Ilya Bryzgalov has always been confident in his beliefs. Now, he has money riding on them.
According to a report from Russian news outlet RSport.RU, Bryzgalov opted out of his contract with his Russian team, CSKA Moscow, citing the end of the NHL lockout as his reason for leaving.
Bryzgalov was quoted by Russian journalist Ruslan Salikhov as saying "I quit CSKA because lockout is ending." Bryzgalov disputed the accuracy of the Russian reports with a tweet, saying he did "not make any comments like that." He also included a "smiley face" emoticon at the end of that statement. Salikhov later retracted the quote.
When asked to clarify the comments reported by Russian media, Bryzgalov did not immediately respond.
Regardless of his reason for leaving, the Flyers were likely hoping Bryzgalov would hang on just a bit longer - even if the lockout really is ending. Bryzgalov, 32, withdrew from CSKA Moscow - Russia's famed Central Red Army franchise - as he was beginning to play his best hockey since March.
After a shaky start to the season, in which he was at times scratched as CSKA's third goaltender, Bryzgalov strung together 4 or 5 straight strong starts over the last couple weeks. Bryzgalov pushed his record above .500 for the first time (6-5-0), to go with an impressive 2.13 goals against-average and .913 save percentage.
In his most recent start, Bryzgalov helped CSKA outlast former Flyers teammate Sergei Bobrovsky's team in overtime.
Bryzgalov's run in Mother Russia was full of laughs - from falling down randomly in the crease during a game to dressing in a Soviet-era astronaut suit for a tour of a space station - but now appears to be coming to an end. There was reported mutual friction between Bryzgalov and the CSKA franchise, which is managed by former NHL star Sergei Federov. Bryzgalov was unhappy as the team's 3rd goaltender; CSKA was not thrilled with both his performance and attitude.
Bryzgalov "repeatedly stressed himself" that his relationship with CSKA was only temporary.
No word yet on when Bryzgalov will be returning to North America. In Bryzgalov's defense, there have been numerous reports of messages to team staff and referees to be prepared for a return to action in mid-January. Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read, and Claude Giroux have all returned from their adventures in Europe.