Frank Seravalli: Pieces falling into place for Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren

Posted: June 26, 2012

PITTSBURGH — Paul Holmgren was standing in the bowels of the Consol Energy Center, briefcase in tow, after restocking the Flyers' farm system in the 50th annual NHL daft with picks that will take years to grade.

He was asked whether he was disappointed that the Flyers did not make a big, headline-stealing splash in Pittsburgh to upend the host Penguins.

Holmgren chuckled, already knowing that he was knee-deep in negotiations with the Maple Leafs to bring Luke Schenn to Philadelphia. He just couldn't say it.

"Who knows what tomorrow is going to bring," Holmgren said with an awry grin.

On the surface, as the league's general managers shuffled past Holmgren out of the arena, hustling to their charter flights, Pittsburgh looked like the clear winner of the weekend. Ray Shero cleared out nearly $7 million in salary-cap space, collected a lottery pick in Derick Pouliot, and No. 22 overall selection Olli Maatta.

Very clearly, Shero began to bank the bucks on Friday to make a push for some (or all) of the big boys on the open market.

And the Flyers? Well, they appeared to be stuck in neutral. On the surface.

Now, with Schenn in town, and James van Riemsdyk jettisoned to the most persnickety hockey market in the world on the exact 1-year anniversary of the most stunning trades in franchise history, the offseason picture is in-focus.

In fact, the Flyers really don't even need to do all that much tinkering. Especially if Matt Carle agrees to sign on the dotted line on July 1 to remain in Philadelphia for a somewhat reasonable price.

Schenn, 22, was the exact piece the Flyers needed to fill out their blueline. He fits the salary cap, is young and has room to grow, he's got 310 games under his belt already, and he brings a consistent effort to the ice every night.

With Carle in the fold, the Flyers will ice a deep defensive corps when the puck drops on Oct. 11: Carle, Schenn, Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros and Nick Grossmann. It was a marked, overnight improvement.

The flip side, as most pessimists point out, is that the Flyers will need to somehow find a way to replace the offense lost from van Riemsdyk.

You know, since "JVR" was always such a consistent scorer.

Does that argument sound familiar? Every pundit was concerned with the Flyers' scoring capability heading into last season with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter gone. They ended up with five more goals scored.

And that's with van Riemsdyk — one of two players supposedly to benefit with Carter and Richards out of the picture — cutting his production in nearly half (from 21 to 11) thanks to an injury-riddled campaign. It didn't faze the Flyers and neither will his departure.

The Flyers are in a serious position of strength heading into the opening of free agency. Assuming restricted free agent Jake Voracek re-signs and his salary bumps to $3 million and Chris Pronger's $4.9 million is moved to the long-term injury list, the Flyers will have approximately $14 million to spend (with a $70.2 million upper limit) on one forward, one defenseman and a backup goaltender.

Let's say Carle is back for $4.5 million and they get a savvy, veteran backup netminder for $900,000. That would leave Holmgren just under $9 million for the season to take a run at one of the premier free agents.

Not even Zach Parise, who I'm not even sold the Flyers are gunning for, will be paid $9 million next season. There are 9 million different ways to spend that $9 million, like throwing another $3.5 million at Jaromir Jagr and adding a mid-level free agent defenseman to round things out. Or, they can make that pitch for Parise.

Two things are clear: Holmgren is thankfully not interested in moving any of his young pieces to make one big run at a Cup and that this version of the Flyers isn't all that different from the one you'll see on the ice in October (or whenever).

Sometimes, when it seems like there may not be all that much going on, Holmgren is waiting to play that one ace up his sleeve. It's all coming into focus now.  

Contact Frank Seravalli at seravaf@phillynews.com or @DNFlyers on Twitter.

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