Philadelphia Flyers Offseason Report Card: Grading Each Move

In my opinion—one that is likely shared by many of you out there—it is safe to say that the Philadelphia Flyers have really missed their mark when it comes to offseason acquisitions. General Manager Paul Holmgren is used to getting what he wants when he wants it, but this summer has been a completely different story for the 56-year old.

Pronger is likely to retire (via Getty Images).

When July 1 rolled around, nobody knew what Holmgren had up his sleeve this year. For the past six or so years, July 1 has been a day many other executives fear seeing as all of their plans could be foiled by another master stroke from Holmgren.

Last summer, the Flyers signed Jaromir Jagr—a veteran thought to be decrepit at the ripe age of 39—who made a nice comeback as a member of the Flyers with 19 goals and 35 assists. They had also signed former Penguin Max Talbot, another veteran who had a nice year (19 goals, 15 assists) while bringing leadership and depth to an otherwise young front line. In his final big move, Holmgren traded Matt Clackson and a third-round draft pick to the Phoenix Coyotes for the rights to sign star goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.

In his most surprising—if not most brilliant, move—he also infused a lot of young talent into the front line by bringing in Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek in exchange for stalling vets Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. All three were fantastic in their first seasons as Flyers, setting the stage for a scoring dynasty in the years to come with Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux thrown in the mix. Overall, it was an “A/A+” summer for Holmgren and the entire front office.

This summer, on the other hand, hasn’t been so great. As soon as the season ended abruptly against the Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Devils, it became obvious that the Flyers needed to upgrade their defense. There was a huge void on the blue line, even with the trade for Luke Schenn, seeing as Chris Pronger is likely to retire due to reoccurring concussion symptoms. Because of this gaping hole, the Flyers had been interested in defenseman Ryan Suter and possibly even forward Zach Parise, but they failed to sign either player as both chose to play for the Minnesota Wild.

In the wake of those moves, the Flyers signed Nashville Predators’ defenseman Shea Weber to an offer sheet worth $110 million dollars for a 14-year deal. Again, no luck with that move either as the Predators decided to cough up the amount of cash it would take to match the offer and keeps Shea Weber.

Unlike past years, there really wasn’t much going on for the Flyers aside from “rumors”, and Holmgren will have to keep a similar roster to last year’s team, whether he likes it or not. Here are the grades for each of the Flyers offseason moves:

Trading James Van Riemsdyk for Luke Schenn: B-

Schenn as a Maple Leaf (via Getty Images).

The Flyers tried to fill in a gap for a much needed Defenseman by trading for Flyer Brayden Schenn’s brother Luke. The reason this move deserves a B- is because Schenn has yet to prove that he can be a great NHL defenseman, and he’s already 4 years into his career.

This trade also weakens a front line that is already losing Jaromir Jagr, and if JVR stays healthy, he could be potentially be a top-line forward further along in his career. However, he’s by no means a star, and rumors had been floating around for quite sometime regarding the Ex Flyers position on the time and whether or not he would be traded. It was only a matter of time before the Flyers would cut ties.

Unfortunately, Philadelphia just did not get enough in return to make this a good trade. I understand they wanted to get rid of the injury-prone youngster, but it just doesn’t make sense as to why they would want Luke Schenn. He is not the defenseman that this team needs at this point and time and will likely make only a marginal difference going forward.

Trading Sergei Bobrovsky to Columbus: B

The Flyers also cut ties with Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky by trading him to the Columbus Blue Jackets for three draft picks. The picks that the Flyers received are a second round (45th overall), a fourth round (117th overall) in the past NHL Entry Draft. The Flyers also received a draft pick in the fourth round of the 2013 draft.

This trade makes some sense as to why they would let go of Bobrovsky because really he is not the future of the Flyers organization in terms of goaltending. It just was not worth keeping him around but the reason I give this a “B” is because what they got in return is not what I would expect.

Re-Signing Goalie Michael Leighton: A-

Re-signing Michael Leighton was the necessary move. With the loss of Bobrovsky, the Flyers would’ve had no backup goaltender but they found a cheap one in the veteran Leighton. Yes, I know he is the goalie who let up the game-winning goal in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals when the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Flyers.

But he has 104 NHL games under his belt with a 2.95 GAA and a .902 save percentage, two stats that are good enough for him to be a backup in this league. All in all a decent signing by the Flyers.

Signing Defenseman Ruslan Fedotenko: B-

Signing Fedotenko was a decent signing on the Flyers part. He scored just 9 goals and had 11 assists with the New York Rangers last season. Ruslan was originally drafted by Philadelphiain 1999 but was then traded in 2002 to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The intent of signing Fedotenko was to gain some veteran experience back after losing Jaromir Jagr in free agency to the Dallas Stars. Even though the Flyers gained some experience on the team, it can not replace the type of player that Jaromir is.

Hopefully Ruslan can be fairly productive for the team this upcoming season and really pick up the pace for what has been lost.

Not Re-Signing Jaromir Jagr: F

Jagr’s brief Flyers career is over (via AP).

This is easily one of the worst moves I have seen this team make in a long time. As good as Jagr was individually last year, his importance to the development of future MVP-candidate Claude Giroux is easy to underestimate. Without a savvy, veteran linemate who can help control the puck and give him tips on how to play the position, Giroux’s improvement will likely be slowed every so slightly in 2012-13.

And he wasn’t shabby stat-wise, posting 19 goals and 35 assists in only 73 games last season. If anything, this should have been one of the Flyers’ top priorities this offseason and that is why the Flyers have ‘failed’ at this task.

Not Re-Signing Defenseman Matt Carle: D-

The Flyers did not resign Matt Carle thinking that they would sign either Ryan Suter or Shea Weber, doing what the Houston Rockets did when they amnestied Luis Scola in the hopes of getting Dwight Howard. Unfortunately, like the Rockets, they were wrong and are now short a defenseman.

Carle signed a 6-year, $33 million dollar deal to play with the Tampa Bay Lightning as the front office expressed their clear intentions of pursuing Suter and/or Weber.

Carle played in all 82 games last season with the Flyers and posted 4 goals and 34 assists for the Orange and Black. He was certainly one of the best defenseman available in free agency when Ryan Suter was taken off the market by Minnesota, and the embarassment of getting neither Suter nor Weber was only exacerbated by the loss of Carle and then the subsequent injury to breakout defenseman Andrej Meszaros.

Holmgren is used to getting the big names he wants, but his failure to do so has left the blue line in even worse shape then it was at the end of last season.

Signing Of Defenseman Bruno Gervais: B

The signing of Bruno Gervais—who had six goals and seven assists with Tampa Bay last season—was good for the Flyers’ defense in terms of depth, but it doesn’t really help with their skill or size problem; he weighs in at 6 feet and 205 pounds. The Flyers signed him to a two-year, $1.65 million contract.

This move was slightly risky seeing as he is very inconsistent and can really only be a 6th defenseman. Some years, he just is plain unproductive, but others he is a serviceable second-line defenseman; you just never know what you’re going to get. The signing was strictly a depth move, seeing as how much they lost with Carle gone, Pronger likely to retire, and Andreas Lilja and Meszaros succumbing to offseason injures that could cause them to miss a nice chunk of the regular season.

Re-Signing of Wayne Simmonds: A+

On Thursday, the Flyers decided to extend Wayne Simmonds to a 6-year, $23.8 million dollar contract. Signing the young forward has easily been one of Holmgren’s smartest moves this offseason; Wayne proved last season that he is worth the money, showing toughness and grit as he stood in front of the net and laid it all on the line, becoming one of the league’s best power-play forwards.

Simmonds was one of the leaderson the team and he’s progressing as an NHL player every single year. Last season, Wayne managed to score 28 goals and record 21 assists, with his career-bests in seven major categories (including goals and power-play goals). His consistency and hustle, however, are what make this signing so great. The Flyers wanted to sign a long contract with the forward before the NHLPA and the league agree to a new CBA, which will likely make contracts shorter than they are now. Simmonds is high on the deal as well, saying this after receiving the news:

“I think we have a great, young core in place. This is where I want to be for a long time.”

To me, locking up Simmonds for six more years is a very smart move on Holmgren’s part. He is one of the league’s best young forwards and he will only continue to build on his 28-goal breakout season from 2012-2013. More importantly, last year we saw that Wayne worked fairly well with Danny Briere and Brayden Schenn, considering each player’s style of game.

Overall Offseason Grade: C-

With the losses of too many key players to the organization, it has to be a low grade. Losing a key veteran in Jagr, a likely breakout forward in JVR if he stays healthy and an above-average defenseman’ is just something that lowers this team’s significance. Its one thing If you let go of these players and then replace them with even more talent, but the Flyers just have cut ties with their players and signed nobody important. This summer should be a terrifying wake-up call for Paul Holmgren.

It’s disappointing that the offseason had to go the way it did, but that’s how sports work sometimes. Hopefully this team can fill the gap for a much-needed shutdown defender, but I do not see that happening anytime soon with the market licked bare by the rest of the league.

The Flyers would likely have to trade Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, or both just to get that defender. To get Shea Weber in a trade would require too much in return and that would not be worth it, so the next best option would be trading for Jay Bouwmeester of the Calgary Flames. It should be interesting to see what this team does next but all we can say now is that Homer better be going after some big players next offseason if this team wants to make a run for the Stanley Cup.


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Categories: Editorial, Flyers

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