Welcome back to the NHL Hot Stove! We’ve been apart too long. We’ll be discussing Paul Holmgren bossing up and Gary Bettman being a waste of cells. DISCLAIMER: I link to a lot of Darren Dreger tweets in this. Dude was scoopin’ everyone.
All things considered, this had been a pretty quiet off-season for the Philadelphia Flyers. It’s hard to say anything “noisy” when you stack it up against last season’s “Extreme Makeover: Locker Room Edition,” where they shipped Jeff Carter and Mike Richards out of town, giving the organization an instant facelift. Trading for Luke Schenn, signing guys like Ruslan Fedotenko and Bruno Gervais…it was all so…casual. Something felt off. This was so unlike Paul Holmgren.
Then, at around 1:00 a.m. today, the story started to circulate that the Flyers had signed Shea Weber to an offer sheet that will likely be the last deal of its kind before the new Collective Bargaining Agreement takes hold. 14 years, $110 million. In the first calendar year, it is reported that Shea Weber will be owed $27 million. As Nashville was tentative to give Weber anything more than $7 million/season when they negotiated last season, according to TSN”s Darren Dreger, one would think the back-to-back-to-back-to-back $14 million seasons won’t be matched by the Predators. If the Predators aren’t able, as everyone seems to suspect, this is right up there with the coup that Minnesota pulled on Independence Day, getting Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to sign with them. This brings me to my larger point: Paul Holmgren is the Godfather of the NHL Off-Season.
Right when all the hockey focus had shifted to the CBA talks (oh, keep reading, Gary,) Paul Holmgren decided to shift the spotlight, once again, by making a pretty heavy power move for Shea Weber. The Flyers had reportedly been asked for Sean Couturier, a Schenn, and another trade chip for Weber in their talks with Nashville. Evidently, Paul Holmgren decided he was less than pleased with this, and said “Screw it, they can have all of my first rounders over the next four years. We’re doing this my way.” Make no mistake, this was the baptism scene from Godfather I.
The Rangers, Sharks, Red Wings, and Flyers were all in talks with the Predators regarding the price tag that would come with a trade for the franchise blue-liner. Much like the short period of time after Vito Corleone called the meeting with the Five Families, there was a calm, and then everything blew up. The Flyers took the Corleone route, and decided to be the ones blowing it up. They waited until everything had calmed down, and then they assassinated the opposition, when nobody suspected such a sweeping attack. Cold-blooded. Executives from the Rangers, Sharks, and Red Wings were probably asleep, or going to sleep, thinking they had a shot at one of the best defensemen in the NHL, and woke up learning Paul Holmgren decided to pop caps and make this a two-team race. I hate to break it to you Nashville, but it looks like you’re going to be Mo Green in this one.
Even if Nashville finds a way to muster up the financial wherewithal to match the offer the Flyers made to Shea Weber, they’d be cutting off their entire face to spite their nose, essentially. They’d have to surround him with the Hanson Brothers, and probably the Ringling Brothers, too. The fact is, it just doesn’t seem like they’d be able to deal with the payments this deal would require, and they’re going to lose this battle. Forget the poison pill offer sheet the Houston Rockets signed Jeremy Lin to, at which the Knicks decided to turn up their noses. This wasn’t a poison pill. The Flyers poisoned Nashville’s entire water supply.
Provided this goes through, Paul Holmgren will have locked down the Flyers blue-line for years to come with Luke Schenn, 22, and Shea Weber, 26, as his anchors. If you told Flyers fans that they could do that for the price of $110 million, James van Riemsdyk, and four first round picks, most of them probably would have said yes. Rightly so. This off-season has shown off, once again, the exceptional negotiation prowess and asset management skills of Paul Holmgren and the Flyers’ front office. They bossed up so hard, that they got one Philadelphia blogger to start a Twitter hashtag dedicated to a certain part of Paul “Homer” Holmgren’s anatomy. If that doesn’t effectively show you what Paul Holmgren accomplished by making this deal, nothing will.
On the CBA
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this, because it’s very early in the negotiating stages. However, I will take enough time to say this. Gary Bettman should get booed at the next 10 Stanley Cup presentations. End of story. Los Angeles takes it easy on him, and then the NHLPA gets the slap-in-the-face offer that the owners handed down last week. Obviously these two things aren’t actually related, but it’s pretty symbolic. He’s gotten booed at every Stanley Cup presentation since the lockout. The league is experiencing a great deal of momentum and any analysis of the trends on Twitter during NHL playoff games leads one to believe that the game had finally found its way back into the mainstream, however far on the periphery of the mainstream it might have been. The TV ratings were on the rise in the early rounds, and were strong before a lot of ratings-averse upsets. You’d think this momentum would inspire the owners to make a reasonable offer in the interest of preserving a good thing. Then again, the NBA was coming off a historic high before their work stoppage last summer. These are the people who control most of the money in the economy!
10 years in the NHL before unrestricted free agency? 5 year contract maximums? 11% rollback on player salaries? Stop it. It’s Gary Bettman’s job to represent the owners, and I understand that. However, there comes a time when you need to say “Hey, guys. We eventually have to ACTUALLY LOOK AT THESE PEOPLE AGAIN.” I understand “starting high” but the first CBA proposal in this negotiation suggested the owners actually were high when they made it. This better get straightened out soon. I don’t want to think about the alternative.
Stay tuned for more updates from the stove!