Less than 24 hours after word surfaced that Ilya Bryzgalov was on the verge of joining the ECHL's Las Vegas Wranglers, the free agent goalie has agreed to a pro tryout contract with the team. The Wranglers announced the move on Thursday evening.
"Having a world-class player like Ilya in camp is a great opportunity for our organization and our players," Wranglers Head Coach and General Manager Mike Madill said in a team statement. "Operating independently of an NHL affiliation allows us the freedom to explore these types of opportunities, and we are thrilled to have Ilya here to work with us, and our goaltenders especially. It will be an amazing experience for them."
Bryzgalov spent the past two seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers and to say he struggled would be quite the understatement. After posing a .900 save percentage in 40 games during the lockout shortened 2013 season the Flyers bought out the remainder of his nine-year, $51 million contract, allowing him to become a free agent.
Think about that for a second: Two years ago Bryzgalov was such a highly sought after goaltender that an NHL team gave him a $51 million contract. Now he's signing a tryout contract in the ECHL. Just another example as to how unpredictable and volatile goaltenders can be and how risky it is to go all in with a huge investment.
As a result of their buyout the Flyers will pay Bryzgalov $23 million over the next 14 years.
Bryzgalov insists that he plans on returning to the NHL.
"To be clear, I intend to return to the NHL, and to be ready for game action when an NHL opportunity opens up," Bryzgalov said. "I intend to work hard while I am here in Las Vegas, and to return the support I have received from my family, the many fans who have reached out to me with words of encouragement, and the Wranglers organization with actions, not words. This is a unique opportunity for me to be an example to my own children, to the young fans who have supported me, to my new teammates, and eventually to the NHL teammates who will come to rely on me again."