Analysis: Injuries spark Flyers' trade for Gagne

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Analysis: Injuries spark Flyers' trade for Gagne

On the surface, it didn’t make much sense: Simon Gagne to the Flyers for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2013 draft (see story).
 
How would another ex-Flyer -- who turns 33 this Friday, doesn’t have a goal in 11 games and has been benched in Los Angeles -- help get the Flyers’ offense going?
 
After all, this isn’t the same Gagne whose last most-productive season as a Flyer was 2008-09, when he scored 34 goals on Mike Richards’ line with Mike Knuble.
 
The deal didn’t make sense.
 
Not when there were rumors out there about the Flyers' interest in forward/defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, a guy who could have an impact in two parts of the lineup.
 
And then general manager Paul Holmgren finally shed some light Tuesday night when he revealed that Tye McGinn had suffered an orbital bone fracture during his fight with Toronto’s Mike Brown on Monday. McGinn will likely need surgery, a source said.
 
Now the trade makes sense.
 
“Obviously, with the injury bug and Matt Read being out [six weeks with rib cage injury], and now we lost Tye McGinn last night for a few weeks, we have some holes," Holmgren said on a conference call.   

"Simon is a guy who has a lot of experience and played in a lot of positions -- penalty kill, power play and regular shifts. He is a good two-way player that can skate. We think he will add to us a lot.”
 
Gagne had fallen in disfavor with coach Darryl Sutter because he didn’t finish his scoring chances and he is not a grinder who can play on a fourth line. Gagne admitted he felt confused as to just what his role was.
 
Kings GM Dean Lombardi called the Flyers prior to McGinn’s injury -- in the midst of Gagne getting benched for five games -- to gauge interest in moving him here.

“He wasn't fitting in, so to speak,” Lombardi said. “We were able to put him in a place where he would be happy. He was very pleased with it.”
 
It wasn’t until the McGinn injury, on top of Read’s, that Holmgren bit on the deal, which required a bit of a cap maneuvering (see story).
 
“I talked to Dean a few days ago,” Holmgren said. “He said he might be in a position to move him and asked if we would have any interest. I said we might and then when the injury bug hit us in the last few games, it was a good opportunity [for someone] who can play higher up our lineup and add to our team.”
 
Gagne seemed taken aback with the whirlwind of activity, including the sale of his South Jersey house that was previously rented to coach Peter Laviolette.
 
Gagne is slated to take a red eye back to Philly tonight to play Wednesday against the Washington Capitals.
 
“It’s going to be maybe a tough one tomorrow night. I think they want me to be in the lineup,” he said. “First of all, I’m excited to be back and play in front of the fans in Philly tomorrow night.
 
“Right now, the plan for me was there is no flight left for this afternoon, so I have to take the red eye and fly all night. So it’s going to be a special game tomorrow, but I’ll try to take all that emotion and try to bring that energy to the game.”
 
Three seasons ago, Gagne had 17 goals for Tampa. All he has now are five assists. The Flyers need more scoring. There is no guarantee how many goals are left in his stick even though he is physically fine (concussion free) and his neck issues have been surgically repaired.
 
He has always kept himself in shape, too.
 
Gagne was very close to Danny Briere and Claude Giroux. He has a Stanley Cup ring now. Perhaps he can help relax a young player like Sean Couturier, who seems to be going through the “sophomore jinx” this season.
 
Then again, Gagne himself needs to get going.
 
“It’s not an easy situation,” Gagne said. “As a hockey player not playing a lot last year and not playing at the end in the [Stanley Cup Final] and having the long lockout, not playing for almost six months before we started the season.
 
“But I have to say, I felt really good -- the games that I played this year, I felt really good on the ice. My leg was feeling good, the skill was coming back, but it’s hard when you start to feel your game coming back and you’re not playing the next five games, and after that you have to go back into the lineup.
 
“[For] any player it’s going to be hard to ask someone to go back in the lineup after not playing for five games. It’s almost like a week not playing. It’s hard. But like I said, the games I played here this year I was feeling really good. I think it’s just a matter of playing a little more hockey and all that stuff will come back.”
 
The thing is the Flyers are running out of time. They need points. They are a bubble team that right now doesn’t appear headed to the playoffs.
 
Gagne, a true class act and one of the most professional of athletes ever to play in Philadelphia, returns with a certain amount of pressure on him -- to help get this team into postseason.
 
“He seems excited to be coming back and looks forward to an opportunity to play and help us,” Holmgren said.

Ron Hextall sees benefit in Brayden Schenn's 'market deal'

Ron Hextall sees benefit in Brayden Schenn's 'market deal'

Expensive at the start, cheaper at the finish.
 
That’s how Flyers general manager Ron Hextall views the four-year, $20.5 million contract he gave Brayden Schenn on Monday morning to avoid salary arbitration (see story).
 
Hextall admitted the club is overpaying up front on the deal, but believes it got a “fair” number for the final two years, when Schenn would have become an unrestricted free agent.
 
“We took a higher cap hit for the first two years and essentially a lower hit than we would have taken in Years 3 and 4 if we piece meal it together,” Hextall said.
 
Hextall said he was walking into the 9 a.m. Toronto hearing with agent Don Meehan already deep in a conversation on a deal but prepared to go through with arbitration.
 
Both parties asked arbitrator Elizabeth Neumeier for additional time and completed the contract by 9:45 a.m.
 
Schenn, a restricted free agent, turned down the Flyers’ two-year offer of $4.25 million for this coming season and $4.369 million in 2017-18. That averaged to $4.3 million.
 
His new contract averages $5.125 million.
 
“The benefit for us is our cap number stays flat for four years rather than having have a cap at a lower number, then taking a run at him for two years, if in fact he’d sign for two years at a higher cap number,” Hextall said.
 
Hextall denied he was concerned he might get whacked in arbitration. Yet Schenn has had just one very good season in five years as a Flyer. That was last season with 26 goals and 59 points.
 
Hextall described Schenn as a player who has been “average” in his development, yet has improved in the subtle “intricacies” of the game such as finding open spots, avoiding shot blocks and coming cleanly across the blue line without turning the puck over.
 
Schenn’s true market value is closer to what New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, a 25-year-old right winger, signed earlier this month: a five-year deal worth $23.25 million with an AAV of $4.65 million.
 
Then again, St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz signed a five-year, $26.5 million deal with a $5.35 million AAV. That’s above market value.
 
Meehan originally sought an AAV of $5.5 million for Schenn. In arbitration, it’s likely the Flyers would have received a two-year award in the middle of both numbers.
 
“Nothing really concerned me [about arbitration],” Hextall said. “We had a range and in the end our range was close to what Brayden’s camp felt the range was. Both sides had a range on a two-year deal.

“It’s a market deal. ... Brayden has been a good player. Top-six forwards are hard to find and there’s a premium to pay. There’s no question we paid a premium for a top-six forward who's 24 years old and essentially coming into his prime.”
 
While Hextall labeled Schenn a top-six forward, he tap danced around whether he sees him as a “core” player for the Flyers, even though this makes him the third highest-paid forward behind Claude Giroux ($8.275 million) and Jakub Voracek ($8.25 million).
 
“What is a core [player]?” Hextall asked. “That’s arguable. ... What we do know is Brayden is a very good young player who is getting better and we hope he continues to get better.”
 
This signing leaves the Flyers with just $1.38 million in salary cap space, but with 14 forwards, the club will lose at least one by the end of training camp.
 
Thinking ahead, Jordan Weal could be sent to the Phantoms, shaving $650,000 off the cap. That’s the most likely option for the Flyers, but not their only option.
 
Scott Laughton, whose role was diminished by a strong presence from Nick Cousins, is a lesser possibility. His cap hit is $863,333.
 
Losing either of those two salaries would provide the Flyers over $2 million in cap space.
 
Schenn’s contract lacks a no-trade/no-movement clause that he would have been eligible for starting in 2018-19. He turns 25 in August.
 
The Flyers have one more arbitration to settle: defenseman Brandon Manning on Aug. 2.

Flyers, Brayden Schenn agree to 4-year contract

Flyers, Brayden Schenn agree to 4-year contract

In the end, the Flyers blinked and avoided arbitration Monday morning by overpaying Brayden Schenn with a four-year, $20.5 million contract.
 
The contract leaves the club in a precarious salary cap situation, as the Flyers have just $1.38 million in space now, according to generalfanager.com.
 
The 11th-hour settlement saw the Flyers and Schenn’s agent, Don Meehan, avoid arbitration, which was set for 9 a.m. in Toronto.
 
Meehan was seeking a deal worth $5.5 million for Schenn, who was a restricted free agent.
 
The one Schenn signed will average $5.125 million, according to a source, which still seems excessively high for the 24-year-old, who has had just one excellent season in five full years in the NHL, excluding two partial seasons with the Los Angeles Kings.
 
Schenn had his most productive year last season with career-highs in goals (26), assists (33) and points (59), while showing he could play wing on Claude Giroux’s line with Wayne Simmonds.
 
The Flyers and Schenn were more than $1 million apart going into Monday morning with no progress having been made over this past weekend.
 
Why general manager Ron Hextall didn’t risk the arbitration process remains unanswered. The contracts of some players in comparable situations favored a settlement less than what the Flyers agreed to.
 
The Flyers had offered Schenn a two-year deal that would have paid him $4.25 million this coming season and $4.369 million in 2017-18. That’s an average of $4.3 million.
 
New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, a 25-year-old right wing, signed a five-year deal earlier this month worth $23.25 million. His AAV is $4.65 million. That’s the figure the Flyers could have gambled on getting from an arbitrator.
 
They may have been scared away from going through with the arbitration because of the five-year, $26.5 million deal fellow RFA Jaden Schwartz signed with St. Louis earlier that carried a $5.35 million hit.
 
Hextall was not immediately available for comment.
 
TSN’s Bob McKenzie first reported the financials of the contract.

Flyers and Brayden Schenn to go to arbitration

Flyers and Brayden Schenn to go to arbitration

Barring an 11th-hour settlement, the Flyers will go to arbitration on Monday against swing forward Brayden Schenn.
 
The hearing is slated for 9 a.m.
 
The two sides are more than $1 million apart with no progress having been made over this past weekend.
 
“We will probably go to arbitration,” Don Meehan, the agent for Schenn, said Sunday.
 
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall seemed to concur.
 
“I’m not overly optimistic,” he said about avoiding arbitration.
 
Defenseman Michael Del Zotto filed last summer but signed without going to a hearing.
 
The 24-year-old Schenn is the highest-profile Flyer to get this far without signing since John LeClair back in 2000. He received $7 million — the highest one-year award ever.
 
By filing on July 5, Meehan assured his client will get a contract. The Flyers’ qualified Schenn, who earned $2.75 million last season, on June 30.
 
He is a restricted free agent, who could earn close to $5 million a season on his next deal. And that’s the sticky part.
 
Sources said the Flyers offered a two-year deal that would pay Schenn $4.25 million this coming season and $4.369 million in 2017-18 (see story). That’s an AAV of $4.30 million.
 
Meehan wants $5.50 million, which is excessively high given Schenn’s seven-year career thus far.
 
At the same time, if you look at the some of the RFA signings this summer, as Meehan surely has, the comparable numbers would suggest Schenn is worth slightly more than what the Flyers have offered.
 
Two examples here: New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, a 25-year-old right wing, signed a five-year deal earlier this month worth $23.25 million. His AAV is $4.65 million. That’s the correct ballpark for Schenn.
 
Schenn had his most productive year last season with career-highs in goals (26), assists (33) and points (59) while proving he can play the wing on Claude Giroux’s line with Wayne Simmonds on the right side.
 
Palmieri had career-highs as well in goals (30), assists (27) and points (57).
 
Problem is, the other end of the spectrum, where Jaden Schwartz of the St. Louis Blues sits.
 
The 24-year-old center recently signed a five-year, $26.5 million deal as an RFA with an AAV of $5.35 million. That’s far higher than Hextall wants to go with Schenn at this point.
 
A fractured ankle and subsequent surgery ruined Schwartz’ past season (33 games played), but Blues’ general manager Doug Armstrong looked at what Schwartz accomplished two years ago — career-highs with 28 goals, 35 assists and 63 points – and used that as a barometer for the future.
 
That deal hurts the Flyers here with Schenn.
 
Hextall’s offer suggests the Flyers want Schenn to prove he’s a $5 million player, which means show the Flyers 30 goals and 70 points this season.
 
Schenn finished second in goals to Simmonds (32) and third in points behind Giroux (67) and Simmonds (60) last season.
 
The arbitrator should be able to locate a fair medium. Expect Meehan to ask for a one-year award only.