Flyers give GM Holmgren a three-year extension

Posted: January 19, 2011

With Paul Holmgren as general manager, the Flyers have climbed from the bottom of the NHL to the top of the Eastern Conference, prompting the club to give him a three-year contract extension on Tuesday.

The deal is in the $4.5 million range, according to an NHL source.

Holmgren's current contract expires after the 2011-12 season. The extension runs through the end of 2014-15.

Ed Snider, chairman of the Flyers' parent company, Comcast-Spectacor, said he was "particularly proud" of Holmgren's imprint on the franchise. "He continually finds the right opportunities to improve our team and get us closer to our ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup," Snider said.

Holmgren, 55, thanked the Flyers' brass for their confidence in him, then saluted the fans who stuck with the team even when they drifted to the bottom of the league in 2006-07.

"Philadelphia is such a great sports town," Holmgren said. "I'm really honored and proud to be a part of what is going on here. I think our fans are ravenous, and our fans are passionate. All of the sports teams in this town are all pushing each other, and pushing the envelope trying to win the championship in their respective sports."

Last year, the Flyers qualified for the playoffs on the last day of the regular season - if they hadn't made it, Holmgren's job was safe, said a club source - and then reached the Stanley Cup Finals before losing in six games to Chicago.

They have carried the momentum of last year's playoffs into this season, and they were 29-11-5 and had an Eastern Conference-best 63 points heading into Tuesday's game against Washington.

Among Holmgren's moves in the last two seasons: hiring coach Peter Laviolette and acquiring Chris Pronger, Ville Leino, and Andrej Meszaros in trades.

Because of the Flyers' success in last year's playoffs "and the tenacity of our team this season," the club felt "this was the right time" for the contract extension, said Peter Luukko, Comcast-Spectacor's president. "This sends a message to our fans, players, and coaches that we are committed to winning, and that our organization will be stable for years to come."

When Holmgren was first hired as interim general manager on Oct. 22, 2006 - he replaced Bob Clarke - the Flyers were anything but stable. Holmgren was named the permanent GM about three weeks later, and the Flyers finished that season with an NHL-worst 56 points.

Late in that disastrous season, Holmgren dealt past-his-prime Peter Forsberg to Nashville for Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, and a first-round pick that he later traded back to the Predators for the rights to Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell. That deal sent the transformation in motion. So did acquiring Braydon Coburn from Atlanta for Alexei Zhitnik late in 2006-07.

The next season, the Flyers improved by a league-best 39 points, finishing 42-29-11 for 95 points and reaching the conference finals.

"Coming out of the lockout [in 2004-05], the game has definitely been called differently and he had to adjust, and he did by adding speed and skill," Luukko said. "But he hasn't changed the Flyers' identity - we're still a gritty and blue-collar team - and that wasn't easy to do."

Holmgren said he relies heavily on assistant GMs Barry Hanrahan (the salary-cap specialist) and John Paddock, along with Chris Pryor, the director of hockey operations, and Clarke, the club's senior vice president.

Adding puck-moving defensemen has keyed the team's success, Holmgren said, and "part of being a Flyer involves bringing your lunch pail to work. I don't think that's ever going away. That's part of our culture and tradition here."

Holmgren is in his 32d year with the organization. In his role as general manager - and, before that, as assistant GM - he was heavily involved in the scouting and drafting of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk, and Andreas Nodl. Holmgren also added Matt Carle in a trade that helped bolster the defense.

Danny Briere, Sergei Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher, Blair Betts, Sean O'Donnell, Darroll Powe, Ian Laperriere, Nik Zherdev, and Jody Shelley are among his free-agent signings.

Signing Briere in the summer of 2007 was also a major part of the Flyers' revival.

"I just believed in the direction he was going with," said Briere, explaining why he signed with the Flyers.

Briere said the crew-cut-sporting Holmgren, who looks as if he just got out of boot camp, projects "a lot of confidence. It starts at the top. He knows where he's going and he knows what he wants from his team."

Holmgren said he was grateful for the extension.

The feeling was mutual.

Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181 or Follow on Twitter at


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