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Holmgren Addresses Upcoming Draft and More

by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers
(Philadelphia, PA) - While the official purpose of Monday’s conference call with Paul Holmgren was to talk about the upcoming NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles this weekend, there was a variety of topics that the general manager addressed with the local media.

Among them was the acquisition of the rights to defenseman Dan Hamhuis, whom the Flyers are trying to sign before July 1, as well as the goaltending situation and potential talks with Michael Leighton.

First, Hamhuis. The Flyers’ trade with Nashville over the weekend means that they have exclusive rights to negotiate with the prized free agent-to-be before he can potentially go πon the open market. Counting Monday, the Flyers have 10 days to get a deal done that would unquestionably boost their blue line depth.
Paul Holmgren and the Flyers made the biggest move on the first day of the draft last season, acquiring defenseman Chris Pronger from Anaheim. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Holmgren spoke personally with Hamhuis on Saturday after the deal became official.

“When I talked to Dan on Saturday I told him [to] just think about becoming a Philadelphia Flyer over the weekend. Try to think some things through. Obviously, he’s looking at unrestricted free agency on July 1, and that’s attractive to a lot of guys. You don’t get that opportunity [very often].

“He’s a guy that would create a lot of interest if he gets to that point, so I’ll talk to his agent in the next day or two and we’ll see what we can do.”

With the NHL’s salary cap reportedly going up approximately 2 million dollars next season, Holmgren’s goal is to get a deal for Hamhuis done, as well as keep restricted free agent Braydon Coburn.

“We’ll see how it all fits in,” said the general manager. “I plan on talking to Braydon’s agent in the next couple days and see where that goes. Our goal is to try to have them both signed.”

Holmgren was also pressed about what he and his staff plan on doing in goal for next season. Leighton is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and Holmgren admitted today that although he has not spoken with Leighton’s agent since the season ends, he intends to do so shortly.

When asked about what he might do, Holmgren essentially offered his philosophy on the position and how a goalie fits into the team mold.

“You look at the veteran goaltenders that played in the playoffs just this past season, look at the guys that were standing at the end. Obviously, Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher were the two guys that carried us through the playoffs. Then you look at Chicago – [Antii] Niemi was basically a rookie.

“I think you try to build your team and hope you have a strong team, and your goalie is just one of those guys that’s part of the team. Obviously, [he has] to stop the shots that he’s supposed to stop, but you need a strong team and I think that’s what we’re looking at right now, continuing to build our team and build a strong team. We’ll figure out the goaltending part here in the next little while. But, we do have options.”

* * *

The Flyers own a total of five picks in the upcoming draft in Los Angeles on Friday and Saturday; one each in rounds three through seven. Their first round pick was sent to Anaheim last season in the Chris Pronger trade, while their second round pick is owned by the Kings as part of the deal that sent Denis Gauthier to Los Angeles on July 1, 2008.

The question of potentially trading up in the draft seems to be a hot topic every year for Philadelphia, which rarely has one of the top picks in the draft due to a strong performance in the regular season and/or playoffs.

“I think you can never rule that out,” said Holmgren of the possibility. “It’s something we’ll continue to look at as we get closer to Friday, and we’ll see what happens.

“I think we need to be prepared for anything, and that’s why our scouting staff, even though they knew going into the year that we didn’t have a first round pick, you just have to prepare like you might get one. I think in the salary cap world, you just never know what may happen.”

The first round of the draft is set for Friday night (7:00 p.m., Versus), while rounds two through seven take place on Saturday (1:00 p.m., NHL Network). The Flyers have made a significant move on the first day the previous two years, with the Pronger trade last year and a deal with the Blue Jackets in 2008, when the Flyers acquired Columbus’ first round pick (Luca Sbisa) and third round pick (Marc-Andre Bourdon) for R.J. Umberger and a fourth round pick.

Holmgren mentioned that the Flyers already started stockpiling prospects earlier this year, signing collegians like Mike Testwuide and Erik Gustafsson, who were sought after by several NHL teams.

“We feel like we did stock our organization with some kids that have a chance,” he said. “We added some size on the wing (Testwuide and Ben Holmstrom), which we felt we were short at, and we feel like we signed another good, young defenseman in Erik Gustafsson out of Northern Michigan, so we’ve addressed some of our needs.

“Obviously with this draft, because we don’t have a first or second round pick at this time. A third round pick is big for us and we feel like we can get a good prospect there, as well.”
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