Philadelphia Flyers' Biggest Mistake in Each of the Last 5 Offseasons

Dan Fremuth@@hometownphanContributor IIIJuly 8, 2014

Philadelphia Flyers' Biggest Mistake in Each of the Last 5 Offseasons

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    The 2014 NHL offseason is officially underway.

    More than $500 million was committed by NHL squads on the first day of free agency alone, while household names like Ryan Kesler and Jason Spezza have relocated via trades.

    But for a team that's traditionally among the most active during the offseason, the Philadelphia Flyers have been awfully quiet so far.

    Newly appointed GM Ron Hextall used the start of free agency to re-sign backup goaltender Ray Emery along with a pair of future Lehigh Valley Phantoms in forward Blair Jones and goaltender Rob Zepp. Then, just 24 hours later, he inked depth defenseman Nick Schultz to a cost-effective one-year, $1.25 million pact.

    The moves were all necessary roster additions for the orange and black but hardly the kind of summer splash the Flyers are known for.

    And while some of Philadelphia's offseason additions through the years have been home runs (Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds in 2011, Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell in 2007, Peter Forsberg in 2005), others have been a bit of a misfire.

    Here's a look at the Flyers' biggest mistake in each of the last five offseasons.

2013: Vincent Lecavalier

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    It's never a good sign when a team is desperately trying to unload a contract it signed just over a calendar year ago.

    But that's the case right now for the Flyers and Vincent Lecavalier.

    After the Tampa Bay Lightning bought out the remaining seven years and $53 million on Lecavalier's prior deal, Philadelphia quickly swept in and added the then-33-year-old center with a five-year, $22.5 million agreement.

    With centers Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier already on the roster and blossoming two-way pivot Scott Laughton waiting in the wings, the addition didn't make a great deal of sense at the time. It makes even less now.

    Lecavalier labored through his first season in the City of Brotherly Love, producing 20 goals and just 37 points through an injury-plagued 69 games. What's worse, he simply didn't have a defined role within Philly's lineup.

    After Schenn assumed second-line center duties, Lecavalier was moved to the wing, which ultimately proved to be a disaster. Forced back into the middle, the four-time All-Star was relegated to the fourth line and was a complete afterthought by the end of Philadelphia's opening-round playoff clash with the New York Rangers.

    Now the cap-strapped Flyers, who would still like to add a high-end winger and upgrade their defense, are desperate to move the final four years and $16.5 million remaining on a contract that, quite frankly, never should have been signed.

2012: Bruno Gervais

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    Desperate for defensive depth in advance of the 2012-13 season, the Flyers inked then-27-year-old blueliner Bruno Gervais to a two-year, $1.65 million agreement.

    Now Gervais was never expected to be a game-changer. Rather, Philadelphia's management hoped he would provide much-needed depth and mobility on the back end while competing for a spot on the team's third defensive pair.

    For the first year of the contract, that plan actually sort of worked.

    During the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, the 6'1", 200-pound defender appeared in 37 of 48 games and chipped in a goal and six points. Sadly, Gervais also turned in the worst defensive effort of his eight-year NHL career, finishing the season with a minus-17 rating.

    Then, in the second and final season of his two-year pact, the Longueuil, Quebec, native then didn't even earn a spot on the Flyers roster. Gervais spent the entirety of the 2013-14 campaign with the Adirondack Phantoms, where he managed 10 goals and 26 points in 59 games to go along with 24 penalty minutes and a minus-14 rating.

    Now a member of the Colorado Avalanche, Gervais' signing wasn't catastrophic like Lecavalier or the next name on this list. It just didn't accomplish much of anything. For $1.65 million the Flyers got 37 NHL games and six points, which hardly seems like a fair return on their investment.

2011: Ilya Bryzgalov

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    In a three-year period from 2008 to 2011, the Flyers watched six different netminders tend the Philadelphia goal crease.

    Martin Biron, Antero Nittymaki, Brian Boucher, Michael Leighton, Ray Emery and Sergei Bobrovsky.

    In an effort to bring some long-term stability and success to the position, then-GM Paul Holmgren inked that summer's most coveted free-agent goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov, to a monstrous nine-year, $51 million contract. What ensued was one of the most turbulent, enigmatic and bizarre tenures of any player in Flyers history.

    During his first campaign with the orange and black, the former Anaheim Duck and Phoenix Coyote actually compiled a respectable regular season, going 33-16-7 with a 2.48 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. But Bryzgalov choked in the playoffs, as so many Philadelphia goaltenders had before him, going just 5-6 with a 3.46 GAA and .887 save percentage in 11 postseason outings.

    The following year wasn't much better.

    Even though Bryzgalov earned a 19-17 overall record during the 2012-13 regular season, he only managed a .900 save percentage and was frequently guilty of soft goals at bad times. What's worse, the quirky goaltender's off-ice comments and antics proved to be a constant distraction and weren't worth the mediocre production the Flyers were receiving from their high-priced netminder.

    In the end, Philadelphia used one of its two compliance buyouts without hesitation on its enigmatic goaltender, negating the final seven years of their partnership. Bryzgalov brought neither success nor stability to Philly's goal crease and it was only by the grace of the lockout and subsequent compliance buyouts that the Flyers, and their fans weren't burdened with an additional seven years of Bryz.

2010: Jody Shelley

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    Like the Gervais signing, this addition just didn't move the yardstick for the Flyers.

    On the first day of free agency in the summer of 2010, Philadelphia inked then-34-year-old hockey journeyman Jody Shelley to a three-year, $3.3 million deal.

    With 538 contests and 1,347 penalty minutes on his NHL resume at that time, Shelley brought a veteran presence and toughness to a Flyers squad coming off a six-game defeat to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final just a month prior.

    All told, Shelley enjoyed just 89 total appearances over the three years of his pact with the orange and black. After four points and 127 penalty minutes in 58 outings during the 2010-11 campaign, the 6'3", 230-pound power forward managed just one point and 31 total contests over the final two years of his contract.

    What's worse, Shelley dressed in just one NHL tilt during the 2012-13 season, meaning Philadelphia shelled out $900,000 for one game in the final year of his deal.

    Also like Gervais, Shelley was never going to be a game-changer for the Flyers, but a three-year pact was simply far too long for a player who was going to be in and out of Philly's lineup.

    In the end, the Flyers overpaid for next-to-no NHL production.

2009: Chris Pronger

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    The Flyers made headlines in advance of the 2009 NHL draft when Philadelphia shipped Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa and three draft picks, including two first-round selections, to the Anaheim Ducks for six-time All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger.

    The trade for Pronger wasn't the mistake that summer. Philly was in desperate need of a cornerstone defender, and the Flyers pulled out all the stops to land one of the game's truly elite blueliners.

    The mistake was the seven-year, $34.9 million extension the Flyers offered Pronger shortly thereafter.

    At the time of the trade, the 6'6", 210-pound defender had just one year remaining on a five-year, $31.25 million contract he signed back in 2005. Naturally, with as much as the Flyers gave up to secure Pronger, Philadelphia wanted to extend the former Hart Trophy winner, but seven years was just far too many for a then-34-year-old defenseman with already 15 seasons and more than 1,000 contests on his NHL resume.

    Pronger's first season in the City of Brotherly Love was a tremendous success.

    The Dryden, Ontario, native registered 10 goals and 55 points while not missing a single game during the regular season. Pronger was then a pivotal piece to Philly's first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1997, as he tallied four goals and 18 points in just 23 postseason outings.

    Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there.

    Pronger managed just five goals and 37 points in 63 games in a Flyers jersey since. Injuries limited him to just 50 games during the 2010-11 season and ultimately cut his career short after just 11 outings during the 2011-12 campaign.

    Fans in Philadelphia won't see Pronger hit the ice any time soon, but his contract won't expire until the close of the 2016-17 season. Both Pronger and the Flyers have been victims of terrible circumstances, but that doesn't negate the mistake that was the massive extension Philly doled out just a few years ago.