With Free Agency approaching, let’s discuss Holmgren Economics

Image courtsey of Philly.com

Image courtsey of Philly.com

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.

  • M.C. Philly

    Excellent article. However, I’d say I’m a Homer Lover. Though obviously the Haters have their reasons and rights to feel that way.

    I believe every GM in the league makes good and bad calls. Not just Homer. Actually, if anything, there are a ton of GM’s that mainly make horrible calls – consistanly and often. At least Holmgren has several great moves under his belt.

    Point strongly agreed with and taken, as far as the dealing for rights to players prior to UFA dates. But I suppose he just doesn’t want to lose “his guy”. Though sometimes that player has turned unfavorable. The Jets and Cheveldayoff are currently attempting to do this same thing with Gustavsson, who they dropped a 7th round pick to the Leafs for a grand total of 8 days of negotiating rights prior to ‘The Monster’ becoming a UFA July 1st. Could this be a cross between signing a backup goalie, a negotiating tool towards Pavelec and his camp…..or what. I don’t know. What I do know is if Pavelec signs in the KHL (which is looking close to probable) and Gustavsson doesn’t want to sign – Cheveldayoff is going to look like a chump. Meanwhile Burke is laughing all the way to an extra draft pick.

    But as I’ve stated before, I’m an even bigger fan of Holmgren because he doesn’t just sit around on his hands. Hell, sometimes due to injury he’s been forced to make some moves. However, I believe he has NEVER put this club in a position where the Cup isn’t going to be within striking distance. It’s a tough job with all the economics, injuries, ego, and chemistry you need to put together – all while not handcuffing your team going forward AND trying to keep the future looking bright.

    How about that Talbot deal?!? As far as I’m concerned that may have been one of the best value for $ contracts made by any team in the past several years. A steal.

    Then again, if Bryz doesn’t improve this season that may overshadow all. Aggggh

    M.C. Philly

    • http://www.flyersfaithful.com/ Kevin Christmann

      Thanks for reading and commenting! As I said he has had some strokes of genius and some major gaffs (as everyone does). My gripes with Homer tend to be because of what, imo, are obvious unforgivable mistakes. I will freely admit that he seems to be steadily improving however (as mentioned, he appears to be growing more patient).

      As for the Talbot contract, yes, a good signing in hindsight, but what about the fact that he signed him to an illegal contract and had to re-do it! It’s these mistakes which make me question his/his staff’s knowledge of the CBA. I would also argue that signing 4th liners to 5 year deals is very risky, but this one worked!

  • Guest

    Thanks for reading and commenting! As I said he has had some strokes of genius and some major gaffs (as everyone does). My gripes with Homer tend to be because of what, imo, are obvious unforgivable mistakes. I will freely admit that he seems to be steadily improving however (as mentioned, he appears to be growing more patient).

    As for the Talbot contract, yes, a good signing in hindsight, but what about the fact that he signed him to an illegal contract and had to re-do it! It’s these mistakes which make me question his/his staff’s knowledge of the CBA. I would also argue that signing 4th liners to 5 year deals is very risky, but this one worked! Thanks again for the comment!

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