PHILADELPHIA (AP) - With the Flyers mired in last place and his job status uncertain, Paul Holmgren made deals and created salary cap space to try to turn Philadelphia back into a playoff team.
Now, he'll get to see how it all turns out. Holmgren was given a two-year extension through the 2008-09 season on Wednesday, giving him more time to lead the NHL-worst Flyers out of the cellar and back into the post-season.
"I think it can be one year," Holmgren said. "The game today is so close, the teams are so close and the parity is there. I think with the right development of our young players this year, with the addition of a few players over the course of the summertime, we can be a very, very competitive team next year."
Flyers chairman Ed Snider said the decision brings stability for the organization, which has not won a Stanley Cup since 1975.
"We've got a lot of work to do and a lot of planning to do and any GM that we have would have to start right now," he said. "We're preparing for the draft, we're doing all the scouting, we're looking at potential free agents. All these things take time, so the planning starts now. It was the perfect time to firm it all up."
Holmgren became interim GM after Bob Clarke quit on the same day coach Ken Hitchcock was fired in October. Holmgren, the assistant GM for the last seven seasons, had the interim tag removed a month later but wasn't given a commitment beyond this season.
While John Stevens got a two-year extension only a month after he was elevated to the head coaching job, the Flyers said Holmgren would have to wait and be evaluated. If he had any concern about his long-term future, Holmgren didn't show it with a series of big moves.
Holmgren was praised for the deals he made around the trade deadline, like the one that sent captain Peter Forsberg to Nashville for forward Scottie Upshall and draft picks, and the acquisition of goalie Martin Biron from Buffalo. Holmgren hopes to re-sign Biron and make him the starting goalie.
"All he talked about was our young prospects, where we had to go, what our future was, the salary cap and how to build a team," Comcast-Spectacor president Peter Luukko said.
Plus, the Flyers have cleared about US$24 million in cap space to sign free agents.
"We're absolutely, 100 per cent confident with all the moves that Paul has made," Luukko said. "He's in-tune with the new game, as witnessed by these moves."
Still, the Flyers are a league-worst 19-40-11 for 49 points. Once boasting one of the most feared home-ice advantages, the Flyers have won only seven games in Philadelphia.
The Flyers still need a first-line centre to make up for Forsberg's absence, but they believe they have a young nucleus needed to build a playoff team around. The Flyers have gotten solid seasons from forwards Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble, and are still high on promising centres Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
"We're much younger, we're faster, we've got some good players and a lot of draft picks," Snider said. "We'll do whatever is necessary."
Holmgren also coached the Flyers from 1988-92, going 107-126-31.