Paul Holmgren: 'We improved our team a lot'

Paul Holmgren: 'We improved our team a lot'

July 5, 2013, 7:45 pm
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Friday wasn’t the busiest of free agency days for Paul Holmgren, but considering the moves the Flyers had made earlier in the week, it didn’t have to be.

The Flyers' general manager seems to be more than content with how his team has come together so far this summer.

“If the season were to start tomorrow,” Holmgren said, “I’d be very happy.”

On Friday, the Flyers were able to sign goalie Ray Emery (see story) as well as pick up another goalie, Yann Danis, for the Adirondack Phantoms (see story). Adding those moves to the signings of Mark Streit and Vinny Lecavalier, and the re-signing of Claude Giroux, and Holmgren believes he’s improved the Flyers of 2013-14 significantly over last year’s iteration.

“I think we improved our team a lot,” he said. “We added a very good puck-moving defenseman that's going to bring us more offense from the back end (Streit). We added, in my opinion, still one of the better players in the game in Vinny Lecavalier. … And adding Ray to bring in along with Steve Mason, I think, solidifies our goaltending position.  …

“More importantly, we kept what we think is a real good nucleus together. We didn't do anything to dismantle anything.”
The biggest change, so far anyway, is in net.

Mason returns, of course, but he has played only seven games in a Flyers jersey. Joining him is Emery, who returns for a second stint in Philadelphia. And despite Emery’s impressive 17-1 record from last season, Holmgren has made it clear the two goaltenders will split the work and battle for the starter’s job.

“That’ll all be decided once we get going,” he said. “They’re both good goalies that we like. Steve’s a young guy who obviously started out with a bang and had a couple down years. I think last year, even in his time in Columbus, it looked like he had bounced back, and we were certainly happy with the way he played for us at the end of the year. 

“When you've got two good goalies that you're comfortable with, they’re both extremely competitive, both very athletic, both good teammates … I think it’s a real positive for our team.”

What the Flyers have been unable to do, at least so far, is re-sign Simon Gagne. Gagne, an unrestricted free agent, has made no secret of his desire to remain in Philadelphia. In fact, he and the Flyers have agreed upon a price they’re both comfortable with, according to a source – but it’s entirely dependent upon the Flyers' clearing enough cap space to make it happen.

And that’s the issue. While NHL teams are allowed to go 10 percent over the cap ceiling this summer, as long as they become cap compliant by the beginning of the season, the Flyers have already gone over the limit by about $1 million, and they’re not looking to add to that debt.

As far as the likelihood a deal with Gagne is completed, Holmgren said, "It’s probably too soon to say."

“We’re sort of capped out,” he added. “We don’t have a lot of space here to maneuver unless we were to make some kind of move. That's something I don't think any of us around here want to do right now, because we feel comfortable with our team.”

It's important to note that that "comfort" goes for the team's defense, too. With the exception of Streit, whose rights were acquired back in mid-June, the Flyers haven’t done anything to improve their blue line – arguably the Achilles' heel of last year’s squad.

Holmgren, as it turns out, says he's OK with that.

“We really like our defense,” he said. “We were able to add Mark Streit to our defense. We had a lot of injures last year. We’re counting on [Braydon Coburn] and Andrej Meszaros and Nick Grossmann to bounce back and have the type of years we expect them to have. We’ll be in good shape.”

However, he added, “you never say never on anything.”

“There's a lot of time left in the summer,” Holmgren said. “But I'm very comfortable with our defense. I think we're big, I think we're mobile. Our puck-moving ability is better just by the addition of Mark Streit. I like our group.”

How close was Bobby Ryan?
After months of speculation, the book has closed on the Bobby-Ryan-to-Philadelphia rumors.

Ryan, a Cherry Hill, N.J., native, was traded to the Ottawa Senators by the Anaheim Ducks Friday.

The Flyers had talked with the Ducks about a possible scenario that could send the 26-year-old winger to Philly, but those discussions never really got close, Holmgren said.

“Probably over the last year and a half we’ve had conversations,” he said. “But nothing that ever really made sense for us. I think Anaheim made a good deal. I think both teams made a good deal. 

“Ottawa obviously lost [Daniel] Alfredsson today, and they were able to get Bobby Ryan, but they gave up one real good young player off their team, another good young player that I believe's going to play right away, and a first-round pick. We've had talks, but not really much recently.”

Free agent watch
The Flyers are monitoring the situation in St. Louis where defenseman Alex Pietroangelo has not yet accepted his RFA qualifying offer sheet. It would take a lot to pry him from the Blues.