With this hockey season fast approaching, it’s no surprise that the excitement has started well before the opening game. This offseason for the Flyers was a surprisingly positive one, with Holmgren making moves that were uncharacteristic of his usual plan to make confusingly unnecessary deals with players who don’t have a clear purpose. Well this offseason is just about over and so are Holmgren’s good moves.
If this is going back to the strategy of taking the “best available” player, it doesn’t make much sense. Fans and beat writers alike are completely confused by the latest move by Holmgren. Cleary, a 3rd line winger at best, was given a 3 year $7.75million deal, which is one year too many for most people, and a No Trade Clause because the Red Wings wouldn’t so why the hell not? The deal can’t be made official yet because as of now, the Flyers are over the salary cap. Until Chris Pronger can be put onto the Long Term Injury Reserve, the Flyers can’t sign anyone.
Over the weekend it was announced that Cleary was invited to the Flyers training camp for a PTO which had fans scratching their heads but not worried. Just a try out couldn’t do any harm, it was even thought by some reporters that the Flyers were doing Cleary a favor and letting him showcase for OTHER teams so that someone might have an interest. The Flyers should have had no interest in Cleary, as of right now they are over the cap and they have an extensive crop of other players that fill the same role, all of them younger than Cleary. Among those players already suited to handle Cleary’s position are rookies Tye McGinn, Jason Akeson, or Scott Laughton or even veteran Simon Gagne.
The contract that Cleary received is the most unsavory part of this trade. Last night it was a back and forth with multiple announcements that Cleary was signing with the Flyers and then that he definitely wasn’t because he was set on staying with Detroit. Detroit had other plans however and wouldn’t give the aging offenseman what he wanted. Fortunately for him the Flyers exist. According to everyone, Cleary is on the decline and has knee problems so a 3 year deal is a bit too long to risk. Besides the age and decline of Cleary, this also means that younger players will get pushed back even longer. Players like Scott Laughton, who we had a brief preview of last season and who many fans looked forward to seeing what he might do as a full time Flyer, will be looked over now. Tim Panaccio said what we’re all thinking last night before the deal was official:
This doesn’t mean there isn’t any silver lining, however thin and uncertain it is, as Cleary does add a few things to the roster. As a good two way player, Cleary adds some versatility to the 3rd line and some playoff experience (nothing that Gagne also couldn’t offer) Cleary also adds a certain amount of grit to a Couturier, Read line. Cleary can be a versatile add to our 3rd line and could add some mentoring for Couturier.
The slight positives to Cleary make this a seriously confusing move. It also strikes a bad note with me personally because well I liked Gagne, he’s a loyal player who offered to accept less money to stay in Philly and a 1 or even 2 year deal with Gagne would have been preferable to Cleary’s 3 years with a NTC. That being said it is understood that Gagne has a history with injuries so Cleary might be a safer bet….for the 1st year. Besides that, by the 3rd year of his contract his pay will be below average NHLer salary so we won’t be paying TOO much for the risk.
We’ll just have to see what comes of this acquisition and hope that Cleary fits right in and that no more Flyers type moves are made before the season starts.