Analyzing How Paul Holmgren Left Philadelphia Flyers Buried in Bad Contracts

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Analyzing How Paul Holmgren Left Philadelphia Flyers Buried in Bad Contracts
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Paul Holmgren is no longer the general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers, and Philly fans everywhere should be thankful for that.

Yes, he got them to the Stanley Cup in the 2009-10 season. He also got very good deals in the blockbuster trades of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, the Flyers' two best players at the time.

But the Flyers haven't even reached the Eastern Conference Finals since, and their future is hardly glowing at this point. There are several reasons for that, but the most important one is that Holmgren handed out big deals like they were nothing.

Now, new GM Ron Hextall and the Flyers are sitting on some big contracts that could hamper the team for years. While Claude Giroux's megadeal is the biggest on the squad, that was a necessary move.

Before we delve into the pile of bad contracts, let's pick out perhaps the worst of the bunch: the nine-year, $51 million deal given to Ilya Bryzgalov on June 23, 2011.

Bryzgalov was so bad that the Flyers will pay him $23 million over the next 14 years to not play for Philadelphia, per the rules of the compliance buyout system.

So now let's look at the current hole that Holmgren dug Philadelphia into. There are really four bad deals which deserve criticism.

On April 15, Holmgren inked newly acquired Andrew MacDonald to a six-year, $30 million deal.

This past offseason, Mark Streit signed a four-year, $21 million deal at the age of 35. Around the same time last offseason, 33-year-old Vincent Lecavlier signed a five-year, $22.5 million contract.

And in addition to all those, Scott Hartnell signed a six-year, $28.5 million deal in August of 2012. Let's let all those big numbers digest for a second.

For all of you keeping score at home, that's $102 million. 

Am I saying that they are all bad players? Certainly not. Am I saying that none of these players deserve a place on the Flyers' roster? Again, not at all. 

The Flyers could use all of these players in their roles. The problem is that, collectively, they are getting paid way more than they are worth.

Let's start off with the very worst contract, MacDonald's. He was brought over for second- and third-round picks from the New York Islanders, which was a waste of assets to begin with.

MacDonald, frankly, wasn't very good in New York. He was the Islanders' top defenseman, but that isn't saying much. In the spring, Hockey Prospectus discussed just how overplayed MacDonald was, and how there was not a lot of evidence that things would get better either.

Broad Street Hockey has a recap of MacDonald's season here, but here are a few highlights: 

What Eric found was that MacDonald was the worst on the team in all three areas among the regulars. He was targeted the most at 47.6 percent, he allowed carry-ins the most often at 78.1 percent and he broke up the fewest rushes at 4.7 percent.

Okay, well, there's gotta be some room for optimism, right?

He wasn't good in New York. He wasn't good when he got here. He wasn't deserving of that contract extension. Now the Flyers continue to have a silly amount of money committed to their defenseman, and it may not even include Timonen. It appears as if MacDonald is going to have play a bigger role next season, and I'm just not convinced he's capable of turning it around.

Well, at least there are other guys in that bracket who are overpaid, right?

Whether you like what you've seen from MacDonald or not, he now has a similar contract to guys like Paul Martin, Alexander EdlerKeith YandleNiklas KronwallJay Bouwmeester and James Wisniewski.

Moving on.

Streit is not a bad player at all, and his offensive contributions (44 points) were huge. He also didn't miss a single game. 

But for any 35-year-old to be signed to a four-year extension worth over $5 million per year, they have to be a pretty special player, and Streit just isn't that.

He was pretty sheltered, starting 53.6 percent of faceoffs in the offensive zone, and playing against pretty weak competition (per Super Shot Search). 

Streit's value is in his speed and puck-moving ability, as he is not very strong defensively. That speed only figures to whittle away in the coming years, and he'll likely be worth just a fraction of his salary in the last two seasons of his deal as he approaches 40 years of age.

Lecavalier's contract is actually even worse than Streit's. At 33 years old, Lecavalier cashed in with a five-year deal worth $4.5 per season.

Despite being extremely sheltered with 58.9 percent of offensive zone faceoffs taken, Lecavalier was an absolute disaster possession-wise, and he continued his five-year-long (not including the lockout-shortened season) scoring decrease with a mere 37 points in 69 games

I'll defer again to Broad Street Hockey's excellent post-season player evaluations with regard to Lecavalier. Let's take a look:

Lecavalier was downright brutal for most of the year, and was a major drag on every line he played...the first 59 games of the season show that every single player that has shared over 83 5-on-5 minutes with Lecavalier gets a higher percentage of shot attempts when he's not on the ice with them. Every single player.

Then in the playoffs, Lecavalier was relegated pretty much full-time to the fourth line, and barely made any impact at all, averaging just 10 minutes and 41 seconds of ice time per game and scoring only two points.

Now, the Flyers have to figure out what to do with him for four more years.

Finally, we get to Hartnell's contract, which is a bit more complex. At the time, there were some people (like Sam Carchidi and Justin Bourne, among others) who really considered it a great deal. 

At the time, Travis Hughes discussed how Hartnell would likely be worth the money in the first two years of the deal, which is still pretty debatable now. He was awful in the 2012-13 season (before the extension kicked in) and mediocre in 2013-14.

Looking forward, it is shaping up to be a rough four seasons with regard to that contract. Going back to Broad Street Hockey, we can see how productive Hartnell would have to be in order to have a shot at living up to the remainder of the deal.

Basically, it's a long shot that this deal will turn out to be a good one for the Flyers. 

All of these contracts add up to a whopping $102 million in total cap hits. So, let's do something depressing and see what other four-player combinations the Flyers could have put together for that type of money.

Using cap hit comparables, we can see just how bad these deals are put together.

Would you prefer a combination of Ryan McDonagh (six years, $4.7 million), Duncan Keith (13 years, $5.53 million), Max Pacioretty (six years, $4.5 million) and Andrew Ladd (five years, $4.4 million)?

Maybe Edler (six years, $5 million), Bouwmeester (five years, $5.4 million), David Backes (five years, $4.5 million) and Brad Marchand (four years, $4.5 million) sounds better?

Or just as the final dagger, what about Keith Yandle (five years, $5.25 million), Niklas Kronwall (seven years, $4.75 million), James Neal (six years, $5 million) and Loui Eriksson (six years, $4.25 million)?

There are plenty of others that prove these contracts are terrible, not that the comparisons are even all that necessary to come to that conclusion.

Watching these guys play and looking at their statistics already provide more than enough evidence that Holmgren overpaid them. 

And sure, some of them might have been for "market value," but Holmgren was smart enough to let guys like Matt Carle and Ville Leino walk and get overpaid, so why couldn't he stick to that?

As it is, these four guys are all still at the very beginning of their deals. The Flyers could try to use their regular buyouts (not the compliance ones) on Lecavalier, or try to move him or Hartnell (who has a no-movement clause), but they all seem unlikely.

MacDonald's deal is really going to hurt. It could very well get to the point where they are forced to trade him for nothing and retain some of his salary in the coming years, because it's unlikely that he'll ever come close to living up to his deal.

Basically, apart from other teams somehow agreeing to take these contracts off the Flyers' hands and absolving them of their mistakes, Hextall has just two options.

One is to try and counter-balance these contracts with giving rookies big minutes. Shayne Gostisbehere, Samuel Morin, Robert Hagg and Scott Laughton are all candidates there.

The biggest problem with that, of course, is relying on rookies too heavily can mean bad things for both the team's current record and the players' future development.

The second solution is to continue trying to find bargains out of nowhere (a la Matt Read). T.J. Brennan is one option, but by definition, these deals are really hard to come by.

If you have any brilliant ideas, please call Mr. Hextall and let him know.

If not, see you in three years when Hartnell is 35, Lecavalier is 37, MacDonald is 30, Streit is 39 and the Flyers still haven't won the Stanley Cup. Maybe Gostisbehere will be an All-Star by then. 

 

Figures courtesy of capgeek.com

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