Why an Ilya Bryzgalov/Rick DiPietro trade would be the best thing ever

Jonathan Willis
January 10 2013 12:59PM

Photo: Michael Miller/Wikimedia

If the Philadelphia Flyers really are – as Wednesday’s edition of the Roberto Luongo rumour mill suggests – interested in buying out Ilya Bryzgalov, they should stop and not do that. I’m not saying they need to keep Ilya Bryzgalov – just that if it is within their power they should trade him to the New York Islanders and buyout Rick DiPietro instead.

Before I get into the case for the trade, I need to acknowledge the hurdle: Ilya Bryzgalov’s no-move clause. Plenty of hockey players have no interest in playing for the Islanders, and Bryzgalov may well reason that a buyout is preferable to a trade because he’ll still collect two-thirds of the money he’s owed and he’ll be free to go find a job with another NHL team or a KHL club. If he’s willing, though, this deal would make sense for both the Flyers and Islanders.

The basic case for a Bryzgalov-for-DiPietro+ trade is straight-forward: the money left on their contracts. This is the state of each player’s current pacts following the conclusion of the 2013 season:

  • Ilya Bryzgalov: Seven years, with a total of $34.5 million in salary (average per year: $4.8 million) and an annual cap hit of $5.67 million.
  • Rick DiPietro: Eight years, with a total of $36 million in salary (average per year: $4.5 million) and an annual cap hit of $4.5 million.

For the Flyers, the difference between these two players on a compliance buyout is tiny. Since buyouts are for two-thirds of the remaining dollars on a contract spread evenly over twice the years of the remaining contract, it’s an extra million dollars in total money and the Flyers have two more years to pay it. It doesn’t take much in a trade to cover those million dollars, and the New York Islanders should be very, very willing to make it worth the Flyers’ while.

As things stand, the Islanders are looking at the glum prospect of paying Rick DiPietro $4.5 million for the next eight years. DiPietro has played less than 10 games for the Islanders in three of the last four seasons, and when he has played he’s been awful: in 26 2010-11 games he posted a 0.886 SV%. Just once since the lockout (in 2006-07) as he come close to justifying his annual salary. DiPietro’s contract is the millstone ‘round the neck of a franchise that has struggled terribly both on and off the ice the last few years.

Ilya Bryzgalov, on the other hand, is an excellent if eccentric goaltender. In three of his last five seasons, his save percentage has topped the 0.920 mark. Even in 2011-12, a season where he was frequently criticized, he managed a near-average 0.909 SV%. He’s a good goalie. He’s not the franchise savior the Flyers thought they were paying for, and he seems wildly ill-suited to the Philadelphia media market, but he’s nowhere near DiPietro’s league in terms of having no chance of living up to his contract.

That contract also should suit the Islanders, a cap floor team if ever there was one. Bryzgalov’s annual salary is nearly $1 million less than his annual cap hit. The three most expensive years of his deal will all be in the past by 2014, after which his salary never tops $6 million/year at any point.

As for Bryzgalov’s occasional issues with the media, he’d still be in a huge market (New York) but he’d be with the Islanders. Not only is there plenty of cover for wackiness on the team that promoted its backup goaltender to general manager, but the club doesn’t get the same sort of coverage that a team like the Flyers does.

To sum-up: the Flyers pay a tiny (by NHL standards) bit of money - $1 million over 16 years – and add prospects/picks/players for their trouble (they could probably recoup whatever they dealt away to acquire Roberto Luongo). The New York Islanders trade away the single-worst contract in the league for a guy on a poor contract who can actually play, end the revolving door between the pipes of the last few seasons, and make their cap hit a little larger than their budget. It’s a trade that would seem to make great sense for both teams.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 geoff
January 10 2013, 02:23PM
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wait, is this guy serious? this is the stupidest thing i'll ever read. why would the flyers ever want to sign that fragile bastard?

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#3 aryeh
January 10 2013, 02:38PM
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There is no way in the world the Islanders would give up a prospect or a draft pick for Bryz. They already have 2 solid goalie prospects in Anders Nilsson and Kevin Poulin. Also why would they help a division rival. Thirdly, everyone is so obsessed with the Islanders getting to the cap floor. As of now they want all that extra room so when guys like Lecavalier, Carter, Cambell, Hossa ,Heatly ect.. hit the free agent market they have a lot of money to spend on big free agents just in time for their move to brooklyn the next year.

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#4 Mike Burke
January 10 2013, 02:40PM
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As an Isles fan, I found this line particularly comical: "the club doesn’t get the same sort of coverage that a team like the Flyers does." The Islanders probably don't get the same sort of coverage the Phantoms do.

Exhibit A: There is currently ONE beat writer among all of the NY print media outlets assigned solely to the Isles (Arthur Staple, Newsday).

Exhibit B: The Islanders are proudly broadcast by WRHU, Radio Hofstra University, and instead of hiring a full-time color commentator for our radio broadcasts, it's offered as an internship of sorts for Hofstra students looking for a career in radio.

I'd continue, but it's too painful :(

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#7 Mike Burke
January 10 2013, 02:51PM
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@Jonathan Willis

It's frighteningly thin, Jonathan.

To address the cap floor issue, the team we actually iced at the end of the season was making something along the lines of $25M in salary. We traded away Rolston and Mike Mottau last year the moment that we had accrued enough in expenses that we were guaranteed to stay over the cap for the season.

Over 20% of our cap hit is tied up in unattainable bonuses and we LOVE to take on players that have a larger cap hit than salary - see Lubomir Visnovsky, if he actually reports instead of staying home. It's telling that we still need the buyout of Alexei Yashin on our payroll - he has not played since 2006-2007, mind you - to make the cap floor.

The major flaw I see in your suggestion was pointed out above. The Isles are very deep from a farm standpoint in net (Poulin, Nilsson and Koskinen over in Europe) and it's iffy at best if Bryz would consider heading over to a team that makes Phoenix look as well run as the Red Wings organization.

Top that off with the fact that Garth Snow holds on to prospects and draft picks like they are winning lotto tickets and hasn't made any kind of major move in that regard since he was "promoted" to general manager, and I think this one is dead in the water.

I don't think there's enough in it for the Flyers if they can't get any picks/prospects in return.

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#9 Ben Wendorf
January 10 2013, 03:10PM
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@aryeh

Okay, Poulin and Nilsson are young and they are goaltenders, but "solid goalie prospects" is a bit of a stretch right now. And they wouldn't be nearly as much "helping" a division rival than taking advantage of their goaltender paranoia. Bryzgalov is not nearly as bad as he was last year.

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#10 Danny Migliorisi
January 10 2013, 03:17PM
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I'm an Isles fan and I have to say, I know the DP contract is rough, but people away from the team make out to be, as you put it, "single-worst contract in the league". These kind of statements make me feel like the authors don't really do much research.

When the contract was signed, Ricky was the number one goalie among Americans, he was healthy, he was the franchise goalie. An unfortunate turn of events lead to injury after injury, and the label of "single-worst contract in the league". If he stayed healthy throughout the terms of this deal, they get a #1 goalie for $4.5m a year for the extent of his career, and have plenty of room to sign star players.

Now, look at Alex Ovechkin's contract for example. Arguably the top forward in the league and worth all the money in the world, but at $130m over 13 years, isn't it the same thing if he suddenly get's hurt and cant perform the way he did in his rookie campaign?

These long term contracts are gambles, everyone knows it, that's why the players love them, that's why the GMs love them. No one car foresee what will happen 2 years later in a deal. But in my opinion, locking up a #1 goalie at $4.5m a year for 15 years is a steal when it all works out.

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#12 rob
January 10 2013, 03:43PM
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@Danny Migliorisi

You don't have to do alot of research to know its the worst contract in the league at the present moment. It may not have been a bad idea at the time of the signing (although many would argue signing a goalie to a 13 year deal is a little crazy), but right now its pretty ugly. I see where you are coming from but I think Willis was talking more about it being a terrible contract right now. If Ricky was backstopping the Islanders to the playoffs this article would never have been written.

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#13 rob
January 10 2013, 04:03PM
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Also, to add to my last comment, Ovie just came off two 82 game/100 point seasons and was en route to another one when they signed him to his contract. Dipietro had two decent 60ish game seasons where he barely won more games than he lost and they signed him for 13+ years. That conract was a huge risk, Ovie not nearly as much.

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#14 Vik
January 10 2013, 04:56PM
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One factor I think you're overlooking is that DiPietro has to be healthy in order to be bought out. Otherwise, he'd have to agree to it. I certainly wouldn't be taking that chance if I was the Flyers.

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#15 GB
January 10 2013, 05:20PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

So instead they'll happily pay DiPietro $4.5 million/year for the majority of the next decade? Because that's the alternative.

As for the cap floor, you may recall the Islanders trading for Brian Rolston so that they'd make it to the cap floor, and that they had the lowest payroll in the NHL last year. That's why people are obsessed with it.

No they won't pay DiPietro $4.5m a yr for the next decade. They will buy him out like they bought out Witt, Yashin and Bates.They will pay Yashin $2.2m per, until 2014-2015.

The Isles will see their revenue increase with the 2015 move to Brooklyn.

And when they traded for Rolston, they traded the injured and struggling Hunter for Rolston. they moved a 2 yr/$4m contract and bought in a 1 yr/$5m contract.

Isles don't trade good prospects to dump DiPietro. What a silly suggestion.

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#16 GB
January 10 2013, 05:25PM
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Ben Wendorf wrote:

Okay, Poulin and Nilsson are young and they are goaltenders, but "solid goalie prospects" is a bit of a stretch right now. And they wouldn't be nearly as much "helping" a division rival than taking advantage of their goaltender paranoia. Bryzgalov is not nearly as bad as he was last year.

I doubt the Isles care what opposing fans think of Poulin+ Nilson.They led the Sound Tigers to their division crown last season. The ST have a much younger team this yr and have been hit by injuries...De Haan, Kabanov, Cizikas, Ness, Nelson.

Isles wouldn't take Bryzgalov if the Flyers paid part of his salary. They like their AHL duo, Poulin and Nilson.

They feel Nabokov has been very solid for them and will be a good mentor for Poulin and Nilson.

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#17 Epison
January 10 2013, 07:50PM
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Pretty sure when you buy out a contract, the player gets the 2/3 or 1/3 of the remaining value(based on age) immediately. Only the cap hit is spread out. To buy a player out the owners need to ok the upfront payout and the GM needs to accept the longer, albeit lesser, cap hit.

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#18 Pension Plan Puppets
January 11 2013, 02:12AM
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aryeh wrote:

There is no way in the world the Islanders would give up a prospect or a draft pick for Bryz. They already have 2 solid goalie prospects in Anders Nilsson and Kevin Poulin. Also why would they help a division rival. Thirdly, everyone is so obsessed with the Islanders getting to the cap floor. As of now they want all that extra room so when guys like Lecavalier, Carter, Cambell, Hossa ,Heatly ect.. hit the free agent market they have a lot of money to spend on big free agents just in time for their move to brooklyn the next year.

That works in theory but you need to have a team that can attract those kinds of free agents. They still need to be a good team to attract good free agent.

Also, you listed a tonne of guys that are under contract. Was that on purpose?

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#19 Pension Plan Puppets
January 11 2013, 02:14AM
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geoff wrote:

wait, is this guy serious? this is the stupidest thing i'll ever read. why would the flyers ever want to sign that fragile bastard?

RTFA bud, RTFA.

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#20 Pension Plan Puppets
January 11 2013, 02:16AM
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GB wrote:

No they won't pay DiPietro $4.5m a yr for the next decade. They will buy him out like they bought out Witt, Yashin and Bates.They will pay Yashin $2.2m per, until 2014-2015.

The Isles will see their revenue increase with the 2015 move to Brooklyn.

And when they traded for Rolston, they traded the injured and struggling Hunter for Rolston. they moved a 2 yr/$4m contract and bought in a 1 yr/$5m contract.

Isles don't trade good prospects to dump DiPietro. What a silly suggestion.

The move won't take place until 2015 and the Isles are losing money every year. Do you think they'll want to cut DiPietro a cheque for $24M if they can find a palatable alternative?

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#21 bcarey
January 11 2013, 07:30AM
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"Bryzgalov may well reason that a buyout is preferable to a trade because he’ll still collect two-thirds of the money he’s owed and he’ll be free to go find a job with another NHL team or a KHL club."

Should have stopped right there, looked toward sky/brain, and said, "Duh."

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#23 GB
January 11 2013, 08:15AM
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@Pension Plan Puppets

The Islanders lost $4m and $8m in each of the last 2 yrs. I'm sure they would rather have posted a profit, but considering they drew poorly and had no playoff revenue, their posting a loss for those seasons is understandable.

Several monsth ago, Forbes reported that their franchise value rose $4m, on the news that they'd signed the Barclay's lease. Forbes expects the franchise value will rise higher with the actual move to Barclay Center. Wang and Ratner, are working with Nassau County politicians to come up with ideas for the HUB project, so the isles can get out of their current lease and into Barclay's 1-2 years early.

Isles are not bleeding money and they are not trading good prospects to dump DiPietro, who they can buyout themselves at $1.5m. So, yeah. I do think a $1.5m buyout is a more palatable alternative.

Let someone else help the Flyers with their Luongo/Bryzgalov/cap mess.

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#24 Ken
January 11 2013, 08:51AM
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I still just can't understand why taking on what was considered one of the worst contracts given out in recent years (Bryzgalov's) is a better option than just buying out the bad one you gave out yourself? Especially when the first option costs you the young players and prospects you've tanked so hard for over the past few seasons.

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#25 Canuck
January 11 2013, 10:18AM
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@GB

Plus, Wang also owns Neulion, which streamlines AHL and NHL games. Just b/c the team is losing money at the gate, doesn't mean Wang is losing money overall. Signing Bryz wouldn't solve the problem Isles have with DP, it would only entrench it (like playing musical chairs really), and Bryz is overpaid for a goalie. Isles will go with cheaper, equality talented options in goal, and prepare for Brooklyn where the teams revenues will be much higher. They need to get DP off the books, off the cap hit prior to Brooklyn. Over-paid, over extended Bryz doesn't solve that problem.

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#26 RexLibris
January 11 2013, 05:18PM
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Hi Jonathan,

Any ideas on how we could convince Snow to become interested in Horcoff? We'd have to convince Horcoff to become interested in the Islanders as well, I suppose, but so long as DiPietro isn't coming back, it might be worth talking about. Mostly because I haven't yet figured out how to convince Dale Tallon that taking Horcoff in exchange for Gudbranson would be a good deal for the Panthers.

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#27 Ben Wendorf
January 14 2013, 02:25AM
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@GB

I'm not an "opposing fan." Nor does that really mean anything even if I was, since we're more interested in analysis than who can be the biggest homer.

Regardless, the Isles don't care much more about what their fans think of their prospects than they do about other people...though I'm certain they're more likely to listen to impartial scouts than someone who might allow their fandom to affect their judgment. All I see right now are two young goaltending prospects on cheap contracts (provided they stay in the AHL) who aren't doing well this year after good-not-great seasons the previous year. It's nice to have goalies who play okay when times are good, but you also want them to be able to rise above when things are bad, so it's not the best idea to just ignore this year's results and focus on the good numbers.

DiPietro's going to be ready for the season, so I doubt Nabokov will be mentoring either of the young goaltenders as his backup this season. And really, it's the smart thing to do, b/c you want both of Poulin and Nilsson to get real playing time somewhere, rather than paying them NHL salary ($891K vs his $65K AHL salary for Poulin, $1.75m vs his $67.5K AHL salary for Nilsson) for a handful of games.

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#28 Canuck578
January 23 2013, 12:32PM
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I always have to chuckle when others are trying to dictate who should be traded to what team, and why. Sure, Philadelphia could trade Bryzgalov to the Islanders for DiPietro, and then reap the benefits of a lower cap hit.

The problem with this thinking is that 1) there are two teams involved here...don't forget the Islanders would be a part of this deal, 2) Why would the Islanders want to take a player who ends up costing them more? How would the Islanders benefit from this deal?

I mean, if this is such a great deal for the Islanders why are there not dozens of other teams lining up for this deal? I would think that the Islanders also have a pretty good goalie signed (Evgeni Nabokov), and adding a potentially unstable goalie to their line-up that will cost them so much more of a cap-hit just doesn't make sense.

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