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With Free Agency approaching, let’s discuss Holmgren Economics


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By Kevin Christmann

It’s rare in today’s sports world, and especially in the world of the Philadelphia Flyers, for the general population to agree on something. Let’s face it, more often than not the topic at hand tends to be polarizing. People rarely sit in the middle with indifference. You have your lovers, and you have your haters. Whether you’re discussing Matt Carle, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, a goaltending carousel, or if a particular trade rumor would be beneficial, there’s usually a clear divide among the masses.

Paul Holmgren is no exception in this regard. I’ll preface this article by saying if you had to classify me as one or the other, I guess I’d fall in with the haters. He’s had his fair share of gaffs, just as he’s had moments of brilliance. However, I don’t intend to spend a few thousand words trying to convince anyone of one or another.

With free agency quickly approaching this Sunday, we could be in for another year of Paul Holmgren economics which consist of almost always being first to market. If there is one thing Homer has not been, it is patient. With regards to Free Agency, when he wants something he goes and gets it; for better or worse.

  • In 2007, he traded a 1st rounder for the rights to Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell (a relatively unheard of idea at the time) and signed them before free agency began.
  • Also in 2007, he signed Danny Briere (one of the top Free Agents of his class) early on Day 1 of Free Agency.
  • In 2010, coming off of a Stanley Cup loss, he signed Michael Leighton to a 2 year deal on the eve of Free Agency. Why he didn’t wait a few hours to see what the market would dictate, I’m not sure.
  • He traded a 2nd round pick for Andrej Meszaros, roughly 30 minutes before Free Agency opened. Yes, Meszaros went on to have a fantastic season, but I would again ask, why he wouldn’t see what $4 million could get him on the free agent market first. He may have been able to get a comparable player and save a 2nd round pick. (Nah, everyone knows the Flyers aren’t allowed to have 2nd rounders!)
  • He traded for the rights to Dan Hamhuis before being unable to sign him and shipping his rights off again.
  • He reportedly had agreements in place for the rights to both Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco, but was unable to reach contract agreements which negated the deals.
  • In 2011, he traded for the rights to Ilya Bryzgalov and signed him. I’m of the opinion that this was actually a mandate from Ed Snider (I have no proof, however).

However, it actually appears as if Paul Holmgren is beginning to realize the risks associated with not exercising patience.

This past season, while the defense corps was ravaged with injuries, Holmgren didn’t panic. While many called for him to make a quick move for depth on the blue line, he didn’t. Before ultimately making a couple of deals closer to the Trade Deadline, the Flyers instead utilized much of their AHL depth, including Erik Gustaffson, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Kevin Marshall, and Brandon Manning. In fact, if it weren’t for this patience we may have never learned that Bourdon appears to have an NHL future. It was widely believed that Bourdon wasn’t progressing as the Flyers had hoped.

And just last week Dave Isaac tweeted “Homer says the only reason to trade for players rights is only to save money and it usually doesn’t work. He’s got $51M reasons to say that.”

Conventional wisdom says being first to market creates a competitive advantage. Reality is more complicated. Market opportunities are constantly opening and closing -
Business Week

I tend to believe that there are always bargains to be had later in free agency. Off the top of my head I recall Dennis Seidenberg ultimately settling for a 1 year $2.25 million deal with Florida; he was later traded to Boston and played well enough to sign a 3 year extension with a substantial raise. Manny Malhotra could only garner a 1 year $700k contract with San Jose; later earning a 3 year $2.5 million deal with Vancouver. A little closer to home, Blair Betts couldn’t even get a contract offer before settling for a camp tryout with the Flyers. By the end of camp he was signed to a 1 year $550k contract, while being the perfect 4th liner for the Flyers. He was rewarded with a 2 year extension at $700k.

So which Homer are we going to get? The one that historically does anything and everything to get the player he wants, often before anyone else even has a chance? Or will it be the one that in the past 6 months or so, has both done and said some things that would lead us to believe he’s becoming more patient? Come July 1st, I’m sure we’ll have our answer.

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" This past season, while the defense corps was ravaged with injuries, Holmgren didn’t panic. While many called for him to make a quick move for depth on the blue line, he didn’t. Before ultimately making a couple of deals closer to the Trade Deadline, the Flyers instead utilized much of their AHL depth, including Erik Gustaffson, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Kevin Marshall, and Brandon Manning. In fact, if it weren’t for this patience we may have never learned that Bourdon appears to have an NHL future. It was widely believed that Bourdon wasn’t progressing as the Flyers had hoped."

I've been saying this for years (along with a few other posters). Injuries are nothing more than an opportunity to see what you have in the cupboard. Especially when it's the regular season. You don't need 7 NHL veterans at all times. If the kids don't get call ups, you never get to see how their skill sets translate to the best league in the world.

I was just saying a few days ago, Homer had 6 regulars and a spot for a Bourdon, Guster or another AHL up and comer. I guaranteed Homer would not go into camp like that....and WHAM, 48 hrs later we own the rights to Luke Schenn. I understand, you have to guard against injuries, it's rathter smart actually, but I do hate not having any room for up and comers on the roster. You should always be breaking in a kid back there. I believe Bourdon is a regular....but Lord knows if he will ever get a chance to show it. For years and years we stockpile d-men only to trade them off as assets. Lets develop a few and let them play...and guess what...it's built in cap relief.

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" This past season, while the defense corps was ravaged with injuries, Holmgren didn’t panic. While many called for him to make a quick move for depth on the blue line, he didn’t. Before ultimately making a couple of deals closer to the Trade Deadline, the Flyers instead utilized much of their AHL depth, including Erik Gustaffson, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Kevin Marshall, and Brandon Manning. In fact, if it weren’t for this patience we may have never learned that Bourdon appears to have an NHL future. It was widely believed that Bourdon wasn’t progressing as the Flyers had hoped."

I've been saying this for years (along with a few other posters). Injuries are nothing more than an opportunity to see what you have in the cupboard. Especially when it's the regular season. You don't need 7 NHL veterans at all times. If the kids don't get call ups, you never get to see how their skill sets translate to the best league in the world.

I was just saying a few days ago, Homer had 6 regulars and a spot for a Bourdon, Guster or another AHL up and comer. I guaranteed Homer would not go into camp like that....and WHAM, 48 hrs later we own the rights to Luke Schenn. I understand, you have to guard against injuries, it's rathter smart actually, but I do hate not having any room for up and comers on the roster. You should always be breaking in a kid back there. I believe Bourdon is a regular....but Lord knows if he will ever get a chance to show it. For years and years we stockpile d-men only to trade them off as assets. Lets develop a few and let them play...and guess what...it's built in cap relief.

I think Schenn's a hedge against two players coming off back surgeries (Timo, Mesz) and additional leverage in negotiations with Carle.

Don't forget that Lilja (yes, I know..) is a 35+ contract and thus on the cap regardless. I think you'll see a lot of Gus/MAB/etc. next season. Who expected Gus on the roster for 2/3 of the season before the season started? Or Bourdon for more than half?

I think Homer's looking for numbers of players in the $3-5M range for defense to overcome the potential (and actual) loss of $6M players.

I agree you need to have time to develop your players, but the Flyers haven't really been hurting in that area.

They just tend to trade the ones they've developed...

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" This past season, while the defense corps was ravaged with injuries, Holmgren didn’t panic. While many called for him to make a quick move for depth on the blue line, he didn’t. Before ultimately making a couple of deals closer to the Trade Deadline, the Flyers instead utilized much of their AHL depth, including Erik Gustaffson, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Kevin Marshall, and Brandon Manning. In fact, if it weren’t for this patience we may have never learned that Bourdon appears to have an NHL future. It was widely believed that Bourdon wasn’t progressing as the Flyers had hoped."

I've been saying this for years (along with a few other posters). Injuries are nothing more than an opportunity to see what you have in the cupboard. Especially when it's the regular season. You don't need 7 NHL veterans at all times. If the kids don't get call ups, you never get to see how their skill sets translate to the best league in the world.

I was just saying a few days ago, Homer had 6 regulars and a spot for a Bourdon, Guster or another AHL up and comer. I guaranteed Homer would not go into camp like that....and WHAM, 48 hrs later we own the rights to Luke Schenn. I understand, you have to guard against injuries, it's rathter smart actually, but I do hate not having any room for up and comers on the roster. You should always be breaking in a kid back there. I believe Bourdon is a regular....but Lord knows if he will ever get a chance to show it. For years and years we stockpile d-men only to trade them off as assets. Lets develop a few and let them play...and guess what...it's built in cap relief.

As long as Holmgren doesn't trade Bourdon, then fans will probably see a lot of him this year. If Carle resigns for a reasonable amount then I can see the following defensive pairings for this coming season: Carle/Schenn, Coburn/Grossmann and Timonen/Bourdon. I think Lavi and the rest of the coaching staff has to realize that they have to cut down his minutes since he isn't a spring chicken. But with Holmgren you never know what he's thinking or what he'll do.

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As long as Holmgren doesn't trade Bourdon, then fans will probably see a lot of him this year. If Carle resigns for a reasonable amount then I can see the following defensive pairings for this coming season: Carle/Schenn, Coburn/Grossmann and Timonen/Bourdon. I think Lavi and the rest of the coaching staff has to realize that they have to cut down his minutes since he isn't a spring chicken. But with Holmgren you never know what he's thinking or what he'll do.

You've omitted Meszaros, unless there's a trade in the works (which wouldn't surprise me).

I think Timo could get first pair PP minutes and a mix of 2/3 pair regular time.

Also, Lilja is signed for next season and as a 35+ cap hit, we're kinda stuck with him barring...

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You've omitted Meszaros, unless there's a trade in the works (which wouldn't surprise me).

I think Timo could get first pair PP minutes and a mix of 2/3 pair regular time.

Also, Lilja is signed for next season and as a 35+ cap hit, we're kinda stuck with him barring...

Thanks Rad, I forgot about him, so you could probably put Meszaros with Carle and Schenn with Timonen. As for Lilja I think he'll be spending a lot of time in the press box eventhough his cap hit will be on the books regardless. Or Meszaros might be part of a package to get Bobby Ryan if Carle is resigned.

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Can we waive Lilja? Wouldn't that be a better option rather than have him sit in the press box?

You can, which saves Comcast money. But it does nothing to the cap hit. His contract is 35+ and stays on the Flyers' cap if he's in the press box, Glens Falls or kickin' it on the beach in Bermuda..

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Please let the kids play like last year! Need to find Timmo's replacement. By the way folks who going to score the points lost in Jagr.JVR and maybe Vorachek? We have to replace up-front just as bad.

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