Homer’s Do’s and Doh’s: Carle Trade v. Briere Signing and Pronger Extension v. Leighton Extension

Paul Holmgren became the interim General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers on October 22, 2006. That interim title was removed only weeks later on November 11. Holmgren was able to take a team that finished last in the National Hockey League, and rebuild it to make a deep run all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals the very next season.

Yes, some of Holmgren’s moves have been amazing, but he’s also a guy who has gotten this organization into some hot water with the salary cap and was forced to make deals that were head scratchers to say the least.

If you enjoyed our Dazzlers and Duds polltastic tournament feature, we’ve got another one all lined up for you. Flyers Faithful proudly presents Homer’s Do’s and Doh’s: Our Favorite and Least Favorite Deals Under Paul Holmgren.

Starting Monday, November 19, there will be a single bracket with 32 trades, signings, and waiver-wire claims and losses, to determine exactly which deal everyone thinks is Holmgren’s best so far, his less than favorable so far, and whether the good outweighs the bad or vice-versa.

I don’t think anyone can deny that it’s been a real entertaining and exciting time in Flyers history with Holmgren at the helm. That’s a fact. But is Holmgren the king of exchange swinging, or does his penchant for quick fixes get him into more trouble than he’s worth?
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Yesterday’s Results:
In two very close battles, Holmgren’s trade for Lupul and Smith edged out the trading of Umberger and the trade for Chris Pronger defeated the Randy Jones re-entry debacle.

Today’s contestants:

Steve Eminger, Steve Downie, and 2009 fourth-round pick to Tampa Bay Lightning for Matt Carle and 2009 third-round pick (Simon Bertilsson)
write-up courtesy of Nick D

Paul Holmgren got the better end of this deal hands down. Steve Eminger has had trouble staying healthy and in the lineup for any NHL team throughout his career, and while Steve Downie did form a fairly productive line with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis down in Tampa Bay, it was a line with Stamkos and St. Louis. Any old third line winger could have pumped in 22 goals and netted 24 assists.

In his tenure with the Philadelphia Flyers, Matt Carle scored 15 goals and garnered 122 assists for 137 points, and ended up with a plus-minus rating of +55. While many fans ragged on Carle for being soft, he was extremely durable and played 308 of a possible 316 regular season games, playing all 82 games in his last two seasons, and he never missed a playoff game for the club.

Sure, Carle benefitted greatly in the 2009-2010 season by being paired with Chris Pronger, but he also displayed some real ability to come up big at big moments. Carle scored the tying goal in game 82 of the regular season that year against the New York Rangers. That goal would send the game to a shootout, which the Flyers would win, thus securing themselves the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. From there, the Orange-and-Black went on a run to the Stanley Cup Finals, which Carle was a big part of, as he had two primary assists on two memorable overtime game winning goals: Simon Gagne’s game winner in game four of the series against the Boston Bruins, and Claude Giroux’s game winner in game three over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals. The plays were almost identical, and were a real credit to Carle’s ability to pass the puck.

Danny Briere signing 
write-up courtesy of Nick D

In the Summer of 2007, coming off the worst year in well… ever for the Philadelphia Flyers, Paul Holmgren had a choice. He could sign one of the following centers: Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, or Danny Briere. Both Drury and Gomez signed with the New York Rangers, and the Flyers ended up with Briere. Drury put up some decent numbers in his first two seasons with New York, but Gomez never quite got his footing and was traded a couple years later. Briere however, has done nothing at all for Philadelphia other than score gigantic goals at huge times in the playoffs, and a real veteran presence for the club (lest we forget his taking in of young budding Flyers stars such as Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier).

In his 301 regular season games with the Flyers, Briere has scored 118 goals and has 149 helpers for 267 points. But in the playoffs, where Danny Hockey shines, Briere has played 68 games and has tallied 37 goals and 35 assists for 72 points. Of those 37 post-season potted pucks, nine of them were clinchers, which is good enough for a little better than 24%. Bottom line: when the game is on the line in the playoffs, you want Briere on the ice. Honestly, does anyone ever get tired of watching this guy in mid-April and beyond?

Which Paul Holmgren deal was better?

  • Danny Briere signing (54%, 13 Votes)
  • Steve Eminger, Steve Downie, and 2009 4th round pick to Tampa Bay Lightning for Matt Carle and 2009 3rd round pick (Simon Bertilsson) (46%, 11 Votes)

Total Voters: 24

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Chris Pronger extension
write-up courtesy of Geoff Detweiler of Broad Street Hockey

It’s probably true that the Flyers do not acquire Chris Pronger without first agreeing to extend him. After all, reports out of Anaheim prior to the trade said Pronger wanted an extension but the Ducks wouldn’t give it to him.

Maybe the Ducks knew it would have been a 35+ extension when the Flyers didn’t. In any event, the Flyers gave a 34-year old Pronger a 7-year extension that started when he was 35 years old worth just under $34.5 million. The last two years – when Pronger would be 41 and 42 years old – would only pay Pronger a combined $1.05 million, or NHL minimum wage. Maybe neither party expected Chris Pronger to be a Philadelphia Flyer at that point.

Maybe the Flyers knew only 2% of NHL players are 38 year olds who dress for 41 games, but they wanted to bet that Pronger could do it anyway. Maybe the Flyers knew only a handful of players in the 600-player NHL play 41 games at the age of 40 (In 2011-12, that list included Selanne, Lidstrom and O`Donnell), but they thought Pronger could do it.

Maybe, despite knowing that a physical player like Pronger, with 15 NHL seasons under his belt, has a limited amount of time left in the NHL, the Flyers felt he was an exception. Maybe the Flyers calculated that it was worth the risk to get 3 or 4 good years out of Pronger, hope he can play another 1 or 2 at a high level, and the remaining 2 or 3 years would just be a bonus.

Maybe the Flyers will be able to escape the Pronger contract with little damage, as they have so far. Maybe Pronger won’t still be on the Flyers salary cap in the spring of 2017. Maybe Pronger will fully recover from his concussions. Maybe the 2010 Eastern Conference title makes it all worth it.

Or maybe the Pronger contract was the worst move of Paul Holmgren’s tenure.

Michael Leighton Extension
write-up courtesy of Kevin Christmann

I was never a believer in Michael Leighton. I’ll get that out in the open right off the bat. However, after his exceptional run in 2010, I was perfectly okay with re-signing Leighton as long as we brought in some competition and said “let the best man win”. Unfortunately, my worst nightmare occurred and the Flyers intended to enter 2010-2011 with the same goaltending duo of Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher (only a Leighton injury and a surprising camp from Sergei Bobrovsky changed that).

My issue with the Leighton extension however, is strictly related to timing. Paul Holmgren, like fellow Philadelphia General Manager, Ruben Amaro, suffers from “first to market” syndrome. He must always make the first move. It is as if he fears the market is ALWAYS rising, and there are never bargains. To be honest, it basically is always rising, but that does not mean there aren’t bargains. Anywho, he feels compelled to sign his targets early before a bad contract drives up the price. In theory, that makes sense, but that’s not always the case.

In this case, Homer didn’t even play the market. Not at all. He re-signed Michael Leighton to his two year $3.1 million contract on the eve of free agency. For the life of me, I cannot understand why he wouldn’t wait a handful of hours and see what else the market might dictate; be it with Leighton or another goaltender.

There were other options: Antti Niemie – 1 year 2 million, Marty Turco – 1 year 1.3 million, Evgeni Nabokov – ultimately went to the KHL, Chris Mason – 2 years 3.7 million, Dan Ellis – 2 years 3 million, Martin Biron – 2 years $1.75 million, Antero Niittymaki – 2 years 4 million.

My point is not that these players are necessarily any better, but simply that Homer’s impatience shined once again. We signed a career backup goaltender (at best), who caught lightning in a bottle, to an extension on the eve of free agency, without even trying to see what the market might dictate. He then went on to play one, yes, just one, regular season game over the life of that contract; and he spent most of his time in the AHL.

Which Paul Holmgren deal was worse?

  • Michael Leighton Extension (54%, 13 Votes)
  • Chris Pronger extension (46%, 11 Votes)

Total Voters: 24

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