Home-sweet-Homer in Philadelphia
As some of you noticed, the Flyers resigned GM Paul Holmgren to a three-year deal yesterday. The Phanatic Magazine posted the best announcement I’ve come across, complete with Holmgren’s background info for those who don’t remember/weren’t around for his career prior to taking the reins from Bobby Clarke. Or you can read the cut-and-dry version over at The Hockey News.
It would be very easy to look at Holmgren’s actions over the past week and question whether Homer still has the magic touch. His major accomplishments in free agency include resigning Jones and Cote, acquiring Metropolit and Asham, and adding a few minor league prospects to the farm team. The Flyers are over the cap, have numerous 5-6 type defensemen, and haven’t managed to obtain that ever-elusive offensive defenseman. That’s a far cry from the blockbuster summer of 2007.
But getting pessimistic or harsh would be a horrendous mistake. First of all, the 07-08 Flyers that made the Eastern Conference FInals require only a little tweaking, not the major overhaul needed to revamp the bottom-feeding group from the 06-07 season. Signing Briere, Hartnell and Timonen. Trading for Coburn, Lupul and Smith. Every individual move there is a headline-grabbing, head-turning, stop-the-presses piece of drama. And drama is exactly what is necessary to achieve a worst-to-first comeback.
This year’s comeback reforged the Flyers as a stable team with a few key stars (Briere and TImonen) surrounded by a young core – Richards, Carter, Umberger and Coburn. That youth movement was set for free agency this summer, and losing those players would have been drama indeed for Philadelphia. Holmgren acted early and managed to keep three of the big four and to leverage the lost player for a future asset.
1. Mike Richards signed in December to a 12-year, $69 million deal. For $5.75 million a year, the Flyers get a versatile, gritty, defensively-responsible center that plays in every situation, makes huge plays in huge moments, and will be the future captain of this club.
2. Braydon Coburn signed a two-year, $2.6 million deal in December as well. Compared to other class of 2003 defensemen like Dion Phaneuf at $6.5 million, Shea Weber at $4.5 million, or Mike Green at $5.25 million, Coburn is a steal. Renegotiation will come around in the summer of 2010, but there’s plenty of time for Homer to clear the cap space needed.
3. Jeff Carter put pen to paper on a three-year, $15 million deal before free agent day began. That meant no offer sheets to screw up the Flyers’ cap and no ridiculous signings elsewhere to drive up the price to stratospheric heights. Should Carter turn into the next Mats Sundin – and his style suggests he could – this is a fantastic deal. Even if he flatlines as a 30-goal scorer who plays in all situations, it’s a solid move on Holmgren’s part.
4. RJ Umberger became the cap casualty of the four RFAs, but that didn’t stop Holmgren from taking advantage of his assets. Umberger was trade for the 19th overall pick in the 2008 draft, which became Swiss defenseman Luca Sbisa. Should Sbisa blossom as anticipated, he will be the Flyers’ offensive defenseman of the future. Quite an asset to snare in a deep draft – especially when the Flyers weren’t slated to make a selection until 27th overall.
Have Holmgren’s moves in the last week been perfect? No. The Flyers have bulked up on mid-level talent without solving the puck-moving hole among their top four blueliners. But Homer hasn’t hurt his team, either. And with all those assets, it sets the Flyers up with enough pieces to strike a trade later in the year.
The true test of Holmgren’s acumen? How the Flyers perform in year two of the retooling process.