PAUL HOLMGREN has been around the NHL nearly his entire life, first as a player, then as a head coach, before spending the last 20 years in the front office of two different clubs.
Holmgren admitted on Wednesday that he has never experienced a summer like this, never felt the pain walking away empty-handed on three major free agents — the latest blow dealt when Nashville matched Shea Weber's 14-year, $110 million offer sheet on Tuesday.
"I am sure it has been done before," Holmgren said of his summer. "We tried to add, in our minds, one of the best defensemen in the game to a good, young, up-and-coming team, and it didn't work. It was structured in a way we were hopeful they wouldn't match it. I learned at about 3:15 [on Tuesday] afternoon, and the initial reaction was disappointment, but I guess we move on."
Now, after Weber addressed the media, Holmgren probably can't help but feel a little bit used. Weber certainly seemed excited in a conference call, expressing his desire to finish his career in Nashville by asking the Predators for a no-movement clause in his new deal.
By signing an offer sheet on the league's second-richest deal in history, Weber was in a no-lose situation. He was getting his money either way — including $27 million between now and next July.
"I think we utilized the CBA the best we could while it's the way it is," Weber said. "It worked out great. I love the city of Nashville. I love my teammates. I love the fans. The team has stepped up and showed that they're going to spend with the best of the teams and now we can focus on the season."
Weber also said any talk about a soiled relationship with Nashville, including a desire to be in Philadelphia, came from his agents, Jarrett Bousquet and Kevin Epp, and not from his own lips.
Holmgren now will focus on re-signing restricted free agent Jake Voracek, who produced a career-high 18 goals last season. Holmgren said it is "only a matter of time" before a deal is reached. Voracek, 22, is due a raise from his $2.25 million salary.
Holmgren expects Voracek — and not an outside free agent — to fill the void left on Claude Giroux's line by fellow countryman Jaromir Jagr's departure to Dallas.
Many expected veteran winger Shane Doan to be that final piece, especially after Doan visited the team last Saturday in Philadelphia. Doan, 35, also visited Montreal on Wednesday and Pittsburgh on Tuesday. He has been linked to the Rangers, Red Wings, Canucks and Sabres, too.
Holmgren downplayed Doan's visit.
"I don't want to put any words in Shane's mouth, but I think first and foremost, he would like to remain in Phoenix," Holmgren said. "I don't believe he is going to do anything until he has some answers in his mind to what is happening there. I think he is a very loyal guy. I give him kudos for that. I think in the end he would rather be in Phoenix in a perfect world. If he's ready to make a move, we have interest."
That means Holmgren, at this point in time, doesn't see a huge move on the horizon. Despite three swings and misses, he made it clear that he isn't going to blow up what he's built for the sole sake of making a move. That includes Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, et al — for Anaheim's Bobby Ryan or whatever the return.
"Our shot, it didn't work," Holmgren conceded. "That doesn't mean we don't like our defense moving forward. We believe we have a good, young team that is only going to continue to get better. We tried and we will continue to try to make ourselves better. So, we are not looking to make big changes; we are looking to add without subtracting. We will see what the rest of the summer brings."
After the NHL's negotiating committee laid out its complete proposal to the NHLPA, the two sides will meet again for the third time this week in Toronto on Thursday. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he still hopes to have a new Collective Bargaining Agreement hammered out by the current CBA's Sept. 15 expiration date … Twenty one top players from around the NHL — including Claude Giroux, Brayden and Luke Schenn, Henrik Lundqvist, Steven Stamkos, Patrick Kane, James van Riemsdyk and Mike Richards — visited the Flyers Skate Zone in Atlantic City for 2 days this week for a promotional tour.