Paul Holmgren

Under Pressure: Paul Holmgren

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“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the Philadelphia Flyers, we pick… Paul Holmgren.

No GM made more big financial swings than Holmgren this summer, whether it was $66.2 million to extend Claude Giroux, or $26 million to buy out Ilya Bryzgalov and Daniel Briere, or the $21 million to sign Mark Streit, or the $22.5 million to sign Vinny Lecavalier.

That’s a lot of money. A lot of money.

While some moves were no-brainers — retaining Giroux was a must, Bryzgalov had lost the plot and needed to go — others were pretty risky ventures.

Holmgren signed Streit as a 35-plus contract, meaning Philly’s on the hook for the entirety of his deal (much like it is with Chris Pronger). What’s more, the veteran blueliner looked like he lost a step last year, especially in the Isles’ opening-round playoff loss to Pittsburgh when his ice time dropped to 20:18 a night, fifth among New York defensemen.

Then, there’s Lecavalier.

While still a skilled physical presence, the former Tampa captain turns 34 this season and hasn’t scored more than 70 points in five years. He’s also shown signs of injury proneness (missing 44 games in the last three years combined) and, as many have pointed out, didn’t really fit any of Philadelphia’s needs.

Like, say, goaltending.

In an ironic twist, Holmgren’s biggest gamble this season is one he did on the cheap. The Flyers GM is now rolling with one of the league’s least-expensive goalie tandems in Ray Emery and Steve Mason, who will earn a combined $3.15 million this year.

Both come with a fair level of risk. Yes, Emery’s proven to be one of the league’s better backup netminders over the last two years and, in a timeshare role with Chicago during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, put up great numbers (17-1-0, .922 save percentage, 1.94 GAA).

But Emery also turns 31 this month and hasn’t handled a starter’s load since 2007… three years before he underwent major hip surgery for avascular necrosis.

Mason faces just as many questions, if not more. His career nearly hit rock bottom prior to the trade to the Flyers — he called his final few seasons in Columbus “extremely humbling” — and many will be watching to see if he can maintain confidence in Philly, a notoriously difficult town for goalies.

(Part of Mason’s confidence issues stem from years of defeats. At 24, he’s already lost more than 100 games.)

In the end, though, all these gambles come back to Holmgren, who’s entering his seventh season on the job and can’t afford a second consecutive year of missed playoffs.

He’s spent an awful lot owner Ed Snider’s money, which has to be worrisome — even if he’s received a vote of confidence.

“‘[Holmgren’s] not on the hot seat,” Snider told CSN Philly last week. “Not at all. I don’t think anybody can look at the job Paul Holmgren did in the offseason this year and not say it was outstanding.

“Every move a GM makes isn’t going to be perfect. They all make mistakes.”

Strong message? Sure, until you remember another of Snider’s votes of confidence — the one he gave Bryzgalov seven months ago.

For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.

Ehrhoff clears waivers; Jonathan Quick hurt?

Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, right, stops a shot as teammate Christian Ehrhoff, of Germany, and Columbus Blue Jackets' Scott Hartnell watch during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015, in Los Angeles. The Blue Jackets won 3-2. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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Christian Ehrhoff has cleared waivers, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

The Kings made the 33-year-old defenseman available yesterday. It’s expected he’ll be assigned to AHL Ontario, with 23-year-old d-man Kevin Gravel getting called up.

“Nothing wrong with Christian Ehrhoff,” coach Darryl Sutter told reporters Wednesday. “We’re not exactly world beaters here. We don’t have the best defense in the league or the best team in the league. We’re trying to get better in a hurry.”

In addition to the Ehrhoff news, goalie Peter Budaj has been added to the Kings’ roster on the NHL’s media website, meaning Jonathan Quick (reportedly “day-to-day” with an injury sustained Tuesday in Boston) could miss some time.

After acquiring Phaneuf, are Sens now gunning for Drouin?

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin waits for play to resume in the first period of a preseason NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Plenty of smoke coming from the Canadian capital this week.

After landing Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf in a shock blockbuster on Tuesday, there are now reports that Ottawa’s in the mix for disgruntled Bolts forward Jonathan Drouin.

Two separate TVA reports — one from Louis Jean, one from Renaud Lavoie — suggest that Sens GM Bryan Murray is working to get Drouin out of Tampa Bay. Drouin, the third overall pick in ’13, hasn’t played hockey at all since late January, when he was suspended without pay for failing to report to games for the club’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse.

The Drouin-to-Ottawa move makes sense on a number of fronts:

— As Lavoie notes, Murray is always looking to “find those players who quote-unquote ‘nobody wants anymore.'” Such was the case with Kyle Turris, who was acquired by the Sens after a falling out with the Coyotes in 2011. Recently, Turris was asked about the similarities between his situation and Drouin’s, saying the time after his trade request was made public was a “tough, tough go,” but that the opportunity he received with the Sens “saved” him.

— The rumored asking price for Drouin is believed to be defenseman Cody Ceci, the former first-round pick that partnered with Phaneuf in last night’s loss to Detroit. This, too, would make sense — Ceci, 22, is in his third professional season and progressing nicely, having already matched his career-best in goals. In several ways, he’s like another rumored target in Drouin trade talks:

Mathew Dumba.

— Dumba, like Ceci, is a pending RFA still on his entry-level deal. That club controlled contract would be important for the Bolts’ financial situation. Ceci could also be a capable replacement for Lightning d-man Jason Garrison, who on Thursday was ruled out for 3-5 weeks with a lower-body injury.

And remember, Murray isn’t afraid to make splashy deals. Prior to the Phaneuf trade, he orchestrated the Bobby Ryan move with Anaheim and, a year later, traded then-captain Jason Spezza to Dallas.

Murray and Yzerman have also connected on a trade once before. In ’13, the Sens sent Ben Bishop to Tampa in exchange for Cory Conacher.

Bolts lose ‘minute-munching defenseman’ Garrison for 3-5 weeks

during Game Two of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 6, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.
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The Tampa Bay Lightning expect defenseman Jason Garrison to miss 3-5 weeks with a lower-body injury.

Garrison was hurt in Monday’s 5-1 loss to Ottawa. The 31-year-old played just 4:10 of that game, missing the final two periods.

“That’s a tough one too, because he’s a big minute-munching defenseman for us,” coach Jon Cooper told reporters. “A big body and size.”

Garrison has just four goals and three assists in 52 games, but he’s third on the Bolts in average ice time (18:23), second in blocked shots (76), and third in hits (69).

Matt Carle replaced Garrison for Tuesday’s 4-2 loss in Montreal.

Kadri fined $5K for throat slash gesture at Giordano

Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs
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Nazem Kadri‘s “inappropriate gestures” on Tuesday night have left him lighter in the wallet.

On Thursday, the NHL announced that Kadri has been fined $5,000 — the maximum allowable under the CBA — for making a throat slash gesture at Mark Giordano during Calgary’s 4-3 win over the Leafs two nights ago.

The incident occurred after Kadri took exception to a heavy Giordano check. While on the bench, the Leafs forward made the gesture, one the NHL has been cracking down on since 2000.

Former NHLer Nick Boyton was suspended twice for making the gesture, first in 2006 then again in 2010. He was banned one game for each incident.