Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Bryzgalov deal curious choice for Wild
By Scott Burnside
Well, that came out of left field, didn't it?
Of all the goaltending names that were in the air surrounding the Minnesota Wild the past couple of days, not once did we consider Ilya Bryzgalov as a possible fix to the Wild's goaltending depth issues.
Maybe that's because we've seen Bryzgalov play in the playoffs.
The Wild acquired the curious Russian netminder from the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday for a fourth-round pick.
The Wild have received excellent goaltending from rookie Darcy Kuemper, who is now 11-3-2 -- how long until he gets some love as a possible Calder Trophy candidate? -- but with Niklas Backstrom banged up and playing poorly when healthy and Josh Harding unavailable as he continues to deal with issues related to multiple sclerosis, GM Chuck Fletcher needed to provide depth between the pipes.
But with options such as Martin Brodeur, Jaroslav Halak, Tim Thomas and perhaps one of Carolina's three netminders available leading up to Wednesday's trade deadline it remains a bit of a shock the Wild turned to Bryzgalov.
The former Anaheim, Phoenix and Philadelphia netminder started the season late with Edmonton after failing to secure a contract in the offseason and was a pedestrian 5-8-5 with a .908 save percentage and 3.01 goals-against average for an Oilers team that was among the NHL's worst.
Still, what is a bit befuddling when it comes to Bryzgalov acting as an insurance policy come playoff time -- the Wild have opened up a nine-point lead on the competition for a wild-card spot -- is that Bryzgalov has played poorly in the playoffs in recent seasons. In his past three playoff appearances with Philadelphia and Phoenix, Bryzgalov turned in save percentages of .887, .879 and .906.
His poor playoff performance in Philadelphia was a contributing factor to his being bought out of the bulk of his nine-year, $51 million contract there.
With Ryan Miller gone to St. Louis, there are no obvious answers when it comes to goaltending depth. There are flaws or question marks with all of the aforementioned netminders. Still, it does strike us that of all the options that remained vis-a-vis goaltending the one that instills the least confidence when it comes to providing playoff insurance would be Bryzgalov.