Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren's 2010 offseason plans seem to be counterproductive after the inspiring playoff run that almost went into a seventh game in the Stanley Cup finals. If not for the unfortunate "phantom goal" that slipped past Michael Leighton, the Flyers might have had enough momentum to have beaten the Chicago Blackhawks in a deciding final game.
Looking at the Flyers offseason so far, the team looks to be ruining their chances of returning to the finals mainly by looking to trade away Simon Gagné. The 30-year-old, who is longest tenured Flyer, deserves to remain with the Eastern Conference Champions for everything he's done over the years in a Flyers uniform.
For long-time Flyers fans, the thought of Gagné wearing anything but orange and black is unimaginable.
With the NHL salary cap, it is understandable why Holmgren would want to clear an older player in Gagné's $5.25 million salary. The Flyers need the flexibility to re-sign Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux to long-term extensions as both are vital in their future plans.
There isn't any room for loyalty in the modern NHL but a player like Gagné deserves it as he's done everything possible to help the club by coming back from multiple concussions ahead of schedule and playing with a broken foot during the 2009-10 playoffs.
The Flyers could have kept him around for the final year of his deal and then tried to see if the loyal Gagné would take a pay-cut to remain with the only club he's ever played for.
Holmgren could have easily retained Gagné, a player who still puts up numbers of a top forward when healthy and inspirationally takes his game up a notch come playoff time.
The signing of Nikolai Zherdev for $2 million seems like a questionable acquisition as the New York Rangers previously weren't able to find his potential. Holmgren is taking a huge gamble in Zherdev who could be rejuvenated in returning to the NHL but the Flyers could have spent their money better elsewhere.
The trade for Andrej Meszároš also seems a waste of valuable cap space that could have been used to keep Gagné around. Meszároš looked like an emerging talent as he was named in the All-Rookie team in 2006 but his numbers have dwindled since signing a six-year, $24 million contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2008.
His $4 million 2009-10 salary escalates to $4.75 million in 2012-13 and a whopping $5.50 million in the final year of his contact in 2013-14. Philadelphia could have found better defensive value in Kurtis Foster who landed in Edmonton for $3.6 million over two years.
The acquisitions of Meszároš and Zherdev better pay off for the Flyers as they are gambling on players who haven't made good on their early career potential.
Unfortunately, the exit of a popular and productive player in Gagné will be the collateral used for Philadelphia landing a solid goaltender and in gaining some flexibility to extend the contracts of the Flyers' younger stars.
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