Paul Holmgren has been the most aggressive general manager in the NHL in this 2010 free agent season, having blown over his cap going into next year.
First it was trading for players’ rights that ended up netting the Flyers two solid players in return for the often-injured Ryan Parent. Via a trade, the Flyers scored a young bull in Andrej Meszaros from Tampa Bay purgatory. They re-signed Cup Finals goat, Michael Leighton for $1,500,000 when other relatively young goalies with a slightly more proven track record like Dan Ellis and Chris Mason signed for similar money.
The head scratcher in the off season was picking up goon, Jody Shelley for a three year $3,000,000-plus contract for a team that is scarily close to the salary cap limit.
Seemingly there is more to the overall team plan than meets the eye, as the Flyers then took the Ray Emery challenge for next year by signing UFA Nikolai Zherdev from the KHL. The 25 year old 6’2″ sniper has all the skills to pay the bills but got sent to Russia because he pissed of the Rangers and former Flyer coach Ken Hitchcock. Will the fumes of a Russian Diesel bus change his attitude? Next year will tell.
The fact is that the Flyers are now over their cap and need to shed salary before the season starts. The Philly press as well as national hockey pundits say that its assistant captain, Simon Gagne, who is on the chopping block but I am having a hard time believing that the hit has been approved by the Dons in Philly.
Gagne is 30 and has one year left on his 5.25 million dollar contract before he becomes a unrestricted free agent next year and he has become somewhat fragile with a series of concussions and injuries but he is also a proven, clutch goal scorer when on the ice. He is defensively responsible in ways that you aren’t going to get from Zherdev or may other forwards on the top nine in Philly.
And Gagne is a leader who badly wants to win a cup in Philly. Gagne could still be an earner even if he is going to walk out the front door next year for nothing. The goal is to win a Cup now and they need skilled depth at wing to do that.
Clearly, the Flyers have to dump salary but where is the question.
First I would look to highly valued center, Jeff Carter.
While very promising and somewhat proven with a 46 goal season under his belt early in his career – teams would pay for this type of player as the future of their offense. The LA Kings come to mind. The Kings need to trade one of their goalies to get max value from their current position and that likely would be Jonathan Quick as youngster, Jonathan Bernier, has the most upside.
Former Flyer executive, Dean Lombardi, says he’s not trading a goalie but he’s crazy not to if he can get the likes of a Jeff Carter back. He wants Ilya Kovalchuk, and Kovy will want someone to pass to him. Carter could be that guy and he’d likely sign in Los Angeles longer term especially if the Kings can move Ryan Smyth back to Edmonton, which has been loosely rumored.
The fact is from the Flyers perspective – they have plenty of NHL ready centers and can afford to trade Carter more than they can Gagne as they are much lighter on the wing. The Flyers’ window to win a Cup is open right now. Holmgren is trying to force the window open more which is going to require signing Claude Giroux, Ville Leino and possibly Zherdev going forward. Bringing in a goalie like Quick would allow that much more easily.
Other possibilities that would open up cap space would include trading Matt Carle or Braydon Coburn.
Carle is a smooth skater and clear top four defenseman but with Meszaros on the team now – they simply can afford to let him go more than they can dump Gagne without getting back a needed part. Coburn might get some teams to pay attention as a trade chip. He’s big, young and skilled but he is stuck more as a stay-at-home-mom than a free wheeling defenseman. Would Vancouver trade young goalie, Corey Schneider, for Coburn? You never know but it would be a win-win.
If the Flyers think Gagne is towards the end of his career and likely can’t produce at the level that he is being paid to do so then they should trade him for what they can get now.
It will be more than a bag of pucks and or some skate-sharpening fluid but remember the Flyers have traded away or promoted all of their young talent thus trading for picks and promising players about to pop wouldn’t be a bad idea either as the extra cap room could help sign some help for Michael Leighton – perhaps someone like Marty Turco. If Leighton proves he’s a goalie ready to win a Stanley Cup – he’ll get resigned. Turco isn’t going to find a better team to play behind than next year’s Flyers as the trend with goalies is to go with young and cheap.
The next move should be a good one. Let’s see how it turns out, as there is no way Holmgren is done.