Commentary

Five 'buyer beware' free agents

Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals may have overpaid for regressing free agents

Originally Published: June 28, 2011
By Neil Greenberg | Special to ESPN Insider
Ilya BryzgalovDave Reginek/NHLI/Getty ImagesIlya Bryzgalov may not be the elite answer in goal the Flyers think he is.

In a few days, the 2011 NHL free-agency period will begin, and teams will give big dollars to those players they feel will bring their squads one step closer to a championship. This year's free-agent pool has fewer big-name stars, and there is no doubt that an increased salary cap will cause some players to be overpaid.

That overexuberance started a little early this year, when the Philadelphia Flyers inked Ilya Bryzgalov, the top unrestricted free agent (UFA) goalie in this year's crop, to a nine-year deal worth $51 million.

The 31-year-old goalie played in 68 games with the Phoenix Coyotes last season, posting a .921 save percentage and a 2.48 goals-against average. His seven shutouts were seven more than the Flyers had as a team in 2010-11.

Unfortunately for Flyers fans, the signing came at the expense of captain Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, who were moved in separate trades to make enough room for Bryzgalov's deal to fit under the salary cap.

An NHL goalie makes $2.7 million and posts a .913 save percentage, on average. Bryzgalov will have a $5.7 million cap hit and has a .916 save percentage over his career. The Russian netminder will certainly go a long way in stopping Philadelphia's goaltending carousel, but a $5.7 million cap hit over the next nine years for someone who has barely outperformed his backups since the 2008-09 season could be a recipe for disaster.


To read the list of free agents who seem likely to regress next season, you must be an ESPN Insider.

Neil Greenberg is ESPN Insider's NHL analytics expert. His columns have appeared on the Washington Post website, and he is a regular guest on Sirius XM NHL Radio.