One thing you can say about Holmgren, he was not afraid to make a move. During his eight years as GM, he made 66 trades…on average eight a year. Now, to be fair, many of these are typical draft day deals…”We’ll trade you our fifth round this year and six round next year for your lower fourth round pick this year.”
Among the best trades he made:
- The broken down shell of Peter Forsberg to Nashville for Ryan Parent, Scottie Upshall, and some draft picks.
- Trading away the remnants of Alexei Zhitnik for Braydon Coburn.
- Trading Nashville back their first round pick for Kimmo Timonen & Scott Hartnell.
- Somehow getting a first and third rounder for RJ Umberger and a fourth rounder.
- Getting Dan Carcillo for Upshall.
- Trading Joffrey Lupul, Lucas Sbias, two first rounders and a conditional third rounder to acquire Chris Pronger and Ryan Dingle.
- Trading away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, in two separate deals, and getting in return: Jakub Voracek, 2011 1st rounder (Sean Couturier), 2011 3rd rounder (Nick Cousins), Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn.
- Trading Kris Versteeg for the pick that became Shayne Gostisbehere.
- Sending Michael Leighton to Columbus for Steve Mason.
But he also made some clunkers:
- Trading a first rounder for Steve Eminger.
- In two separate trades, trading away Vaclav Prospal and Simon Gagne…again.
- Trading a first rounder away to get Versteeg in the first place.
- Trading a few minor prospects to land Ilya Bryzgalov. While this involved, in a way, the Richards/Carter trades, it just never worked out.
- Sergei Bobrovsky for some draft picks.
- James van Riemsdyk for Luke Schenn never panned out like it was intended. JVR became a star in Toronto while Schenn played adequately for Philly, but was never a shutdown defender.
So the Bryz trade didn’t work out. Nobody knew he was nuts. But you have to respect the boldness. Holmgren traded a lot to get Pronger, who was old by that point. But Pronger, until his injury, was a dynamic force who helped guide the Flyers to the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals. And had his career not been cut down by a concussion, they may have returned. Likewise, the Carter/Richards trades affected this team for years.
General managers sign lots of free agents. Some are depth pieces that we never see as they are vets still trying to make it at the AHL level. (Artem Anisimov anyone?) Some underperform. However, sometimes you strike gold.
Holmgren definitely struck gold when he signed Daniel Briere to an eight year, $52 million contract in 2007. Likewise, after the trade to acquire him, he signed Kimmo Timonen. In 2009, he signed Ian Laperriere to a three year, $3.5 million deal, which turned out to be super cheap when you look at what he did as a Flyer.
In 2011, he signed aged veteran Jaromir Jagr to a one year deal for $3.5 million. Why the Flyers never re-signed him is beyond me. He would later become an All-Star with Florida and still plays in the Czech League. However, the leadership he showed to young stars like Claude Giroux, JVR, Simmonds, and Brayden Schenn is incalculable. It’s one of the best free agent moves by Holmgren, and one of the worst in not retaining his services.
And speaking of vets, he also signed Vincent Lecavalier to a five year deal in 2013. Lecavalier spent a little more than two seasons in Philly. In his first year, he scored 20 goals but his skills declined the following year as he battled injuries. It was a bold move that didn’t pay out.
However, his boldest move was the one that didn’t happen. In 2012, Holmgren offered restricted free agent Shea Weber a monster offer sheet. It was worth 14 years for a whopping total of $110 million with a $13 million signing bonus. With Pronger out because of his concussion, Weber could’ve theoretically taken his spot.
It was assumed that Nashville wouldn’t re-sign him. The Predators did match the deal, but you have to give Holmgren credit for trying to swing for the fences. Perhaps the 2010s Flyers would’ve been different had they had Weber.