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Was Ilya Bryzgalov’s Contract the Worst Ever?

Jun 25, 2013, 4:30 PM EDT


You think nine years at $51 million for Ilya Bryzgalov looked bad? How ‘bout two years, $16.5 million – plus another $23 million just to go away.

As part of the largest buyout in NHL history, Bryzgalov will receive $1.63 mil per year over twice the length of his remaining contract, so 14 years. The Flyers are now stuck paying Bryz until 2027, by which time he will be well into his 40s and undoubtedly retired from professional hockey.

In the meantime, Bryzgalov stands to make even more money. He becomes a free agent on July 5, and even if clubs around the NHL are weary of signing Bryz, he can always go back to Russia.

No matter where he plays next season and beyond, between the money the Flyers already paid, what they owe from the buyout, and his future earnings, Bryzgalov will almost certainly wind up collecting more than his terminated contract ever promised.

Everything worked out for Bryz in the end. Ain’t life grand?

The Flyers might be better off this way as well, but that doesn’t mean they escape humiliation. The franchise essentially agreed to pay Bryzgalov $40 million for two years of labor.

Let that sink in for a moment. $40 million for two years is a huge income for any athlete – in practically any industry for that matter. In the NHL, it’s basically the most outrageous sum of all time, especially considering the bang the Flyers got for their buck.

The figures work out to over $350,000 per game.

Bryzgalov was 52-33-10 with a 2.61 goals against average and a .905 save percentage in 99 games over two seasons for the Flyers, 5-6 with a 3.46 GAA and .887 SV% in 11 playoff games. Those aren’t exactly $20-million-per-year numbers, if such a thing even existed.

As if the Flyers didn’t overpay to the extreme already for a goaltender who could be suiting up against them for years to come, Bryz’s presence led to the exodus of Sergei Bobrovsky, the 24-year-old Vezina Trophy-winning netminder now in Columbus.

The entire time Bryzgalov was a huge distraction. He quarreled with the media from the moment he arrived, and quite possibly made enemies in the dressing room as well.

All of which begs the question: was this the worst contract ever in professional sports? In NHL history? In Philadelphia at least?

It can’t conceivably get much worse when you consider how horrendous the deal was from every angle. There are the obvious vast sums of money for subpar play. There is the paying him a historic amount of money to suit up for another club. There is the trading away a potential goalie of the future to accommodate the veteran.

And just think, had the league not claimed financial hardship during the last collective bargaining agreement, the Flyers would still be stuck with him. The shrinking salary cap is the sole reason an amnesty clause even exists.

Some people might suggest the contract would have been even worse had the Flyers actually had to endure the remaining seven years.

It might be a leap to determine Bryzgalov’s contract was the worst ever, but then again, when you break it down bit by bit it probably isn’t much of a stretch to claim it would be in the discussion.

  1. psudrozz - Jun 25, 2013 at 4:42 PM

    could you imagine f’ing up to the tune of 20 million dollars, tarnishing the image of your organization and still keeping your job?

    Front office must be liquidated. A new philosophy in player developement/acquisition must be introduced from outside the organization.

    • All in the Family - Jun 25, 2013 at 5:22 PM

      Couldn’t agree more. The Phillies need a similar flush. These front offices are way too cozy with way too many family ties.

  2. philly_28 - Jun 25, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    JaMarcus Russell got 40 million as well and all he did was further cripple an already crippled franchise. This whole Bryzgalov disaster is really bad, but the Raiders paid the same money and got a worse mess.

    • Andrew Kulp - Jun 25, 2013 at 4:58 PM

      JaMarcus Russell and other NFL draft busts certainly merit mention, but citing older NFL rookie contracts that were handed out to top picks is a bit of an unfair comparison. Because of the way the system worked at the time, the Raiders basically had to give him that contract once they selected him. It was a bad deal, but it was a bad pick first and foremost. I also would suggest it didn’t cripple them any worse since they essentially are picking that high every year and are not a destination for free agents anyway as a result. The decision making is what crippled them, not that contract. Valid point about it being a horrible contract, I’d still say Bryz was worse.

      • NYPhilsPhan - Jun 25, 2013 at 7:12 PM

        You’re also glossing over all the horrifically bad, franchise crippling NBA contracts that caused a lockout a few years back. How about $118 million at 14 mil a year for Rashard Lewis? How about the Kinicks dropping 65 mil on Amar’e Stoudemire over 3 years? Turkoglu? 16 mil for Elton Brand when he could no longer jump?

        This is the worst contract in professional sports if you don’t include another salary capped league that overpaid itself into the ground, the NBA. Bryz only looks bad when you consider the buyout, but this deal was struck right before we were blessed with a few buyouts, so it’s not destroying the team. I think that’s the measure right there: I don’t care if he makes out like a bandit, as long as we aren’t hamstrung by the deal, it’s not all THAT bad. If the team isn’t at risk of Bankruptcy, it can’t be the worst.

      • galasso2586 - Jun 26, 2013 at 8:56 AM

        If we’re talking about bad NBA contracts look no further than Gilbert Arenas.

  3. galasso2586 - Jun 25, 2013 at 5:13 PM

    It’s still very early on, but I’d say Josh Hamilton and maybe even Albert Pujols contracts in LA could end up being some pretty bad ones. The A-Rod contract looks pretty bad now. Going along with that, Ryan Howard could possibly be up there.

    Hockey wise this contract may take it.

    • galasso2586 - Jun 25, 2013 at 5:22 PM

      Just remembered Rick DiPietro’s contract which was way worse than Bryz’s

  4. blg002 - Jun 25, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    What are the odds that Bryz wins the Vezina next year?

  5. Mostel - Jun 25, 2013 at 5:18 PM

    Only a contract offer to that zoo animal headcase Ray Emery would be worse.

    • rrl121 - Jun 25, 2013 at 8:49 PM

      Yet emery was on fire for the hawks this year. Did you miss that? He lost like 3 games in close to twenty starts. Just saying…

      Yeah this is bad. That works out to 800k per F’ing win. 800k?!?!? Jesus h Christ

      • rrl121 - Jun 25, 2013 at 9:22 PM

        Holy crap, he didn’t eve lose 3. He was 17-1!

      • Lol - Jun 26, 2013 at 8:09 AM

        He also back stopped the Blackhawks! Let’s not read into it too much.

  6. BenE. - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    Rick DiPietro

  7. tjnicolaides - Jun 25, 2013 at 8:53 PM

    Bobby Bonilla’s deferred payout? The Mets will be paying him until he’s seventy-three years of age

  8. vivaronmexico - Jun 26, 2013 at 12:12 AM

    DId we really go through a discussion of terrible contracts, and not discuss Andrew Bynum this past year?

    Iggy & Vucevic gone, and $17M to Bynum, for absolutely nothing. At least Bryz talked about space.

  9. tjk - Jun 26, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    Also, we got rid of our two top centerman, including our captain, at least in part to make room for Bryz’s contract. I probably don’t need to remind everyone how they did after that.

  10. Simmonds17 - Jun 26, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    It’s not even the worst contract in Philadelphia at the present moment. Which does not make it good, not by a long shot.

    The Flyers are going to pay Bryz $23 million over the next 14 years. OK. The Phillies are going to pay Ryan Howard over $100 million this season through 2016. I think they’d jump on the Bryz buyout for Howard in less than a second. But baseball doesn’t have buyouts.

    At least the Flyers go a do-over. It’s Ed Snider’s money, not mine.


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