Hockey Headlines

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Someone's Gotta Go

These colorful, round glass orbs were a fixture in my pocket as a kid. I was always fascinated with marbles in terms of how they looked, often wondering how they were made in such different yet beautiful colors. From "cat's eyes" to "bird's eggs", the different varieties allowed for different names, and it was a big day when one found a unique marble. Today, it appeared that there was an influx of new marbles into the world as Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren appears to have lost all his marbles in signing unrestricted free agent Vincent Lecavalier to a five-year deal worth $4.5 million per year with a full no movement clause!

Yes, you read that correctly in that Vincent Lecavalier will be a Philadelphia Flyer next season. The familiar #4 that Lecavalier wears will jump into the Flyers' roster presumably at the second-line center position, bumping Brayden Schenn to either the wing or into a fourth-line center spot if Sean Couturier is the everyday third-line centerman.

While I appreciate the Flyers wanted to upgrade that position on their roster, it seems inherently idiotic to sign a guy for more money than one has cap room. The Flyers, of course, had little cap room, and will now be forced to make a roster move or two since they are still short one goaltender to start this season. Had they signed Nabokov or Tim Thomas to this deal? I might be more inclined to give them a pass, but signing a second-line centerman at this amount? Holmgren has to have lost his marbles.

When looking at the Flyers' roster at this point, one has to wonder where they are going to find $1.5 million or so in order to be able to have second capable netminder on their roster. The likely target in freeing up that money would appear to be Maxime Talbot based on his production and contract value. Talbot is earning $1.75 million per season until 2016, so freeing up that amount would allow the Flyers about $1.4 million in cap room. That amount may not be enough to bring in an NHL-ready backup goalie, but it's a start.

If they needed additional cap room, the Flyers would have to move one of their younger stars or a defenceman. With Paul Holmgren stating that neither Sean Couturier nor Brayden Schenn was in play in terms of a trade deal this past weekend, that would leave forwards such as Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Matt Read as potential trade bait from the forward corps. Giroux and Voracek aren't going anywhere, but Matt Read's $900,000 contract would be appealing to almost every team in the NHL based on how Read plays the game. His name has come up in trade speculation before, so expect Matt Read's name to continue to be tossed around as the Flyers look to add a veteran goalie into the mix.

Finally, one could look to move a defenceman, but there are a pile of issues in trying to do that thanks to Paul Holmgren's unwavering stance of awarding massive deals to defencemen. Clearly, Kimmo Timonen won't be going anywhere as he basically generates the offence from the blueline. The Flyers just signed Mark Streit to a new deal, so don't expect him to be moving either. Chris Pronger's contract is still on the books whether he plays or not, and there isn't a single team anywhere that would eat that contract. That leaves Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros, Luke Schenn, and Nicklas Grossmann.

I'm going to say that Luke Schenn is out of the mix immediately considering what Holmgren gave up to bring Schenn in. Nicklas Grossmann brought decent return on his contract last season, and he is the lowest-paid defenceman of the seven men listed above. That, of course, leaves Coburn and Meszaros. Meszaros, though, has yet to be given clearance to play after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury last year, so there would be no takers whatsoever on bringing Meszaros in until he was cleared to play. And that leaves Braydon Coburn as your default trade bait.

If the Flyers were to trade Braydon Coburn - he does have a modified no-trade clause - they would immediately free up a ton of cap room as Coburn is eating up $4.5 million per season. Teams such as the Edmonton Oilers have been kicking tires on Coburn, and there are rumors that a Coburn-for-Paajarvi trade may be coming down the line. The cap space freed up by the Flyers would give them considerable cap relief, and the Oilers would finally acquire a big, physical defenceman on their blueline. Again, this seems like the next logical choice in terms of Philly's player moves, but there is one move that Philly may want to start thinking about if they want to remain a competitive team in the coming years.

The entire salary cap mess that the Flyers find themselves in can be traced to one man: GM Paul Holmgren. While I get that others in the Flyers organization have had input on how he should spend the available cap money in past years, the mess that the Flyers are in is because of Holmgren's mismanagement of the salary cap. From Daniel Briere's massive deal to Ilya Bryzgalov's insane contract to Mark Streit's recent signing, a number of Flyers have been overpaid handsomely in Philadelphia to the point where it's now crippling the team's ability to sign even necessary players in order to ice a team.

Looking at next year already - something the Flyers really need to take into consideration right now - all three of Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, and Sean Couturier are restricted free agents, and all will command some sort of salary increase. The cost of keeping Giroux alone may limit what the Flyers can do with Schenn and Couturier based on their performances.

If you want to complicate matters further, Steve Mason is also a restricted free agent next year, meaning that the Flyers could find themselves in another goalie controversy following the debacle that's happening this season. And the Flyers still don't have a backup goalie in order to start a controversy!

I also have yet to mention that Kimmo Timonen, Matt Read, and Andrej Meszaros are all unrestricted free agents next season, and there is a better-than-good chance that at least one of these three will be gone via free agency based upon the Flyers' cap mismanagement. Kimmo Timonen has been a warrior for the Flyers, and there is talk of him considering retirement. You have to wonder if Holmgren is praying for that to happen in order to free up $6 million annually.

In any case, maybe I'm missing something altogether. Perhaps, on some whiteboard somewhere in the Flyers' front office in a dark room, there is a master plan drawn out that includes getting rid of some spare parts for picks this summer and allowing albatross contracts to expire next season in order restructure and retool some more. Perhaps there's that one big whale that's set to hit the ocean next year, and Captain Ahab is lining himself up for another big score.

Whatever the case may be, the Flyers need some cap relief right now. Only time will tell if these moves will pay off. As was once said, there is a very faint line that separates genius from insanity. Let's hope that Paul Holmgren hasn't lost all his marbles after spending a ton of Ed Snider's this summer.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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