Homer Do’s and Doh’s: Pitkanen Trade v. Briere Signing and Pronger Trade 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: The trade for Scott Hartnell’s and Kimmo Timonen’s signing rights trumped the Braydon Coburn acquisition and the Scottie Upshall deal upended the Steve Eminger exchange.

Today’s contestants:

Joni Pitkanen, Geoff Sanderson, and 2009 3rd round pick to Edmonton Oilers for Jason Smith and Joffrey Lupul
write-up courtesy of Nick D

This deal was a good one for the Philadelphia Flyers and not so great for the Edmonton Oilers. While Joni Pitkanen was a young, offensive defenseman at the time, Geoff Sanderson was washed up, and that 2009 3rd rounder the Flyers gave up ended up being Cameron Abney (a nobody). Pitkanen went on to have a fairly good year with the Oilers, who did not make the playoffs, but he was then traded to the Carolina Hurricanes after just one year with Edmonton.

Jason Smith of course captained a rebuilt Philadelphia team to the Eastern Conference Finals that year. With two separated shoulders, his toughness and net presence were enough to ward just about every player from any other team off until the Pittsburgh Penguins got a hold of the bruised and battered Orange-and Black.

Lupul on the other hand, was pretty productive in his two years with the Flyers. Lupul played 135 games and scored 45 goals and 51 assists for 96 points. He also scored the game seven overtime winner over the Washington Capitals in 2008, sending the Flyers onto the second round. Overall, this deal was better for the Flyers because Lupul helped the Flyers’ scoring depth and he was a key piece in the trade with the Anaheim Ducks that landed defenseman Chris Pronger in Philadelphia. Would you really rather have Joni Pitkanen still?

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 (59%, 13 Votes)
  • Joni Pitkanen, Geoff Sanderson, and 2009 3rd round pick to Edmonton Oilers for Jason Smith and Joffrey Lupul (41%, 9 Votes)

Total Voters: 22

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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
write-up courtesy of Hal G

So what you’re telling me is that the Flyers traded a top-6 forward, a top-4 teenage puck moving defenseman, two first round picks and a third round pick for a defenseman who is slow and starting to reach the end of his career and a minor-league player yet to sniff the NHL? If you hadn’t caught on yet, I’m talking about the Flyers mammoth draft day deal that send Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa and those draft picks for Chris Pronger and Ryan Dingle.

Now don’t get me wrong, we all love Pronger; especially what he was able to do in his first year in Philadelphia, BUT, he handicapped the team with his massive, long-term contract and we now know he will likely never play hockey again.

This trade was bad for a number of reasons. One, the Flyers traded a “glue” guy who has gone on to become a top line offensive player. Two, Sbisa continues to excel and grow (remember, he made the Flyers as an 18-year old rookie). And don’t we know that the Flyers need a replacement for an aging Kimmo Timonen. Finally, THE DRAFT PICKS! We may all love Pronger, but we don’t love the end result of this deal by Homer.

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 Homgren deal was worse?

  • Michael Leighton Extension (78%, 14 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 (22%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 18

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