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 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 first-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 two-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 second-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 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 one-year $550k contract, while being the perfect fourth liner for the Flyers. He was rewarded with a two-year extension at $700k.
So which version of HomEc 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 six months or so, has both done and said some things that would lead us to believe he’s becoming more patient? Come July 1, I’m sure we’ll have our answer.