Amid rumors connecting the team to goalies Martin Brodeur and Jaroslav Halak, Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher bit on a different deal entirely, shipping the 2014 fourth round pick acquired in last year’s Jason Pominville blockbuster trade to the Edmonton Oilers for goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
After being bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers two years into a nine-year $51 Million deal, the Togliatti, Russia native spent time in the ECHL earlier this season before being signed by the Oilers to a one-year $2 Million contract. In 20 games with the Oilers this season, Bryzgalov has gone 5-8-5 with a 3.01 goals against average, a .908 save percentage and a shutout. While his goals against average and record are certainly unspectacular this year, his save percentage may indicate that part of it has been the result of poor play by one of the league’s worst teams.
Prior to Edmonton, Bryzgalov, 33, was the undisputed starter for Philadelphia in his two seasons there and the Phoenix Coyotes the four years before that. In 445 games played over parts of 12 seasons with Anaheim, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Edmonton, the NHL’s arguably most “eccentric” goaltender has notched a 213-157-50 record, a 2.57 goals against average, a .913 save percentage and 31 shutouts.
There are a lot of good things about this trade. Locker room chemistry hasn’t been disturbed by a player leaving for a new team; the net is still rookie Darcy Kuemper’s to lose; Niklas Backstrom can be shutdown for the rest of the season to heal and have whatever procedures done that need to be done and Bryzgalov provides a very comfortable safety net for a team hands down better than the one he’s coming from. Best of all, Minnesota will only have to pick up approximately $475,000 of his cap hit–meaning Fletcher still has the opportunity to acquire a $3 Million cap hit player without sending another roster player packing. Yes, Bryzgalov is no Brodeur or Halak, but he’ll certainly do as both a backup, starter (if need be) and a jovial mentor for the fun-loving Kuemper.
Now, with goaltending addressed, the attention turns to other options. Minnesota has the cap room; could they be going after a defenseman or a scoring winger? There has been talk about Ottawa’s Chris Phillips possibly being in play. If they can get him for the right price, this would be a very solid addition for the Minnesota Wild. Considering its youthful defensive corps, Phillips, 35, would provide another calming presence with the experience of 114 career NHL playoff games, as well. We’re less than 24 hours until the trade deadline–a lot can happen here, folks.
In other news, the Wild keeps adding to the prospect pool these days, signing yet another undrafted junior free agent in Zack Mitchell.
Mitchell, 21, is in his final season with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League. A Canadian major junior veteran of five years, Mitchell is in the middle of his best season yet, having scored 29 goals and 48 assists for 77 points and a plus-45 rating in 62 games.
“Zack is an intelligent, two-way winger who is having a tremendous season for the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League,” Wild Assistant GM Brent Flahr said. “We’re excited to add another quality young forward to the Minnesota Wild organization.”
The right-shot right winger is a native of Caledon, Ontario and stands at 6’0″ and 184-pounds. His three-year entry level deal will kick in this fall. Mitchell joins undrafted junior free agent Brady Brassart (Calgary, WHL) and 2013 Wild third round pick Kurtis Gabriel (Owen Sound, OHL) as youngsters signed by the club in the past two days.
It’s been an exciting day for the club–will it lead to more tomorrow?