As many fans in the Flyers world are aware Holmgren has admitted to "putting their name in the hat if Mats Sundin decides to return".
Holmgren admitting to this got me thinking about the possible reason(s) for trying to squeeze a 37-year-old veteran who will command $5M+ per season into a line up full of young talent.
Not to mention the Flyers cap issues.
Well here is what I came up with. If you are a Flyers fan reading this you may want to sit down before you continue on.
I believe Sundin is an insurance plan for the eventual trading away of Jeff Carter. That's right, I believe Carter will be sacrificed at some point to obtain what Philly requires most to truly compete in the eastern conference: a puck moving, offensive-minded defenseman.
Now now hear me out.
Holmgren is gambling on the hope that both Rathje and Hatcher retire or at least qualify to be listed on the long term injured reserve list thus freeing up $7 million that is currently counted against the cap (or at least Hatcher's $3.5 million is currently).
If that were to happen, the Flyers could conceivably sign Sundin with no real major and immediate impacts to the current roster. Once again, however, the Flyers would be at the cap limit and that makes an already tough task nearly impossible.
That task is trying at some point to acquire that sought after defenseman. Puck-moving defensemen are the big deal these days and once the season gets going the only way to acquire one will be via the trade route.
These types of defensemen usually range in the salary range of $3.5M-7M so the Flyers would have to be prepared to make the space for that salary. This is where Carter comes in. Any team that speaks trade with the Flyers immediately asks about Carter's availability. Any team willing to part with a top notch offensively skilled defenseman will most assuredly want Carter in return.
Carter's $5 million annual salary also makes him a prime candidate to be parted with to clear the cap space to enable Philadelphia to acquire said defenseman. We all know that paying your third line centre $5 million annually is not a great idea and Holmgren really awarded that contract to Carter to ensure not losing him to an Restricted Free Agent offer sheet.
It's a contract that will keep Carter looking attractive to the rest of the NHL and shouldn't hinder any attempts to unload him.
The Flyers interest in Jay Bouwmeester has been talked about quite a bit this summer. His re-signing for one-year at $4 million almost guarantees a trade at some point during the season, most likely at the trade deadline.
Florida, a team in constant re-building mode, will certainly ask for a package containing one-young NHL seasoned player, maybe two and a draft pick (more than likely the pick will be a 1st rounder as Florida will be dealing with contending teams).
So if Holmgren wants to bring Bouwmeester aboard he will need to clear up to $5 million in cap space. Carter makes $5 million/year. Florida will want a young seasoned NHL player of quality. Carter fits that description to a tee.
This is where Mats Sundin comes in. So Holmgren now has the insurance to keep the Flyers a three line deep scoring threat while acquiring that true top four puck-moving defenseman in Jay Bouwmeester.
Sundin has two years of decent hockey in him and the Flyers will ride him out all the while ensuring Claude Giroux is ready to be an offensive force for the 2010 season essentially replacing Sundin and Carter. (of course winning the Stanley Cup in these next years makes the plan perfect)
As much as I would hate to see Carter flourish in another jersey (and we all know he would) I can truly say that if that was Holmgren's plan and it worked out I would not be able to find fault in that strategy.
Sundin would keep the Flyers a contender for the next two seasons, Bouwmeester's arrival would immediately strengthen Philly's number one concern and Giroux has certainly showed at the junior level that he should have some impact on the pro level and by 2010, I'm confident Giroux would be hitting his stride in the NHL.
Carter for Sundin and Bouwmeester isn't that bad of a trade.