(NOTE: Powe/Betts update below)
In three seasons, general manager Paul Holmgren has transformed the Flyers from the NHL’s worst team to Stanley Cup finalists.
So Holmgren obviously knows what he is doing.
The team’s off-season moves have been more confusing than ‘Inception.”
The Flyers have failed to upgrade their goaltending, have gotten worse on offense, and are paying $4 million per season to a recently acquired player (Andrej Meszaros) who might be their No. 5 defenseman.
On Monday, they traded left winger Simon Gagne _ the classy, gritty veteran who returned from a broken foot and carried the Flyers into last season’s Finals _ to Tampa Bay for a player they didn’t need (defenseman Matt Walker) and just a fourth-round pick in 2011.
All because they needed to clear cap space.
OK, OK. It’s dangerous to judge the deal until all moves are made. Holmgren could have another trade coming.
But, from here, Gagne was just the type of fast, two-way player the Flyers NEEDED. And if they were going to trade him, they should have held out for a much bigger return. (Isn’t it easy being an armchair GM?)
The Gagne deal was set in motion by the puzzling July 1 deal in which the Flyers sent a second-round 2012 draft pick to Tampa Bay for the underachieving (and expensive) Meszaros.
The beefy Meszaros upgrades the Flyers’ defense, but the club is now paying a combined $21.8 million (of the $59.4 million maximum cap) for its five top defensemen. That’s $4.4 million for each of their top-five D-men.
Was the Meszaros trade necessary? If that deal had not been made, the Flyers could have kept Gagne _ and had a third defensive pairing of Sean O’Donnell and Oskars Bartulis. (That would have been an upgrade over Ryan Parent and Bartulis.)
It would have given the Flyers the following possible lines:
Gagne-Richards-Carter; Leino-Briere-Hartnell; JVR-Giroux-Zherdev; Carcillo/Shelley-Betts-Lappy. That’s three solid lines and a very good checking unit.
Now the lines may shape up like this:
Zherdev-Richards-Carter; Leino-Briere-Hartnell; JVR-Giroux-Carcillo; Powe/Shelley-Betts-Lappy.
The Gagne deal does open room for the possible re-signing of underrated Arron Asham, who could play RW on Giroux’s unit and bump Carcillo to the fourth line.
Again, Holmgren has worked wonders in transforming the Flyers from bottom-feeders to Cup finalists and deserves the benefit of the doubt.
But right now, there are a lot of doubters _ especially since L.A. lost out to New Jersey Monday in the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes and was seemingly desperate to add a quality winger.
Wouldn’t it have made more sense to wait a few days to see if the Kings offered more for Gagne?
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The Gagne deal did free cap room for the Flyers to re-sign Darroll Powe, who inked a one-year deal for $725,000 on Wednesday. The Flyers are about $325,000 under the cap. They can still make some demotions and have enough room to sign Asham.
Powe may start the season as the Flyers' fourth-line center. Blair Betts is recovering from shoulder surgery and could miss the first month of the regular season.
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