Since Paul Holmgren replaced Bob Clarke as general manager of the Flyers in late 2006, life hasn’t been dull for the Orange and Black. If being general manager is to gamble, Holmgren is a whale. He wheels and deals aggressively and with little regard for the future, the feelings of his players or his own appearance as a manager.
Despite this strategy, he's won his fair share of deals like trading Alexei Zhitnik for Braydon Coburn, picking up Sergei Bobrovsky out of nowhere and landing Matt Read off the college waiver wire. But like most gamblers, he’s lost even more.
Here are the Top-10 head-scratching Holmgren moves that aren’t trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
10. Signing Bruno Gervais for two years, $1.65m
Looking for a depth defender to start the 2012-13 NHL season, Holmgren tapped mobile unrestricted free agent Gervais to play the part. Best good friends with Max Talbot, the move made mild sense.
That is until Holmgren gave Gervais a two-year deal. Yes, Holmgren gave a fringe NHLer, who was also getting the proverbial signing bonus by playing with his childhood best friend, an extra year for no reason at all. Gervais wouldn’t be able to enjoy the second year though, as he is currently playing for the Adirondack Phantoms of the AHL after the Flyers realized he wasn’t very good.
This signing serves as the perfect example of how Holmgren does business.
Why would any reasonable general manager spend $3.3 million ($1.1m per season) and three years locked into a 34-year-old enforcer? Why would anyone spend more than the veteran minimum on any enforcer ever? Go back to 2010 and ask Holmgren.
Shelley played just 89 games over three seasons and acted as a well-liked salary cap albatross over that span.
8. Signing Kimmo Timonen for One Year, $6m
It’s like Holmgren forgot that players age. Despite Timonen turning 38 at the time and slowed by a chronic bad back, Holmgren signed his prized disintegrating defender to one-year deal for a whopping $6 million.
Timonen, whose options were to play for the Flyers or retire, has no points in eight games and has already left the club’s latest game with a lower-body injury. Even without the fatigue of a grueling 82-game season he looks slow and seems to be playing to his age, not his paycheck.
7. Signing Mark Streit for Four Years, $21m
Once again, Holmgren spends a draft pick for the right to grossly overpay a player.
Not only did he give the New York Islanders AHL forward Shane Harper and a fourth round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, but he delivered the 35-year-old Streit a ridiculous four-year deal worth $21 million, which will keep him on the Flyers’ books until he’s 39. The aging power play specialist, who has been designated the team’s fifth defenseman in terms of ice time and rolled out on the second power play unit, is a major reason why the future of the Flyers seems so bleak and in such a precarious financial position.
6. Not firing coach Peter Laviolette after the 2012-13 season, only to fire him three games into the 2013-14 season.
Holmgren must love criticism because his knack for it is uncanny. Instead of making the headstrong move to fire Laviolette following the Flyers’ 23-22-3 playoff miss last season, which would have been a perfectly understandable management move, he waited until three games into the 2013-14 season.
The transaction embarrassed Laviolette and the Flyers while also putting new coach Craig Berube in a hole. Instead give his new coach a training camp and pre-season to work out the kinks, Berube was thrown into the river and forced to swim upstream, giving the Flyers even less hope of successful season.
It’s bad enough that Holmgren thought Dan Carcillo was more than your average undersized energy brawler but he moved reasonably-priced depth scoring Upshall for him and about $900k of cap space.
Making matters worse, cap-strapped Paul actually threw the Phoenix Coyotes a second-round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft for the privilege of that limited cap space. The pick ended up being winger Lucas Lessio, who is currently on the Coyotes roster and averaging 11 minutes per night.
4. Trading Sergei Bobrovsky to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a Second Round Pick and Fourth Round Pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and a Fourth Round Pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft
At the time, the move wasn’t viewed as a complete loss for the Flyers as they received promising young keeper Anthony Stolarz. But after Bobrovsky upgraded his game (as young, talented players do) and won the Vezina Trophy with the Blue Jackets, it was the clear the Flyers may have failed to properly evaluate his ability.
And while hindsight on players is always clear, this mistake was on a Patrick Sharp-level of misjudgment for Holmgren and the Flyers, who apparently wouldn’t know a good goaltender if it fell into their laps from Novokuznetsk.
Aiming for a legitimate starting goaltender was an honorable feat for an organization embarrassed by its ongoing goaltending woes. But in typical Flyers’ style, it turned into one of the most memorable Holmgren messes in recent team history.
Apparently, Holmgren believed that $51 million and nine years wouldn’t be enough to land 30-year-old Bryzgalov on the open market. So naturally, the GM tossed the Coyotes a free third-round pick for the right to offer the weirdo goalie a ridiculous amount of money.
The organization then quickly discovered that Bryzgalov was not only a loud mouth and disturbance but a pretty average goaltender when not locked into Coyotes’ coach Dave Tippett’s defensive system. Just two years into his nine-year deal, Holmgren erased his mistake with a massive buyout.
The oft-injured, inconsistent but highly-talented van Riemsdyk was just 23 years old. He never fully endeared himself to Holmgren and the Flyers, which provided little doubt that the former second-overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry draft would be eventually traded for defensive help.
In yet another case of Holmgren undervaluing his own player and overvaluing someone else, he moved JVR straight up for Schenn -- an underwhelming former fifth overall pick, who was slow, physical and little else.
Schenn is currently playing as the Flyers’ sixth defender and averaging just over 15 minutes per night, while JVR has become a first-line threat, scoring 38 points in 55 games.
1. Trading the 27th Overall Selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft for Steve Eminger and Jacob Deserres
It’s a move that often goes overlooked in the pantheon of Holmgren mistakes but could be his most egregious in terms of how it’s hampered today’s Flyers team. Whether the club didn’t value the 27th pick that year or simply overvalued Eminger as a full time NHL defenseman, the aggressive move turned into a massive mistake for the Flyers and a big reason for their current defensive roster problems.
And here’s the Holmgren kicker -- as a restricted free agent, Eminger wasn’t even signed at the time.
The 27th pick ended up being big defenseman John Carlson, who, at just 23 years old, has already played three full seasons on the Capitals’ blue line and is currently the team’s No. 2 defensemen in terms of ice time.
Don’t like Carlson? OK. Florida Panthers goaltender Jacob Markstrom and Stanley Cup-winning LA Kings defenseman Slava Voynov went No. 31 and No. 32. St. Louis Blues up-and-coming goalie Jake Allen went 34th, while Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi and Edmonton Oilers blue-liner Justin Schultz went No. 38 and No. 43. Don’t count out New York Rangers center Derek Stepan or New York Islanders defense Travis Hamonic, who also went late in the second round.