I am fine with the Flyers signing Bryzgalov for that long of a term. As for how he played during this years playoffs, well he didn't have ANYONE in front of him playing worth a damn except maybe Yandle. And he had to try and hold of the whole Red wings team himself. Plus with all the stuff in the back of his mind like the team moving and being a UFA and where should he go for next year, i am sure that played alot on his ability to focus. Now in regards to the Leafs, i think i might have gone the trade route instead of signing Connolly. They could have went after some UFA's like Patrick O'Sullivan or Samsonov, Prospal, Zherdev,Comeri, or even maybe Kovalev. Or gone the RFA offer sheets for players like Callahan, Dubinsky, Purcell(since they are tied up with Stamkos). Or go the trade route for players like Cogliano, Esposito or Filatov. Maybe they didn't know some of these players were available via trade but i am sure the GM's of those teams did some tire kicking.
As far as RFAs. That involves giving up draft picks, which like you said could be a high draft pick, so it better be a damn good player.
Do you really think that O'Sullivan, Samsonov, Prospal, Zherdev, Comrie or Kovalev are a better center option to play with Kessel?
Money/cap space aside. Non of those players help the team any more than Connolly does.
I will say this again, if your only argument is that Connolly makes too much money, then fine. He does. Almost every free agent that signed in the first week makes too much money. But the Leafs are not up against the cap. The money doesn't matter. They got a player for nothing. They have no budget, and don't have a cap problem.
They could still go out and get one of: O'Sullivan, Samsonov, Prospal, Zherdev, Comrie or Kovalev. If they feel it will make the team better.
It is well known what Connolly is and isn't.
He isn't going to play 82 games. 70 would be great. He isn't going to get 70 pts. Probably somewhere between 40-65. He is overpaid, but he fills a role on a short contract because there is nothing else available right now.
I am sure that Burke was going to try to make a trade, but he missed out on Richards, didn't want to pay a lot for Carter, and when the Avalanche went stupid and traded their first for Varlamov suddenly Stastny wasn't on the block anymore.
The thought going into the off season was that Stastny and Weiss were going to be moved for salary reasons. When the floor went up, they couldn't move them because they needed that salary.
The best option that could be acquired for no assets was Connolly. There is still a ton of cap space, so a trade or signing may still happen. The salary of Connolly is completely irrelevant.