Putting On The Foil with @jsaquella: I Can See Cleary Now…

Editors’ Note: Noted Philadelphia Flyers fan John Saquella is going beyond 140 characters. The man most of you probably know from social media as @jsaquella will bring you his wide-ranging opinion and commentary on the Orange and Black in his column Putting On The Foil.

By John Saquella (@jsaquella)

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Getty Images

The Flyers have agreed to terms on a 3 year deal with former Red Wing forward Daniel Cleary.

To take a look at the various social media sites, Flyers fans are displeased. Even main stream media and bloggers seem taken aback, calling the deal “baffling”.

Me? I like adding Cleary.

When I first heard that the Flyers were looking into Cleary as a possible addition (stick tap to @CoverThePuck, who was days ahead of anyone in the media in mentioning the Flyers and Cleary), I started figuring what the deal could look like. My guess? 2-3 years at $2.5mm per, with a NMC. Admittedly, I am not a huge fan of that third year, but I’m happy with the rest of it.

I see Cleary as a very good fit on the Flyers third line, with Sean Couturier at center and Matt Read on right wing. It’s a good mix of speed, size, grit and offensive ability, especially for a third line. It’s also possible that Cleary could see time on the second line, and will probably get work on the powerplay and penalty killing units.

The main objections people seem to be having are the term of the deal, the cap hit, the potential blocking of young players in the system and the fact that Daniel Cleary isn’t Simon Gagne.

Well, as for the deal, the money is not out of line when you look at guys who signed this summer, like Matt Cooke, Tyler Kennedy and Eric Nystrom. In fact, Cleary’s cap hit will drop by $50K under the new deal. I don’t like the third year, but it’s not a major issue. The deal is NOT an over 35 one, that will tie up the Flyers if Cleary retires early. With the LTIR exemption expected for Chris Pronger, the salary cap isn’t an issue, either. In fact, even without making a trade, the Flyers can fit Cleary and have just over $2.68mm in LTIR exemption-although that would involve a couple of “paper transactions” where players were sent to the AHL for 24 hours and recalled to get the full benefit of Pronger’s LTIR relief.

Tyler J Altemose covers the LTIR rules here http://thehockeyguys.net/timing-is-everything-maximizing-ltir-benefits/

As I see it, the Flyers have 4 prospects that are capable of pushing for a roster spot this year. None can bring to the table what Cleary can bring right now and only one seems he might be able to in the near future. Tye McGinn is big and gritty, with decent hands around the net. But his two way play is lacking. Jason Akeson is a smaller scoring line type. Michael Raffl is an European import that hasn’t played in North America before and doesn’t have the sandpaper that Cleary brings. Scott Laughton is the one outlier, as he could easily be a Cleary type player in a couple years.

Adding Cleary doesn’t automatically close the door to any of these players. Adam Hall is penciled in a the 4th line center, but that could change, if Laughton has a strong camp. If McGinn or Raffl make the team, Max Talbot could become the 4th line center and push Hall out the door. The door closed a bit, but it didn’t slam shut. Akeson, McGinn and Raffl will likely be the first to be recalled in case of injury and they can all still benefit by playing in the AHL.

Now, for the fun one. We all have a soft spot for Simon Gagne. We all remember the game winner he scored in game 7 against the Bruins to cap the Flyers remarkable comeback in 2010. We all remember the OT winner that forced game 7 in the 2004 ECF against Tampa. The problem is, our memories seem to taint what we saw the last few years…that Gagne is in decline. The years and injuries have taken their toll on the former all star winger.

I’ve seen people rip Cleary for being injury prone and ignore that Gagne has missed nearly 40% of his team’s games over the past 3 years (77 games missed out of a possible 212). Cleary isn’t Doug Jarvis, but over the same span, he’s missed 19 games-and played in all 48 for Detroit last season. I see people say that Gagne is better offensively than Cleary, but ignore that Cleary has scored 47 goals over the past 3 seasons to Gagne’s 29. They also ignore that Cleary has had a 20+ goal season more recently than Gagne.

I see people point out that Gagne said he knew he’d likely have to take a pay cut. However, Gagne never said he was willing to play for the minimum. In fact, I doubt Gagne would have taken much less than $2mm to remain a Flyer, which isn’t much savings in terms of the cap. Granted, Gagne might have been willing to take fewer years, but Cleary also has the benefit of being a better fit for the role the Flyers need to fill.

Cleary is coming off a very good playoff run and still capable of doing the job the Flyers are asking him to do. Gagne is not the 47 goal scorer he used to be. The injury issues have caused Gagne to slide. He can still be an effective depth forward somewhere, but the bottom line is, the Flyers are a better team with Cleary on the third line than Gagne.

There’s nothing baffling about it. The Flyers, in their usual aggressive manner, identified a player that fills a need and managed to acquire him without trading an asset away. The addition of Cleary will not prevent other moves and it will not completely handcuff them in terms of the cap. I’m just excited to see him take the ice for the Orange & Black

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