The Train That Keeps On Wrecking
Just when Flyers fans thought it couldn’t get any worse, and opposing fans thought it couldn’t get any more hilarious, it did. General Manager Paul Holmgren signed another player, and the Flyers payroll went further over the salary cap. Surely, there is a method within this madness. The method is actually quite simple; someone with a big contract has to go. In the mangled mess that has been the Simon Gagne situation, no big contract has gone. Furthermore, Holmgren has put the team behind an eight-ball that will probably have them trading out of desperation and minimizing return value. Ah, the perils of Paul Holmgren.
Much to the chagrin of Flyers fans, it has become quite clear for some time now that Gagne is going to be traded. That much is known. What is not known is where he will end up or what the return will be. The rumor mill has said time and time again that Los Angeles seems to be the most likely trade partner, although they have apparently married and divorced Ilya Kovalchuk 24 times since the beginning of free agency. I don’t know if the Kovalchuk dominoes will affect Gagne, and quite frankly, I don’t care what happens to Kovalchuk at this point. Every other day it’s clear he’s going to sign. The paperwork is almost done. The deal will be full of incentives and 36 years long. Then, the next day Kovalchuk has murdered the negotiations. Ilya is entertaining joining the KHL, he wants to go home. Kovalchuk asked for an orange Bentley and that’s the hinging point of the deal. Blah, blah, blah. I’m tired of hearing about it and I’m tired of the news or lack thereof clogging my twitter feed like cholesterol clogs Kyle Wellwood’s arteries. Will Gagne be plan B for the Kings if Ilya goes elsewhere? Sure, why not. I just can’t help but wonder why Gagne hasn’t been traded there after this dysfunctional negotiating process. Maybe they just don’t want Simon that badly? Maybe, just maybe, the Flyers’ longest tenured player isn’t wanted elsewhere?
Even if Gagne is wanted elsewhere, it’s a sticky situation. Allow me to elaborate:
A. Gagne is continuously injured.
B. Gagne is old in hockey years.
C. Gagne has a 5 million dollar cap hit.
D. Gagne has one year remaining on his deal.
These four points help illustrate the problem. There is little to no demand for Gagne at this point in his career. He has been solid when healthy for the Flyers, but if I were the GM of team X, trading for him wouldn't exactly be my top priority. Trading him may have been a chore three weeks ago for the Flyers. Obviously he’s been shopped around, so it most likely was a chore three weeks ago. A chore that went unfinished. On top of the natural issues with attempting to trade the veteran, the Flyers completely mismanaged his no trade clause and created a mess that has turned into he said, she said. He is Gagne, who is adamant that he hasn’t waived his NTC. She is Paul Holmgren and the Flyers front office, who say he did. So from a buyer’s perspective, it’s clear that something weird is going on in Philadelphia. I don’t know that it pushes trade partners away, but it surely doesn’t intrigue them. Last, but not least, the Flyers have gone over the salary cap by more than two million dollars. Dan Carcillo has been retained, Nikolai Zherdev has been signed, and yet, no one has left. Many believe that the team also wants to sign Marty Turco to a short deal, but it’s assumed that would cost them around another two million dollars per year. Thus, Holmgren has completely ruined any leverage he would have in trading away Gagne and the last year on his contract. Paul Holmgren is desperate to unload Gagne; in fact, he’s almost as desperate as the fans who can’t seem to figure out why players are being signed with no cap flexibility. Any GM that answers the phone to hear Homer saying “Gagne” on the other end of the line will be smiling like a Cheshire cat immediately. The Flyers are in between a rock and hard place, and right now I can’t tell which one is worse.
I don’t know what Paul Holmgren and the Flyers are going to do to minimize the salary cap in the coming weeks. I would love for someone to realize that in this desperate situation, Jeff Carter could still be a valuable trade commodity. The boards behind the goals in the Wells Fargo Center surely feel the same. Sadly, I take no solace in my hope. Simon Gagne will probably be given away for a fistful of magic beans, and cap relief (if it can even be called that) will become reality. Whatever happens, it will be evident that the Flyers have mismanaged this situation beyond anyone’s wildest dreams or nightmares. As if it isn’t evident enough already.