Homer’s Do’s and Doh’s: Pronger Trade v. Leino Trade and Gagne Trade v. Versteeg Trade

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?

Yesterday’s Results:
The Danny Briere signing out-dueled the Matt Carle trade, and the Michael Leighton extension  took down the Chris Pronger extension.

Today’s contestants:

Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, 2009 first-round pick, 2010 first-round pick, and 2010 or 2011 conditional third-round pick to Anaheim Ducks for Chris Pronger and Ryan Dingle
write-up courtesy of Nick D

Paul Holmgren was looking for a veteran locker room presence, a big defenseman, and an offensively gifted defenseman to help move the puck from Philadelphia’s back end following the disappointing elimination at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second year in a row, this time in just the first round of the playoffs. Homer found all three of those traits in just one guy, and pulled the trigger, netting future hall of famer Chris Pronger for Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, the Flyers’ 2009 first-round pick, their 2010 first-round pick, and a conditional third round pick in either the 2010 or 2011 drafts.

Chris Pronger encompassed all of the things the Flyers as a team were lacking going into the 2009-2010 season. He provided a steady net presence, a veteran voice to keep the younger guys in check, had a monster shot from the point, and allowed for Matt Carle to really be the type of player he ought to be as a puck-moving defenseman. In 145 regular season games for the Orange and Black, Pronger scored 15 goals and earned 77 assists for 92 points. In the playoffs, Pronger was even better, putting home four goals and assisting on 15 others for 19 points in just 26 games. Unfortunately, Pronger is suffering from likely career-ending post-concussion syndrome symptoms, but the Flyers got what they wanted out of Pronger for that year as he played every single regular season and playoff game, helping them to within two wins of their first Stanley Cup championship since 1975. Don’t forget that Pronger still had a year left on his contract when he arrived in Philadelphia, so the trade should be looked at independently of the seven-year contract extension Pronger signed solidifying that he would end his career in Philadelphia.

Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and 2011 fifth-round pick to Detroit Red Wings for Ville Leino
write-up courtesy of Nick D

How could anybody forget this trade? It seemed like such a small, depth move at the time in 2010. The Detroit Red Wings were looking to dump salary and Ville Leino was going to be the casualty. The Philadelphia Flyers were looking to pick up some forward depth and rid themselves of Ole-Kristian Tollefsen because the guy barely played when he was healthy, and he was injured more often than not.

Both Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell’s regular season production were down, and they had trouble adjusting to Peter Laviolette’s system. Ville Leino was brought in and played just 13 regular season games, mostly due to injuries to Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter. This line was assembled around game four of the first round against the New Jersey Devils, and didn’t really start clicking until the second round with the Boston Bruins. For the remainder of the playoffs, the “Leftover Line” combined for 27 goals and 41 assists for an astounding 68 points in 65 total games. Ville Leino provided a much needed skilled puck-controlling presence on the ice and really clicked with Briere and Hartnell.

Their success rolled right into the next season, as they were Philadelphia’s most potent scoring line. Hartnell’s line was 24 goals and 25 assists for 49 points and a +14 plus-minus rating. Briere’s line was a career high 34 goals and 34 assists for 68 points and another career high with a +20 plus-minus rating. Leino’s line was 19 goals and 34 assists for 53 points and a +14 plus-minus rating. Not only did this line compile 77 goals and 93 assists for 170 total points, they scored 48 more even strength goals between the three of them than were allowed with them on the ice.

This has to be one of Holmgren’s best trades to date as the Red Wings immediately signed Tollefsen to Grand Rapids where he played 16 games for the American Hockey League squad before going overseas the next year to play for Modo Hockey in the Swedish Elite League and Mattias Backman doesn’t seem like he’s going to be NHL-ready any time soon.

Which Paul Holmgren deal was better?

  • Ole-Kristian Tollefson and 2011 5th round pick to Detroit Red Wings for Ville Leino (86%, 12 Votes)
  • Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, 2009 1st round pick, 2010 1st round pick, and 2010 or 2011 conditional 3rd round pick to Anaheim Ducks for Chris Pronger and Ryan Dingle (14%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 14

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Simon Gagne to Tampa Bay Lightning for Matt Walker and 2011 fourth-round pick
write-up courtesy of Kevin Christmann

In July of 2010, the Flyers traded Simon Gagne for Matt Walker and a 4th round pick in the following year’s draft (2011). For kicks, I decided to look back at something I wrote when the trade happened.

From July 2010:

We seriously couldn’t even execute a salary dump properly? So rather than having 5.25 in extremely valuable cap space expiring after this year OR available immediately (if it was dumped appropriately), we have 1.7 million tied up in a 7th D-man for the next 3 years….when we already had a 7th D-man.

We literally got worse than nothing because we took back a bad contract.

I can’t say I feel any differently now than I did at the time.

In the salary cap world, especially when you mismanage the cap a fair amount, sometimes you will have to make decisions strictly because of the need for cap space. I had completely accepted the need for the Flyers to shed cap space so they could fix the defense. It’s a simple concept really; re-allocate assets from your strength (offense) to your weakness (defense). I had even accepted that Gagne was probably going to be the one to go. He had one year remaining on his contract, was older than the other options, and had some legitimate injury concerns.

However, as my quote from that summer indicated, Paul Holmgren couldn’t even execute that salary dump properly. It would have been better if he literally gave him away for nothing, because in that case, the Flyers would have seen the full cap relief of Gagne’s $5.25 million.  Homer ended up getting worse than nothing. He took back an albatross of a contract; a 7th defenseman who was making $1.7 million for the next three years. He managed to turn a sizable expiring contract, into useless waste for an extra two seasons.

The purpose of a salary dump, after all, is to…dump…salary. Not take back a worse contract, even if it is less. This wasn’t the bad contract for bad contract trade that you occasionally see in the NHL. This was a one-way bad contract trade. A bad contract that still haunts the Flyers, as Walker still has another year remaining on his contract, and will spend that year in the AHL yet again.

I leave you with these gems from Paul Holmgren about Matt Walker, and the simple statement that I miss the Simon Gagne we all loved in Orange and Black.

He’s another defenseman that can really help us over the long hall.

He’s a good compliment to the guys we have, and can move the puck, and carry the puck, and provide offense.

Matt Walker, he of the career high 14 points, and a 5 pt season in the year before the trade.

2011 first-round pick and 2011 third-round pick to Toronto Maple Leafs for Kris Versteeg
write-up courtesy of Bob H

The one thing a team which plays in the Stanley Cup Finals one season and hopes to make it the next one needs, is a trade which nets them a player who has been there before and won it all. That’s what the New York Rangers did, taking half the Edmonton Oilers’ roster from the 80s to win it all in 1994, that’s what Colorado and New Jersey did to snag Claude Lemieux and that’s what the Philadelphia Flyers tried to accomplish on Valentine’s Day of 2011. That’s when Holmgren decided to bolster a team which was already tops in the Atlantic Division and give up a first-round pick and a third-rounder to Brian Burke for the services of Versteeg, who never really fit into the Maple Leafs mold after being the victim of the salary-cap cuts which hit the Blackhawks the year before.

Versteeg totaled 14 points in 22 playoff games as Chicago beat Philly for the Cup and scored 44 points in the regular season, so on the surface, he was a sure-fire second-line addition. Despite instant chemistry with linemate Mike Richards, Versteeg quickly vanished from view most nights, failing to do dirty work required of all players who land in Philadelphia. He totaled seven goals and 11 points in 27 regular-season appearances, then contributed five largely meaningless points in seven postseason tilts before being recycled to Florida for draft picks. This one ranks in the dregs right along with the acquisition of Adam Oates at the end of the 01-02 season.

Which Paul Holmgren deal was worse?

  • Simon Gagne to Tampa Bay Lightning for Matt Walker and 2011 4th round pick (85%, 11 Votes)
  • 2011 1st round pick and 2011 3rd round pick to Toronto Maple Leafs for Kris Versteeg (15%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 13

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