Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wanted: Flyers GM Paul Holmgren, circa 2007

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren is well-known for his fearlessness when it comes to pulling the trigger.

As we all know, last offseason he pulled the trigger trading away the captain of the franchise, Mike Richards, and his longtime drinking buddy teammate, Jeff Carter.  Then, he followed that up with a 9-year deal for Russian philosopher/goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, and the surprise signing of a mullet-less Jaromir Jagr.

He's not afraid of making bold moves.  After the Flyers' worst season ever following the 2006-07 season, he overhauled the team by trading for the rights to Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell, and also acquiring Joffrey Lupul and Jason Smith.

He also made a splash in free agency that summer.  There was a high-scoring right winger available that year, but he wasn't perfect.  He was definitely undersized and a defensive liability, but he was coming off a breakout 95 point season at the age of 29, and had scored 25 goals in 48 games the year before.

Holmgren signed him to a contract worth $52 million over 8 years.  The general feeling of the signing was that it was a risky signing, but it was acceptable.

That right wing, of course, was Danny Briere.  

The cap hit from that deal is $6.5 million, and the salary cap for 2007 was set at $50.3 million.  That means Briere's contract took up 12.9% of the Flyers cap space.  Next year's salary cap is set at $70.2 million.  So, if the Flyers signed a similar high-scoring right wing to an equal percentage cap hit, they'd be paying him - brace yourselves for this - over $9 million a season!

Sidney Crosby, eat your heart out.

In the eight seasons in which Briere has played over 68 games, he has surpassed 30 goals four times.  He's accomplished that twice wearing orange and black, with his highest total being 34 in 2010.  His defensive deficiencies have been noticeable as expected, with an "even" plus/minus over his Flyers career despite his offensive contributions.

Fast forward to July 2012, five years later, when there's another high scoring right wing available.  And despite the much higher salary cap, he could easily be signed to the same exact contract.  Probably less.  I think he could be had for slightly over "Matt Carle" money.

I want the Flyers to sign Russian sniper, Alexander Semin.  And soon.

Alexander Semin is 28 years old, a year younger than Briere was in 2007.  In the four seasons that Semin's played over the same 68 game threshold, he's broken 30 goals in three of them.

His defensive shortcomings have been greatly overstated.  There's statistical proof that Semin does in fact play defense.  I'm not nearly smart enough to get into the details, but luckily, Jeff Angus of Overtime (part of The Hockey Writers) wrote a great piece with the all the data a guy could ask for.

I am smart enough to notice that Semin played for the "high-flying, defense sometimes" Capitals, and still has a career plus/minus of +65.  The last year he finished below even was 2007.

He's equalled or surpassed Briere's season high goal mark of 34 three times in his seven year career, and that's counting his rookie year, when he ditched his team to play in Russia.....

Oh yeah, I forgot.  He may or may not give a crap, sometimes.

I'm willing to overlook his well-documented character flaws for his proven production, and the prospect of him thriving on a line with a playmaker like Claude Giroux and no Ovechkin to take all the shots.  In a market that's paying decent upside scorers (Hudler, Jones, Parenteau) $4 million a year, and fading stars (Jagr, Whitney) $4.5 million, I can certainly stomach the idea of giving an elite scorer (provided the playmaker) $5.5 million.

Fedotenko's not going to make up for Jagr and JVR's scoring.  Bobby Ryan could do it, but the Ducks want a second line center (Brayden Schenn) and then maybe Matt Read or a draft pick.

Why acquire a 30 goal scorer that costs $5.1 million a year and pieces of the future, when you could sign one AND keep all your assets for an extra $500,000 a year?  Especially when you consider a figure like "$110 million" was being tossed around last week.

Don't even bother bringing up Rick Nash and his $7.8 million cap hit through 2018, or the fact that Columbus GM Scott Howson is asking for Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Chuck Norris and Rocky Balboa.

I know that last Russian the Flyers signed to a big contract hasn't worked out as planned so far.  And neither did that other Russian winger.

But the 2007 Holmgren I know wouldn't worry about all of that.  He'd just fax Semin's agent the contract offer he's been waiting for, critics be damned.

Go big or go home, Homer.  Just add a clause in the contract that keeps Semin from going home again, too.

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