to be sent to the AHL.
To make matters worse, Bobrovsky is set to make $1.75 million dollars next season. With the signing of Bryzgalov, that would make Bobrovsky the 2nd highest paid backup goaltender in the entire NHL. Not great for cap management, especially for a Flyers team that has grossly mismanaged their salary cap.
Now, don’t shoot the messenger. I’m not here to say the Flyers should trade Sergei Bobrovsky, far from it. I’m just saying the writing is on the wall. It just doesn’t make sense for the Flyers to string along Bobrovsky as the backup for the next 3 to 5 seasons. If Bobrovsky truly is the Flyers “goaltender of the future,” then backing up Bryzgalov isn’t the best way to groom him.
On the bright side, Bobrovsky is only 22 years old. We’ve heard for years that NHL goaltenders don’t hit their development peak until around 29 to 30 years of age. So, in that regard, Bobrovsky has plenty of time to learn. However, keeping him happy may not be as simple as paying him a handsome salary as a backup.
In the end the Flyers may have no other choice but to trade Bobrovsky. Not because they want to, but because their mismanagement of the salary cap forces them to. With plenty of tough choices ahead, Bobrovsky may fall victim to the Flyers imminent cap dumping, to clear enough space to sign Bryzgalov.
Yes, the Flyers have acquired the coveted goaltender they’ve seemingly always wanted and needed, but at what cost? It looks like the cost could be their leading goal scorer and their “goaltender of the future,” for starters.