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]

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Islanders 2 (OT)

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Islanders 2 (OT)

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — The Flyers, in dire need of a confidence boost, found one at the Barclays Center.

Trailing 2-0 in the second period on Sunday night, the Flyers stormed back to beat the Islanders in overtime, 3-2, and stop some serious bleeding.

Claude Giroux netted the game-winner, his first marker in 13 games.

On Saturday, the Flyers’ return from five days off was unceremonious to say the least, as they lost badly to the Devils, 4-1, after entering their NHL mandated bye week losers in 11 of the last 14 games.

So this was a game they desperately had to have and got it.

The Flyers (23-19-6) picked up just their fourth win since Dec. 17, improving to 4-9-3 since rattling off 10 straight victories, a streak that seems like ages ago.

Speaking of streaks, the Flyers snapped a nine-game losing slide on the road in which they had been outscored, 36-12.

The Islanders (19-17-9) had their three-game winning streak halted. On Tuesday, New York fired its head coach Jack Capuano.

Notable goals
Shayne Gostisbehere converted a nifty wraparound pass to Giroux, who finished the winner.

Ivan Provorov made it all possible with a beautiful play to tie the game at 2-2 less than two minutes into the final stanza. The rookie defenseman took a pass at the blue line and patiently maneuvered by two Islanders before unleashing a shot from the circle that got past Islanders netminder Thomas Greiss off the skate of his own defenseman Adam Pelech.

It marked Provorov’s first goal since he scored two against the Blackhawks on Dec. 3.

Wayne Simmonds kept another game from unraveling when he beat Greiss with 5:50 left in the second stanza. Simmonds gathered a loose puck off the skate of Brayden Schenn and fired it home to trim the deficit to 2-1 and give him his team-leading 19th marker.

"It was a bouncing puck and [Radko Gudas] made a great play and kept it in,” Simmonds said at second intermission. “There were a couple more bounces and I just picked it up and shot it far side and it went in.”

In the first period, Islanders leading scorer John Tavares got things started with a takeaway that resulted in Steve Mason under siege. Tavares, who stripped an Andrew MacDonald pass to Jakub Voracek, went in uncontested on Mason, who denied the shot and follow attempt from Anders Lee. With the puck still loose in the crease and Mason on his side, Ivan Provorov knocked it out but right to Nick Leddy for a clean wrist shot and goal with 6:35 remaining in the opening stanza.

At 4:47 of the second period, Mason was unable to control a rebound and New York took advantage. Alan Quine came in and fluttered the puck over Mason’s shoulders to give the Islanders a 2-0 advantage.

No goal
The Flyers had 33 seconds of 5-on-3 action early in the second period, when they put the puck on Greiss, who couldn’t secure it. It created a mad jumble of bodies at the net but somehow the puck never crossed the goal line. The play was ruled no goal and later confirmed by official review.

The Flyers failed to score later at 5-on-4 and the Islanders used the momentum to extend their lead moments later on Quine’s tally.

Goalie report
Mason, who had not won since Dec. 21, made 36 saves.

He entered with a 4.03 goals-against average over his last 10 appearances but made a number of timely stops, including four in one wild sequence of a New York power play during the third period. He also turned away a Tavares breakaway in the extra session.

Coming off back-to-back shutouts in which he made 55 total saves, Greiss stopped 44 shots. He went to a full split to rob Sean Couturier midway through the second period and stoned Provorov in overtime before allowing the winner.

Power play
The man advantage, which went 0 for 6 on Saturday and was 0 for its last 11 coming in, went 0 for 3.

The Islanders finished 0 for 2.

Penalty kill
Lacking discipline in their first game back from the bye week, the Flyers were forced to go on the penalty kill seven times Saturday, allowing two goals.

On Sunday, the Flyers didn’t allow New York a power play until the final stanza. The Flyers finished 2 for 2 on the PK.

The Islanders stopped all three Flyers power plays.

Hits
Brayden Schenn skated to the bench hunched over after colliding with Josh Bailey in open ice during the second period. Schenn was OK and returned his next shift.

The Islanders outhit the Flyers, 23-12.

Scratches
For the Flyers: Forward Dale Weise, and defensemen Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz, all healthy.

Defenseman Brandon Manning returned to the lineup after two straight healthy scratches.

For the Islanders: Forwards Andrew Ladd (upper-body injury) and Stephen Gionta (healthy), and defenseman Scott Mayfield (healthy).

Next up
The Flyers follow their back-to-back with another such set. First up are the Rangers on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden before the Flyers come home Thursday to face the Maple Leafs, who currently trail the Flyers by a point for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot.

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

The Atlanta Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after routing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC championship game.

Matt Ryan threw for four touchdowns, including a 73-yard catch-and-run for a highlight-reel score by star receiver Julio Jones. The defense played just as crucial a role in containing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense.

Rodgers had 287 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception. But the Falcons got to Rodgers with pressure and forced two Green Bay turnovers. Rodgers was outplayed by Ryan, who even ran for a 14-yard touchdown.

Atlanta will play either New England or Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Houston.

The only other time that Atlanta made the Super Bowl was in the 1998 season. The Falcons lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos.

The Packers fell in the NFC title game for the second time in three seasons.