Inside the Flyers: Flyers begin life without Luukko

JOSEPH KACZMAREK / Staff Photographer
JOSEPH KACZMAREK / Staff Photographer
Posted: December 09, 2013

DALLAS - For better or worse, the Flyers are now Paul Holmgren's team more than ever before.

That's the end result of Monday's bombshell: Peter Luukko's resignation as president of the Flyers' parent company, Comcast-Spectacor.

While a majority of Luukko's duties were on the business side, he was vital to decisions made by Holmgren, the Flyers' general manager.

Luukko was Holmgren's confidante, his right-hand man, the person who acted as a sounding board for the GM.

The Big Three was composed of Holmgren, Luukko, and team chairman Ed Snider.

Dave Scott has become the acting president of Comcast-Spectacor, but no one has been appointed to fill Luukko's spot with the Flyers.

Snider made it sound as if it will remain that way.

"We're fine as we're now situated," he said before boarding a plane to California on Friday. "As of now, we have no plans for a third person. I'm quite comfortable with that."

As was the case before Luukko stepped down to pursue "something fun" and "different," Snider has to sign off on any moves made by Holmgren.

Luukko had the ability to talk Holmgren out of moves. Snider says he won't do that.

"If I did, then I would be the general manger. It doesn't work that way," he said. "The final decision rests with Paul."

Holmgren has a good support staff that includes assistant general managers Ron Hextall and Barry Hanrahan and scouting director Chris Pryor. So while he said he will miss Luukko's input, he doesn't think it will be a major issue.

"I have enough resources at my hands," he said, though he added Luukko was a "big asset" on personnel moves because of the financial expertise he brought to the table.

Holmgren was on the hot seat when the Flyers got off to a 1-7 start, but acquiring Steve Downie for Max Talbot has worked out better than anyone could have expected, helping give the team more scoring balance among its top three lines.

Holmgren gets high marks for that deal and the one that rescued goalie Steve Mason from Columbus.

Because of Mason's brilliance, the Flyers are virtually assured of being in every game - and when is the last time you could say that about a Flyers goalie?

After the calendar turns to 2014, Holmgren is expected to have talks with Mason's agent, Anton Thun, about a long-term deal for the 25-year-old goaltender. Mason can become a restricted free agent in the summer, but if I'm reading the tea leaves correctly, it won't get that far.

The Flyers want Mason, and Mason wants the Flyers.

Thun noted that Mason took a pay cut - a "haircut" is how he colorfully described it - to sign a $1.5 million contract for this season. By signing, Mason bypassed a chance to receive a qualifying offer of at least $3.2 million.

That's true, but there was a chance that offer wouldn't have been made. It's also true the Flyers took a chance on Mason when his value was so depleted that he had become a backup.

Thun realizes that. "It was a nice landing spot," he said last week.

Mason could be an RFA with arbitration rights, but the feeling here is he will sign a long-term deal. Thun mentioned Carey Price and Cam Ward as goalies who "come to mind" as comparable to Mason.

Both are more proven than Mason and both are making big money. Price, a three-time all-star, is on a six-year, $39 million deal. Ward, who has a Stanley Cup on his resumé, is on a six-year, $37.8 million contract.

Based on those numbers, Mason, who struggled in his last three-plus years with Columbus before regaining his confidence with the Flyers, is probably looking at a four- or five-year deal that will average in the $4.5 million to $5 million range.

Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the longest term a team can offer is eight years. After getting burned by Ilya Bryzgalov on a nine-year, $51 million deal, the Flyers aren't expected to go longer than five years - if they go that long.

Bryzgalov's me-first persona was a distraction in the locker room. The down-to-earth Mason, on the other hand, is known as the ultimate teammate.

"If we're comparing Steve Mason's personality to Ilya Bryzgalov's, we're looking at the other side of the mirror," Thun said. "Part of building an organization is talent, and the other part is character."

Mason has that character, and he figures to be handsomely rewarded by Holmgren for returning to his rookie-of-the-year form.

But it will be Snider, not Luukko, who will be the general manager's sounding board on how big the payday should be.


scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull

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