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Paul Holmgren Recaps the First Day of Free Agency

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers
Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren held a conference call with the media on Friday night.

Q: What went into the Jagr signing?

“Well, obviously it sort of just started innocently yesterday.  I just sent a text to Petr Svoboda, his agent, who also represents Jake Voracek, and I didn’t know who was involved.  I read over the last few days it was just Detroit and Pittsburgh were the teams, so I just sent him a text about if Jaromir would have interest in playing for Philadelphia and it just kind of went from there, and culminated today with our signing of him.  So we’re excited to have Jaromir.  He’s going to bring a lot of leadership and we still believe he’s a guy that’s capable of putting up a fair amount of points.  We’re excited to have him.”

Q: How do you envision Jaromir fitting into your system, and did you consult Peter Laviolette?

Well, Peter knows guys we’re talking about for sure.  Jaromir Jagr is one of the better players at the cycle game that there is in the game.  He’s a big strong guy who can really control the puck in the offensive zone, and he’s a big body in front of the net too.  He’s still a good player, and people forget, I think because he’s been away from the NHL for three years, that he’s been playing and been playing at a fairly high level.  [At the World Championships], our guys who saw him there thought he was – well, he was one of the better forwards, he was named to the All-Star team at the World Championships.  We think can play at this level.  We know he can.  And we believe he can still put up a lot of points.  So we’re certainly excited to have him.

Q: Was there any concern about his age?

You know what, I think Jaromir – he’s always been a very gifted player.  I think that goes without saying.  I think over the last few years he’s really taken on an approach where fitness is a real big thing with him.  I know at the World Championships, whenever they finished a game, he spent the next two hours working out hard.  I know Chris Pronger and Danny Briere, some of our players have talked to him, and he’s real big in training now and looking after himself and making sure he can still play at a high level.  We talked to Peter Laviolette, he wanted to know how our practices were, do we practice a lot, what types of practices do we go through.  [He said] I need to be on the ice, honing my skills and working on things, so I think all those things were a positive for us.
Q: Are you interested in Brad Richards?

Well, for sure.  Whether we’re in it or not, that’d be a tough one for us to do now.  

Q: Do you feel like you’re done?

We still have a little flexibility.  I don’t know.  You never know what could come up.

Q: At what point did you bow out on Leino and decide it was going to be too expensive?

“Well, just over the course of time [unintelligible] on a lot of these guys that we had down in terms of wingers.  I don’t need to really mention any names, but you look at the guys that are signed, we felt all along that it was going to be higher than we really wanted to go.  In terms of Ville, I spent a lot of time talking to Ville’s agent yesterday and quite a bit of time talking to him this morning.  I think the sense for us was that Ville was going to get multiple opportunities to get a lot more than we were prepared to offer him.  So I guess it went up to probably 11:45, when it got to that point, he was going to take a look.  Bill Vito did make a call back to me and told me kind of where it was at some point later on.  I think Ville had a lot of offers in that range, maybe even some higher than that.  I think Ville was really good for us, and we wish him all the best.  I’m happy for him.”

Q: Would you have still been interested in Jagr if you were able to get Ville at a number you wanted?

“That would have been tough.”

Q: When you traded Versteeg, was that to open some cap space or did you think someone else was available?

“You mean when we made the trade?  Yeah, it gives us flexibility.  We have some younger guys here that we want to take a look at, but it also leaves the door open for maybe something else.  Right now we’re in a spot where we have a little flexibility.  We signed Matt Read back in the spring and he’s a guy that we really think highly of, and obviously Sean Couturier – we’re anxious to see how he does this upcoming week at our development camp, and be able to spend some time with him.  So right now we have some flexibility for some of our young guys that we’re really high on, and also doesn’t close the door on maybe doing something else.  Once the first wave is over with and everybody kind of goes crazy, things settle in.  There are still some players who are unsigned, and the price might drop on those players, is there something that might come up that’s really attractive to us, we don’t know.  We don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring, or even later tonight, for that matter.

Q: Do you think Brad Richards will decide sometime tomorrow?

“I really don’t know.  I’ve talked to his agent a few times.  I think they’re just going to take their time.  As far as I know they’re still listening to a few teams.  So I don’t know where that all sits.  There’s a lot of teams that are waiting around to see if they can add a player of that caliber.”

Q: How much did the Flyers scout in the KHL and who did you have at the World Championships, and how much input did they have for you on Jagr?

We have a guy that scouts full-time in the KHL, and all three of our European guys scouted him heavily at the World Championships, or watched his team play a lot.  We got feedback from those guys, and from talking to Jaromir, from watching him our guys believe that he can still play at a high level.  The one thing that he’s really excited about is something that we pitched, is that we do have a younger group and a guy who’s kind of been there, done that, and he was excited about that.  I know some of the other teams he was talking to are good teams, and I think he picked us, and that’s exciting to me.”

Q: By signing Talbot, does that mean you don’t think Schenn will be on the team this year?

“Not at all.  Maxime Talbot is a guy who can play left wing, he can play center, he’s a useful guy who can move up and down your lineup.  I think we all witnessed that in Pittsburgh.  You probably called him a [pain] a few times too in Pittsburgh, but now he’s on our team.  He’s got a lot of qualities that Ian Laperriere has.  I think more than anything, he’ll [be good] for Brayden [Schenn].  Maybe he’s a guy who can play with Brayden, or Sean Couturier down the road.  It’s not closing the door on anyone.  I think he’s going to help in involving the young kids that we have high hopes for.

Q: So if someone had to move to wing between Schenn and Talbot, it would be Talbot?


Q: What is the status of Wayne Simmonds?

“Well, we’re continuing to talk.  Fair to say that we are close.”

Q: Was there any discussion today internally or with other teams about Sergei Bobrovsky?

“No, there wasn’t.”

Q: Did you identify Talbot all along or did other dominos fall?

“He’s a guy that we identified right away.  Jaromir, because of coming from the KHL, we could do a lot of work prior to noon.  We identified Max as one of the first calls that we made.”

Q: Is Simon Gagne still on your radar?

“I talked to Bob Sauve a couple times.  I think he’s still in the feeling-out process.  There’s probably interest from both sides.  We’ll see how it goes.  I’m not sure what level he’ll be at, but he’s certainly a guy we’re willing to talk about.”

Q: How much of this was keeping flexibility with the cap with Leino vs. Jagr?

“Well, certainly I’ve got to say it was probably part of the equation.  It certainly does give us flexibility down the road.”

Q: Can you talk about Andreas Lilja, and was there any discussion on Sean O’Donnell?

“I didn’t talk to Sean.  I knew he had interest in coming back here, and just in talking to Chris Pronger and some of the other guys, Danny Briere, I knew that Sean wanted to play again and he was a guy that if things fell through with Andreas, he was probably a place to call, but it would have been too late because he signed pretty quickly with Chicago.  Andreas is obviously a little bit younger than Sean, they’re both very competitive players.  I don’t think Andreas does the fighting that Sean does but he’s a good penalty killer and a good stay-at-home guy.  He’d be a good fit, whether it’s with Erik Gustafsson or Oskars Bartulis or Andrej Meszaros, I think he’s a guy that could play with any of those guys in a penalty-killing role.  He’s a steady guy who’s very competitive, and obviously he’s a big body.”

Q: Anything else tonight?

“I’m still in the office.”

Q: Is Lilja a guy you see as a 6th or 7th (defenseman)?

I think he’s going to play a lot of games for us.  You need a lot of defensemen over the course of 82 games.  He’s one of the guys we picked and we’re excited to have him on our team because of the experience he brings from winning the Stanley Cup when he was in Detroit and the number of years he’s played.  He’s a useful guy and we’re happy we were able to get him.

Q: Do you still have a specific need identified?

“We’re still looking around.  You just never know.  As I said earlier, the first wave I think is over.  Now you get the second tier wave.  Whether it starts today or tomorrow, I don’t know.  But I’m going to hang around for a while, anyway.”
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