Welcome to another edition of Point/Counterpoint, where a pair of Flyers Faithful scribes square off, debating an issue with their own unique style and flair.
This week, Kevin C and Steve J debate what has been Paul Holmgren’s best move during his tenure as General Manager.
Point, Kevin: The signing of Claude Giroux to his current three year $11.25 million is Paul Holmgren’s best move to date.
It’s probably an unconventional choice. I’d expect that most people would pick the flashy acquisitions: Pronger, Hartnell and Timonen, Briere, Voracek, Couturier and Cousins. I get it, they are the sexy picks.
I, however, am a risk averse person and I especially want to see that in a General Manager. I want to see my GM effectively manage his assets in all regards. I harp on the little things when it comes to grading acquisitions (or the lack thereof). If you nail the little things, you’re freed up to make the big splashes; or you at least don’t have to scramble so much to make them fit.
The Flyers have seen a number of blunders in the recent past that have, at best, shown a questionable level of attention to detail. The Tomas Hyka mishap, the Max Talbot 100% Rule mistake, the Pronger contract, etc. Some are bigger than others, and my intention is not to harp on them. It is these questionable moves that made this Giroux signing so absolutely wonderful to me. It was as perfect as perfect could be.
In November of 2010, Claude Giroux was in his third season in the NHL. He was coming off of a 47 point effort in 2009-2010, and a 21 point campaign in 23 playoff games. He also started the season strong with 14 points in 15 games. Quite simply, Giroux was starting to come into his own (he would ultimately have his breakout season and finish with 76 points in 82 games).
Even more important than the statistics is the fact that Giroux was in the last year of his entry-level contract (ELC), and was four seasons away from unrestricted free agency (UFA). Everybody was eager to get him locked up, the question was just going to be what it would cost.
With Richards already signed to his monster contract –and Jeff Carter’s coming five days after Giroux’s—the Flyers were, as usual, not exactly swimming in cap space. At this point in time, Richards and Carter were the franchise, and they had every intention of continuing to be (although we all know what happened eight months later).
So Paul Holmgren made what was his best move to date, and signed Giroux to an extremely reasonable three year contract at a $3.75 million cap hit. The cap hit was right in line with what was expected, and more importantly, the three years meant Giroux would still be under control at the end of that contract. At the time, it was the perfect contract.
Now, nearly two years later, some might argue they’d prefer Giroux was signed to a lifetime contract; but hindsight is 20/20. In the context in which that signing was made, it was as good as move as you could hope for, and one of the smartest, most well thought out moves Homer had made. It showed the forward thinking I always want out of a GM. Not to mention, that with the NHL’s latest CBA proposal, it’s probably best that the Flyers don’t have any more massive contracts; even if it is Giroux.
Counterpoint, Steve J: Way to grab G at a discount Kevin. Now where am I supposed to go, BRYZGALOV??? But seriously, Homer has had a mixed bag of success for sure to this point. The Danny Briere signing was a boost to the club after the worst season in Flyers history. If Chris Pronger had been able to stay healthy perhaps he’d be the easy choice here. The man took chances on Ray Emery and Nikolay Zherdev. His biggest moves, however, were sending young stars Mike Richards and Jeff Carter out of town.
There are certainly positives and negatives to each of the trades. The Flyers happened to get good value in both. But of the two, the Jeff Carter trade stands out as the stronger one. Richards was the team captain and an outstanding two way forward (his defense being something that the Flyers still haven’t replaced). Carter was a 30-plus a year goal scorer with questions about his daily effort. Carter was stuck in a high pressure situation with daily criticism about his drive and lifestyle. The Flyers traded him to the Blue Jackets for young winger Jakub Voracek, a third round pick that would turn into Nick Cousins, a first round pick that would turn into center Sean Couturier, a kid with a Bobby Clarke smile that would shut down Hart Trophy winning Evgeni Malkin for much of the first round of the playoffs.
Voracek’s now expected to play on the top line with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell. Couturier has proven himself to be more than defensively capable at the NHL level and the sky’s the limit. Cousins has had his off-ice issues to say the least, but has potential to be a solid contributor for the Flyers in the future. He’s currently third in the OHL in points and only one back from a share in the league lead.
As for Carter, he was a disaster from day one in Columbus and eventually was flipped to the L.A. Kings for defenseman Jack Johnson. Yes, Carter would go on to (painfully) win the Stanley Cup with the Kings, but Holmgren got fantastic value for Carter in a trade that most people would pull any day.