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Tough week of business for Flyers GM Holmgren

NEWARK, N.J. - It would be one thing if Paul Holmgren was just pushing numbers around and not thinking about the impact he was having on the lives of the players.

NEWARK, N.J. - It would be one thing if Paul Holmgren was just pushing numbers around and not thinking about the impact he was having on the lives of the players.

But that's not life in the new salary cap NHL.

It was one of those weeks for the Flyers' general manager. To make room for the return of Danny Briere yesterday, the Flyers lost both Glen Metropolit and Ossi Vaananen to waivers and had to rearrange their roster to get under the $56.7 million league maximum salary limit.

"Going through losing the two guys wasn't a lot of fun," Holmgren said. "We signed them both in the summertime as free agents and started out the year with some injury problems, made a couple of trades to improve our chances, and at the end of the day you've got to lose people for nothing that were good guys that were part of something good on our team.

"It's kind of the [bad] part of the business."

The NHL trade deadline is Wednesday. The way they are configured right now, the Flyers are a good enough team to compete for a spot in the Stanley Cup finals.

But they would be a better team with a move to bring in a big-name player, say defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. In years past, it's a move the Flyers would have made in a heartbeat, even without a guarantee that the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent would sign for the next season.

To make that deal now, the Flyers would have to trade two players with salaries equal to Bouwmeester's $4.875 million salary.

Given the fact that the team has already gone through a lot of change just to bring back Briere, that might be more than the Flyers are willing to do, and that's even before thinking about what kind of long-term contract he would need in July and how that would impact the Flyers' overall needs.

Both Marty Biron and Antero Niittymaki will become free agent at the end of the season and the Flyers are going to need money and salary room to sign a goalie, whoever it is.

"We don't have a lot of room to maneuver. Other teams are in the same boat where if there is anything you are looking at, it has to balance out somehow or it's probably not going to work," Holmgren said.

"There are lots of things we're looking at. Whether we can do anything . . . we'll see. There are some things we're talking about.

"We'll see. I said all along I like our team. There are a couple of things I don't like. I don't like our lack of depth, I don't like just having 20 players [who can be on the roster], but we'll see what we have to do. If we have to go that way we will."

Dealing with the cap makes planning for the future a summer-to-summer exercise.

"You've almost got to start from square one every year. We try to put things together in the summer with the idea that we might have to do it again next summer," the GM said. "You try to have as many of the pieces as you can, but you might have to have five or six different guys the following year."

The process is difficult on players and general managers, but the result is what the NHL wanted. The parity from team to team has never been this close.

"From the league's standpoint it's certainly created some interesting races down the stretch," Holmgren said.

"We can't argue with the parity in the Western Conference. It's unbelievable." *