Homer’s Do’s and Doh’s: Leino Trade v. Giroux Extension and Gagne Trade v. Shelley Signing

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?

Friday’s Results:
The Briere signing took down the trade for Smith and Lupul; and the Leighton extension defeated the Pronger trade.

Today’s Contestants:

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.

Claude Giroux extension
write-up courtesy of Kevin Christmann

I recently argued that the Claude Giroux extension was Paul Holmgren’s best move to date. Below is an excerpt from that article.

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.

Which Paul Holmgren deal was better?

  • Claude Giroux extension (68%, 25 Votes)
  • Ole-Kristian Tollefson and 2011 5th round pick to Detroit Red Wings for Ville Leino (32%, 12 Votes)

Total Voters: 37

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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.

Jody Shelley signing
write-up courtesy of Marc Siciliano

In the 09-10 season, Jody Shelley spent much of his last year with the Rangers just being Jody Shelley. Suddenly, with two games left to play – both against the Flyers – he decided to try and carry his team to the playoffs. The Result? Shelley scored his only two goals of the season (2 of the 4 goals the Rangers would muster in back to back losses), while accumulating just over 20% of his points and 1/6 of his shots.

The other result? A three-year, $3.3 contract from the team he performed so sporadically admirable against. The considerable raise for obvious unsustainable statistics was laughable enough – but coming from the cap strapped Flyers, their opponents – the Rangers included – must have been dancing in the streets.

Shelley has since gone on to alternate between healthy scratch and 4th liner with the Flyers, while making twice as much as his bottom-six peers. His locker room presence is apparently worth the cost to the team, but one wonders if the situation couldn’t have been avoided altogether if Jody Shelley had just been Jody Shelley for that fateful home and home in April of 2010.

Which Paul Holmgren deal was worse?

  • Simon Gagne to Tampa Bay Lightning for Matt Walker and 2011 4th round pick (81%, 30 Votes)
  • Jody Shelley Signing (19%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 37

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