Paul Holmgren admits Chris Pronger will never play again

Paul Holmgren admits Chris Pronger will never play again

By now, pretty much everybody was already resigned to the fact that Chris Pronger was never going to appear in an NHL game again. That much isn’t news. The Flyers finally acknowledging the elephant in the room on the other hand…

In a story filed by Ken Campbell to The Hockey News, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren admits Pronger is retired for all intents and purposes. It’s believed to be the first time the team or a team executive has publicly stated that we’ve almost certainly seen the last of the great defenseman.

“I’ll say it, Chris is never going to play again,” said Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren. “I have no problems saying it.”

There’s just one problem with Holmgren coming out and saying that. Popular thinking is Pronger hasn’t formally retired so that the club can continue placing him and his roughly $5 million salary cap hit on long-term injured reserve.

But since Pronger turned 35 during the deal, the Flyers have no way out of absorbing the cap hit for the next four seasons. He isn’t going to retire because he’s due $7 million in salary next season and $4 million in 2014-15. If he were to retire, he’d forfeit the money and the Flyers would still be on the hook for the cap hit the next four seasons. They can’t buy him out because the CBA forbids teams from buying out injured players, but the Flyers do get the cap relief by keeping him on the long-term injury list, the same way the Boston Bruins are dealing with Marc Savard.

Over-35 contracts were designed to prevent teams from circumventing the CBA, but it’s almost certain neither Pronger nor Savard – whose $4-million cap hit also runs the next four seasons, though his isn’t a 35-plus deal – will play again.

It’s been no secret in Philadelphia the Flyers have pulling this maneuver in large part to circumvent the cap. Now that it’s out in the open, will the NHL step in and put a stop to it?

My guess is probably not. Holmgren’s quote may have given the game away, but he could just as easily claim that’s only one man’s opinion. He’s not a doctor, and he can’t speak to Pronger’s intentions.

Still, it’s somewhat surprising the league has allowed this to go on for another season. You have to wonder if/when they’ll step in.

Per Campbell, both Holmgren and Pronger’s agent have sought some kind of compromise with the NHL with regard to the over-35 rule, but no exemptions are anticipated at this time. Perhaps turning a blind eye to the accounting tricks are the best they will do.

Pronger hasn't suited up for the Flyers in nearly two full calendar years now and continues to suffer the effects of post-concussion syndrome. While reports have been increasingly optimistic about his improvement, his pro hockey days are likely long gone.

Campbell’s profile on Pronger is worth a read, as it touches on a variety of subjects including how the defenseman has transitioned into a front-office role with the Flyers.

>> Chris Pronger, still at large [THN]

Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

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Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State’s offense rewrote the Big Ten Championship’s offensive record book Saturday night but its 38-31 victory over Wisconsin wasn’t secure until the final minute.

And Linebacker U. got the game-saving play from the secondary.

Wisconsin, armed with a pair of timeouts and lining up for a fourth-and-1 play from the Nittany Lions’ 24, called on Corey Clement. Clement, who’d already racked up 166 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, got the ball but never got close to the marker.

Grant Haley made sure of it.

The junior cornerback wrapped up Clement’s legs and safety Marcus Allen kept Clement from leaning forward and the game was over. Penn State (11-2) has the 2016 Big Ten title and, at worst, will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2009.

“They ran [a counter] early in the game and split it for a touchdown,” Haley said of the final play. “I saw them set the edge, so I got triggered really well and Marcus finished off the play.”

Haley and company watched the Badgers run wild in the first half; 164 yards and three touchdowns, including Clement’s 67-yard scamper. Wisconsin, one of the conference’s best rushing teams this season, managed less than half that total (77) in the second half.

“They really weren’t running that many plays,” Haley added. “We just came out in the second half and had a jolt. 

“We just had the energy going into the second half.”

Wisconsin got the ball twice in the fourth quarter but managed only 65 yards - 51 of which came on its final drive.

“Give credit to Penn State for coming out in the second half and making those adjustments and allowing those big plays to happen,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. 

Give plenty of credit, too, to the Nittany Lions’ offense. 

Quarterback Trace McSorley was named the game’s most valuable player after completing 17 of his 25 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns - both championship game records. He helped Penn State complete the biggest comeback in the game’s six year history after his team fell behind 28-7 in the first half and also finished the regular season with 3,360 yards and 25 touchdown passes, both school records.

Saeed Blacknall had six catches for a Big Ten Championship-record 155 yards and two touchdowns and DaeShean Hamilton finished with 118 yards on eight grabs.

Tailback Saquon Barkley, injured in last weekend’s victory over Michigan State, returned with 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught an 18-yard scoring pass from McSorley early in the fourth quarter to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good.

Penn State, in its first-ever trip to this game, is coming home from it with just its second outright Big Ten title. It’s on a nine-game winning streak that has seen it average 40 points per contest.

It also could present the College Football Playoff selection committee with a bit of quandary. The Nittany Lions, who were ranked seventh by the committee last week, topped the No. 6 Badgers and claimed a conference championship, something likely playoff teams Alabama, Clemson and Washington all boast.

On the flip side, Penn State’s last defeat was a lopsided 49-10 loss at Michigan, which sits at No. 5 in the rankings and likely won’t move into the top four after losing last week to No. 2 Ohio State.

Penn State coach James Franklin stated his team’s case after Saturday night’s win, but also made it clear he and his team won’t be moping their way to Pasadena, Calif., where the conference champion is slotted if it is not chosen for the playoff.

“We’ve got great options in front of us,” he said. “I hear people on TV talking about they feel like maybe the playoff has taken away from the bowls. 

“Are you kidding me? The Rose Bowl? It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Jordan Matthews will not play Sunday against the Bengals after missing practice all week with an ankle sprain, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Matthews is the Eagles' leading receiver with 57 catches for 686 yards and three touchdowns. The team has called him a game-time decision.

Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor will reportedly be inserted back into the lineup. If Matthews doesn't play the Eagles will have only four healthy receivers active on Sunday: Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and undrafted rookies Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.