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Flyers should resist urge to amnesty Ilya Bryzgalov

Flyers could be tempted to amnesty Bryz, but it would be another in a line of financial mistakes by Philly sports teams.

ALL PAUL HOLMGREN had to say was, "Bryz is our No. 1 goalie, now and for the foreseeable future."

Words to that effect would have squelched speculation that the Flyers' deadline trade Wednesday for Steve Mason, a young, pedigreed goalie, might mean an early divorce from Ilya Bryzgalov.

Instead, Holmgren said, "We see [Mason] as one of our two goalies, not only the rest of this year, but moving forward. We'll just leave it at that for now."

Of course, nothing concerning the Flyers gets left at that. Not for now; not for later.

For better or worse, Holmgren's Flyers, like every other team in this town, is poised to throw big money at a problem in hopes of currying local favor and quickly fixing a perceived problem.

Holmgren also created an atmosphere in which his hypersensitive franchise goalie can stew while the team makes a likely futile push for the last playoff spot in this bastardized season.

A lockout-shortened season, in which Bryzgalov played pretty well.

A compressed season, in which Bryz suppressed his guileless and entertaining personality at the behest of paranoid handlers and party-line teammates.

A season in which a shaky defense was rent to tatters by free agency and injury.

Wednesday night, with the word "AMNESTY" floating in a bubble above his net, Bryzgalov let in a softie early, then, late in the second, he got burned by lousy backchecking and a deflection from a teammate, the last a forgettable Kodak moment, since Bryz looked like he ducked the deflection. He also sweetly denied two evil shots in the first and in the third.

It was Bryzgalov's 20th consecutive start, and he made 14 saves in the Flyers' 5-3 victory over Montreal. He declined to address the media afterwards.

He should get Thursday night off, in Toronto.He probably would not get the Toronto game off had Mason not arrived Wednesday night, in exchange for shelved veteran backup Michael Leighton and a third-round pick in 2015.

It is very probable that while Bryzgalov watches Mason work, Bryz will ponder his future. There is much to ponder.

If Mason shines down the stretch the Flyers, in anticipation of the shrinking salary cap, will be tempted to use an amnesty buyout to rid themselves of the $34.7 million burden of Bryzgalov's contract over the next seven seasons. Amnesty rules would limit the buyout cost to $23 million, paid over twice the remaining term, or 14 seasons.

Bryzgalov would become a free agent and his cap hit would disappear.

The Flyers already are negotiating Mason's deal to a number lower than the $3 million qualifying offer required to retain his rights as a restricted free agent next season. If they buy out Bryz, they could acquire an even cheaper backup for Mason.

Bryzgalov certainly has considered all of those possibilities. He might be flighty, but he ain't dumb.

As for Philadelphia brass impatiently throwing money around, consider:

* The Eagles paid cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha $4 million in guaranteed money to leave and join the best team in the NFC. Asomugha would have earned $15 million in his third season as an Eagle.

* The Sixers paid forward Elton Brand $18 million in an amnesty buyout to play zero games for them, on someone else's bench. They used most of that cap room to acquire Andrew Bynum, whom they paid more than $16 million . . . to also play zero games for them.

* The Phillies paid Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels $57 million for their 54 wins the past two seasons. They owe Hamels $144 million; Lee, as much as $102.5 million.

In the meantime, the Phillies in 2006 traded promising lefty Gio Gonzalez (and baffling righty Gavin Floyd) to the White Sox for Freddie Garcia, who arrived as damaged goods, won one game and made $10 million. Gonzalez is 52-29 and twice was an All-Star since 2010.

Brand, while diminished from his All-Star days, is a productive bench player in Dallas. Andre Iguodala, part of the trade to acquire Bynum, is a key cog with a dangerous Denver team. Nic Vucevic, also traded to get Bynum, has emerged as a passable post player, and rookie guard Mo Harkless, also part of that deal, has shown promise.

The Eagles, still evaluating personnel and formulating a plan, have no idea what their defensive backfield will look like without Asomugha, other than it won't be as well-dressed.

So, no, throwing money at the problem does not always work.

And now, the Flyers could pay Bryz a humongous $23 million to occupy another quadrant of the universe.

Flyers goalie coach Jeff Reese is smitten with the potential of Mason, a 24-year-old who won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie in 2009.

Of course, the Flyers might just ride out Bryzgalov's deal and hope he continues to control his neuroses and earn his money . . . or, start earning it, depending on how you see him.

He was 48-30-10 as a Flyer with a .905 save percentage entering Wednesday night's game.

He has been brilliant at times, but he also has been ordinary, and sometimes downright poor.

Last season he irritated his teammates, coaches and Holmgren with comments perceived as selfish, and with comments perceived as eccentric. He lost his starting job by the time the Flyers played in the Winter Classic, the league's showcase game.

Then he clammed up in interviews and clamped down between the pipes and was splendid last spring, but his tender feelings were so bruised by then that he ignored accolades.

Yes, it has been a prickly union, with an all-too-brief honeymoon, but there is no need to contemplate a costly split.

The teams in this town have wasted enough money already.

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch