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Simon Gagne Trade Leaves Philadelphia GM Coming Up Empty

BOSTON - MAY 10:  Simon Gagne #12 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates his goal in the third period against the Boston Bruins in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on May 10, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Flyers defeated the Bruins 4-0.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
Victor FiloromoCorrespondent IJuly 19, 2010

At the very least, this is hard to digest. For ten years, Simon Gagne called Philadelphia home.

He was as much a part of the city as the Liberty Bell or Ben Franklin. It’s easy to go the sentimental route with this, but that can be avoided. This is understandable. It is, as they say, a business.

It’s a business that has seen Philadelphia sports institutions like Brian Dawkins and Donovan McNabb go to Denver and Washington respectively. Bobby Abreu’s trade to the New York Yankees also comes to mind.

The business can be good, and it can be bad. It’s not a problem to see longtime stalwarts like Gagne go. It is a problem to see players like Gagne moved in a deal as incomprehensible as this one.

Sure, the Flyers had limited options heading into this offseason. The goal of trading a big-name roster player such as Jeff Carter, Scott Hartnell, or Gagne seemed appealing should the team be able to upgrade the goaltending position.

But the goaltending options were never particularly strong, and the Flyers seem content to head into next season with Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher tending the twine.

In that case, the trade of Gagne is tough to swallow. The Flyers could have easily kept Gagne and tweaked other things.

They now have seven viable starting defensemen, but the ways in which they were added to the roster is somewhat baffling. Sean O’Donnell would be a great sixth defenseman. Unfortunately, so would Matt Walker, whom the Flyers have acquired in the trading of Gagne.

It has become clear that this was purely a salary dump by Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren. He was attempting to clear Gagne’s $5.25 million salary from the books in what may not have been a necessary move.

A lot of people will argue and say that “it had to happen” because this was the position the Flyers were in. It was Holmgren who worked himself into this situation and  he simply wasn’t able to work himself out of it.

In the end, the Flyers made two separate trades with the Tampa Bay Lightning this offseason. If you want to combine them into one trade, the Flyers received Andrej Meszaros, Walker, and a fourth round pick and dealt Gagne and a second round pick.

And what did they do in those trades? They ended up adding salary to the team.

Holmgren could have gone about things quite differently this offseason. They could have nipped here and tucked there.

They could have traded defenseman Braydon Coburn, who had a relatively disappointing 2009-2010 season. Instead, he was rewarded with a new two-year contract as a restricted free agent.

They could have avoided signing Nikolai Zherdev to a one-year, two million dollar deal.

They could have done a lot of things.

It’s reasonable that players like Scott Hartnell or Daniel Briere (who owns a $6.5 million cap hit through 2014) didn’t have a certain worth on the market.

Holmgren seemed determined to ship Gagne, who has given everything he has to this team over the last ten years. He’s dealt with his share of injuries, but if Holmgren’s reasoning for shedding Gagne from the roster was injury risk and this was the return value, he would have been better off holding on to the 30-year-old winger for another season.

In his first major move, new Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman fell into a perfect spot. He now will oversee a team that has Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, and Gagne up front.

Though Paul Holmgren has been in the Flyers’ front office in various capacities for the past 15 seasons, it was he, not Yzerman who looks to have made a rookie mistake.

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