Flyers GM gets 2-year extension Paul Holmgren said that was plenty of time to make the team a winner. "I think it can be one year," he said.

Posted: March 15, 2007

It is logical for the average Flyers fan to see the team huddled deep in the basement of the NHL standings and conclude that it is going to be quite a while before the Flyers become a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

Paul Holmgren doesn't think so. He's convinced the two-year contract extension through the 2008-09 season that he received yesterday, when the Flyers officially committed to him as their general manager, is long enough to prove his point.

"I think it can be one year," Holmgren said yesterday. "I think the teams today are so close, parity is there. And I think with the right development of our young players this year - and I think they have developed - and the addition of a few players over the course of the summer, I think we can be a very, very competitive team next year."

Holmgren, 51, has drawn league-wide praise for the deals he has made since he took over as Flyers GM when Bob Clarke suddenly resigned on Oct. 22. Pierre McGuire, a former NHL coach and scout and hockey analyst for NBCsports.com, predicted that with Holmgren, the Flyers would turn things around as quickly as any team in the history of the league.

The job is far from finished, but Holmgren has made the Flyers more in tune with today's style of play by adding youthful speed, bringing in players such as forward Scottie Upshall and defensemen Braydon Coburn and Lasse Kukkonen. He also addressed the goaltending problems by acquiring Buffalo's Martin Biron, who can become a free agent after this season but is a signing priority for Holmgren.

Holmgren's deliberation in making long-term moves rather than hastily trying to upgrade the team for a run at this year's playoffs seemed to impress the Flyers' brass. With that approach, Peter Luukko, president of the Flyers' parent company, Comcast-Spectacor, said he and team chairman Ed Snider viewed Holmgren as someone more interested in structuring the team for the long haul rather than saving his job with short-term gains.

"Paul was put in a tough position, but right away he immediately thought about the long term," Luukko said. "He could have been in a position where he might have thought he should make some quick moves with our young players just to make it into the playoffs. It was Paul who recognized what the future was with the new game and with the salary cap and how to build a team. His ability showed his leadership qualities in starting to build a team that can compete for many years, not just to make the playoffs, but to win the Cup."

Holmgren's most impressive trade occurred in mid-February when he dealt Peter Forsberg to Nashville for Upshall, defenseman Ryan Parent and first- and third-round picks in this year's draft. Luukko called the trade "fantastic."

With two first- and two third-round picks in this year's draft, and with the Flyers well under the salary cap, they are expected to be a major player in the free-agent market this summer. Among their priorities are a first-line center and another puck-moving defenseman. With former Buffalo scout Don Luce now serving as the Flyers' director of player development, the Flyers may have an in if they try to sign either Daniel Briere or Chris Drury, two Sabres centers who are expected to test free agency.

By signing Holmgren, Luukko believes the Flyers are ahead of the curve because Holmgren has personally seen many prospects.

"When you look at Paul and the deals he's made for Scottie Upshaw and Coburn, we're in a unique position in that Paul has overseen the development of these players personally," Luukko said. "We're very fortunate that Paul is ahead of the curve because personally he's spent a lot of time looking at these players."

Holmgren has been with the Flyers for most of his hockey career, beginning as a rugged winger in the mid-1970s. He also served as head coach, director of player personnel, director of pro scouting, and assistant general manager. Now it's his task to pull the Flyers from the basement and restore their pride.

"In this year of transition for the Flyers, I think Paul has moved quickly and decisively to better our team on the ice and position ourselves for the future," Snider said. "He is very deserving of the opportunity to be our general manager."

Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.

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