Was Ilya Bryzgalov’s Contract the Worst Ever?


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.