Even though Paul Holmgren did quite a few good things during his tenure as the Flyers general manager, there are a bunch of blemishes on his resume as well. Desperately trying to win a Stanley Cup in the early 2010’s, he became desperate and started to throw some big money around at players who didn’t necessarily deserve it, but who were his biggest mistakes?
Number 5- Chris Pronger
The Flyers couldn’t help how Pronger’s career came to an end, but they could’ve helped the contract they signed him to. After acquiring the veteran defenseman from the Anaheim Ducks in 2009, he signed a seven-year extension in the summer of 2010. Since he was over 35 when he signed the contract, the Flyers were on the hook for his $4.9 million cap hit if he retired before the contract ended. Well, that’s exactly what happened. Pronger’s playing career came to an end in early 2011 and the Flyers were responsible for five more years of his contract. He was on the books until the summer of 2015 when his contract was traded to the Arizona Coyotes.
Number 4- Mike Richards
Technically, the fall of Mike Richards didn’t happen under the Flyers watch, but based on his off-ice habits, it was seemingly only a matter of time before he came undone. Richards signed a 12-year, $69 million deal with the Flyers in the summer of 2008, but was later traded to the LA Kings in the summer of 2011 for Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn. He helped the Kings win two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014, but the following season, Richards was demoted to the AHL after scoring just 16 points in 53 games. His contract, which still had five years left, was terminated in the summer of 2015 after “a material breach of his Standard Player’s Contract” after being arrested at the boarder with oxycodone without a prescription. Richards filed a grievance and later reached a settlement with the Kings that will see him earn about $600,000 a year until 2032.
Number 3- Vincent Lecavalier
The 33-year-old Vincent Lecavalier found himself bought out of his only team he had known, the Tampa Bay Lightning, in the summer of 2013. Still seeing potential in the aging forward, Paul Holmgren signed Lecavalier to a five-year, $22.5 million deal as he thought he’d be a good fit with head coach Peter Laviolette, the issue is, only three games into the 2013-14 season the Flyers fired Laviolette and replaced him with Craig Berube, who immediately put Lecavalier in his dog house. After struggling for two-and-half seasons with the Flyers, he was dealt to the LA Kings for Jordan Weal and Lecavalier retired after the 2016 season came to an end.
Number 2- Ilya Bryzgalov
After the Flyers’ two previous seasons ended in highly anticipated playoff runs being undone by shoddy goaltending, the front office was desperate to find a starting goaltender to keep their Cup window alive. Enter Ilya Bryzgalov. After four strong seasons in Phoenix he was signed by the Flyers in the summer of 2011 to a nine-year, $51 million contract. Even though he was a work horse, his play was so wildly inconsistent and his off-ice antics were quickly souring public opinion on him. After the 2012-13 lockout came to an end, teams were granted two compliance buyouts, one of which the Flyers used on Bryzgalov, just two seasons into his nine year deal.
Number 1- Andrew MacDonald
One of the last things Paul Holmgren did before his “promotion” was acquire Andrew MacDonald at the 2014 trade deadline, then sign him to a six-year, $30 million contract. It was a mind-numbing signing at the time, and hamstrung the organization for five years. Being overused by coach Dave Hakstol and dominated by all competition across the league, MacDonald was a disaster for the Flyers until he was finally, mercifully, bought out by Chuck Fletcher in the summer of 2019.
Originally an undrafted free agent out of college, Matt Read may be one of the biggest one-hit wonders in recent Flyers history. After bursting onto the scene in 2011-12, he scored 24 goals and 47 points. Two seasons later he’d hit the 20-goal, 40-point mark again and was rewarded with a four-year $14.5 million contract. Immediately after signing his new deal he just about disappeared completely. Scoring just 31 goals and 77 points over the next four seasons, he just couldn’t live up to the contract, eventually finding himself in the AHL.
If we’re going to include Mike Richards, Jeff Carter should be talked about as well. Even though his career is still chugging along, it’s a pretty good rule of thumb to never sign a player for 11 years. Now 35 years old, Carter’s output has slowed tremendously since he signed his deal in Philly in November of 2010, and some injuries have made his last few seasons with LA difficult for the Kings to deal with.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: zimbio.com