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Tuesday, August 20, 2013
You Make the Call: Bryzgalov or Thomas?

By Sarah Goldstein

There are few teams that would turn down a talented goaltender. Even if you have a dominant starter, who doesn't want a competent spare in the back seat.

Still on the market are two free agents with a lot of question marks surrounding their talent: Ilya Bryzgalov and Tim Thomas.

Tim Thomas, Ilya Bryzgalov
Would you want Ilya Bryzgalov or Tim Thomas on your team?
Bryzgalov has won a Stanley Cup, backing up Jean-Sebastien Giguere with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007. The Coyotes claimed Bryz off waivers when the Ducks couldn't trade him, and Phoenix promptly signed him after he recorded a shutout in his first game. Despite his success with the Coyotes under the leadership of goaltending coach Sean Burke, Bryzgalov became another punch line in the jokes about Philadelphia goaltenders.

Who can forget Bryzgalov stealing the show leading up to the Winter Classic. His philosophical musings on HBO's "24/7: Road to the Winter Classic" about the universe, then announcing to the media in Philadelphia that he would not be starting in the big game.

"I have a great news and even better news. OK, great news I'm not playing tomorrow night and good news we have a chance to win the game tomorrow," Bryzgalov said as his coaches and teammates were trying to stay quiet about who would be the starter.

This chapter of Bryzgalov's career ended this summer when the Flyers bought out the rest of the $51 million, nine-year contract he signed in 2011 and GM Paul Holmgren called it "a costly mistake."

Thomas is a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, a Stanley Cup winner and a Conn Smythe Trophy winner. Not a bad résumé, eh?

In the Boston Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011, Thomas was the star of the show and the calm alternative to opponent Roberto Luongo's up-and-down play. (Example: "I guess I didn't realize it was my job to pump his tires.")

But politics seemed to get in the way of hockey. Thomas skipped his team's visit to the White House to celebrate winning the Stanley Cup because he believed the federal government was out of control. He then took all of last season off to spend with his family -- an announcement he made on Facebook.

Can either of these netminders help an NHL team this season? Would playing in a smaller market again benefit Bryzgalov? Can Thomas play at an NHL level after sitting a season out?

You make the call: Would you gamble on Ilya Bryzgalov or Tim Thomas?