Edmonton Oilers Believe Ilya Bryzgalov Is Worth The Gamble; Will It Pay Off?

By Rick LaFitte
Ilya Bryzgalov
Eric Hartline USA TODAY Sports

With a dismal 4-11-2 record, the Edmonton Oilers decided it was time for a shakeup. Oilers GM Craig MacTavish dealt hard-working defenseman Ladislav Smid and goaltending prospect Olivier Roy to the Calgary Flames, getting Roman Horak and young netminder Laurent Brossoit in return.

With the $3.5 million per season in cap space freed up by trading Smid, they turned their attention to a veteran netminder, signing Ilya Bryzgalov to a one-year contract.

It’s no secret the Oilers were eyeing a veteran goaltender after Devan Dubnyk got off to a miserable start this season. The team had faith that Dubnyk would build off a solid season last year, but it’s been a struggle as Dubnyk, Jason LaBarbera and Richard Bachman have allowed a league-high 66 goals. With the situation being what it is, rolling the dice and hoping Bryzgalov can somehow regain his old form seems worth the gamble.

Bryzgalov came into the league with the Anaheim Ducks and was part of their Stanley Cup-winning team in 2007. He really rose to prominence as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes. Bryzgalov became an elite netminder in the desert during four NHL seasons where he averaged 65 games played and produced a total of 21 shutouts. His GAA and save percentage were stellar, and he was a key reason why the Coyotes tasted the postseason during two of those campaigns.

However, it was a move to the Philadelphia Flyers that saw his stock drop substantially. The two-year stint for Bryzgalov in Philly was nothing short of a disaster. Bryzgalov lost his confidence and performed poorly as his quirky personality and clashes with the media became a distraction. The organization decided to buy him out of his contract with seven years left on his $51 million deal.

It’s ironic that Bryzgalov is now in Edmonton, as it was a city that he famously cracked on back in 2006 when he said it was hard to blame Chris Pronger for asking to be traded because the city gets eight months of snow. He jokingly compared Edmonton to the North Pole.

Well, Bryzgalov can now get used to dealing with those frigid temperatures during the winter months. The Oilers are just hoping that he can somehow come close to being the netminder he used to be. With nowhere to go but up in the goals against department, the signing seems worth the shot.

Even if it doesn’t work out, it can’t be any worse than the present situation. Bryzgalov is expected to join the team after a conditioning stint in the AHL with the Oklahoma City Barons.

Rick LaFitte is an NHL Writer for Rant Sports

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