Ilya Bryzgalov, 33 - Philadelphia
This contract is the definition of what the power of having a union can do for you. For most people who are fired or let go they are lucky to get severance and even if they do, that severance is almost nothing to kick back on and retire early with. Meet Ilya Bryzgalov.
The epitome of working for a really good company that has the equivalence of the Ford Motor Company assembly line and then claiming to be the assembly line.
What happened? Someone stupid and desperate enough to believe it, enter Paul Holmgren, hands him the keys to the factory expecting nothing but high luxury Model-T Ford's and gets a Ford Pinto. Gas tank malfunctions all included.
So how does this whole union thing come in? For 99 days (games) of work, the man made $21.5M. He was then paid $22.9M in severance (buyout) for a grand total of $44.4M for 99 games.
Call Bryzgalov aloof but he just fleeced one of the better GM's in hockey according to the media to pay him for 14 years not to work for him. My opinion, Holmgren is shooting himself in the foot with an overzealous owner and GM who wants to reshape the face of the team every time the season doesn't go his way. What's next? Apparently now he's shopping Brayden Coburn knowing that his defense was exposed last year and Coburn being one of the few consistent players on the back-end that isn't in his first 2 seasons of NHL play.
Bryzgalov has ability but it's his laziness for a lack of a better word that bit him in the ass, he didn't practice as hard without the structure in Anaheim and Phoenix and didn't put in the effort off the ice he should of. Not to mention, him and his agent Rich Winter ragged the Flyers on a 630 CHED radio interview in Edmonton with Bob Stauffer, the main media guy for the Oilers. If you haven't heard it, search Oilers now on iTunes it is hilarious. His agent then tried to sell Edmonton fans on Bryzgalov coming to Edmonton yet made comments about "how poor the weather in Edmonton is, and Bryzgalov is more of a warm climate person".
My take? NY Islanders, Calgary, Florida, Edmonton, Phoenix and Tampa Bay could all use an upgrade in goal. The Kiprusoff drama isn't ending anytime soon in Calgary, Jacob Markstrom needs more time to develop in Florida, the jury is still out on Devan Dubnyk in Edmonton, apparently Mike Smith is trying to hit a home-run and test the market and does anyone buy that Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback are the answer in Tampa Bay?
If Smith leaves Phoenix, 100% guarantee Bryz goes back the other way on a $2-3M 1-2 year deal to work with goalie coach Sean Burke who did a great job with him in Phoenix not to mention playing in Dave Tippet's system.
Vincent Lecavalier, 33 - Tampa Bay
The former 1st overall pick in the 1998 was awarded the contract after posting 5 consecutive 30 goal seasons, 6 if you count his 2008-2009 season where he had 29 goals. He was 1 year removed from a 40 goal season in 2008 and 2 years removed from a 52 goal 108 point season in 2007. Lecavalier was one of the premier players in the NHL at the time coming off a down year of 67 points on a rebuilding Lightning team that had just drafted Steven Stamkos in 2008. So in Stamkos' first year Lecavalier had 67 points.
How many did Stamkos have? 23 goals, 46 points under the debacle of Barry Melrose and Rick Tocchet. The consensus was with a stronger coach, Lecavalier would rebound and Stamkos would grow into the player he is today when the contract was dolled out.
In retrospect, Lecavalier deserved to be paid on the numbers for a premier center and a premier center on a rebuilding team nonetheless that finished 1st, 2nd in back to back years. So to keep a player like Lecavalier at the time was worth paying "market value" at the time.
What happened after the contract? Lecavalier never rebounded as hoped and his 52 goal season in 2007 is now a distant memory, he hasn't hit the 30 goal mark since 2008 and 4 years into the contract Lecavalier's stats have been on a steady decline.
Where does it go from here? There is still an incredible amount of interest in Lecavalier who could end up anywhere. Vancouver has already spoken to John Tortorella to kick the tires on the potential of Lecavalier in a Canucks uniform, Toronto has been desperate for a top line center since Mats Sundin left but it is arguable is Lecavalier is still a top line center.
A healthy motivated Lecavalier at $4.5M-$5M per could fit in perfectly in Chicago if the Hawks are looking to restructure the money upfront for a guy to play second fiddle to Jonathan Toews seeing Dave Bolland is rumoured to be on the way out. Edmonton? Sam Gagner negotiations look to be hitting a snag and the Oilers have been wanting a center with size. Lecavalier with Nail Yakupov, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Magnus Paajarvi might reignite him. But the guy was playing on the same team with Steven Stamkos and that didn't seem to be a fit (they tried and they weren't a fit on the same line together).
My money? Detroit. If anyone can revive a career that looks dormant its Mike Babcock. If it happens, it may not be reflective on the scoresheet but Babcock can take a square peg and carve it to fit a round hole in Detroit, where practically everyone in their system but my grandmother played for last year and somehow they made the playoffs with a team that was momentarily filled with unproven AHLers. Yet, Babcock did it. He'll do it with Lecavalier if he's interested in going there.