I know a guy who gets so excited for the opening of NHL free agency that he calls in sick, makes a Wawa run and watches the minute-by-minute dealings on the NHL Network.
I hope he got flavorful hoagies this year. Because he certainly got nothing satisfying from the Flyers moves. Similarly, as the NBA went through its free agent smorgasbord over the weekend, Sixers fans were left feeling they received a lukewarm bowl of oatmeal — or in this case, Jerryd Bayless.
For different reasons, both teams were outside observers as billions were bestowed on players ranging from stars (Kevin Durant, Steven Stamkos) to enigmas, as in, “What? Portland just gave Evan Turner $70 million?”
There wasn’t much excitement for fans of our winter squads. But I get it in both cases.
General Manager Ron Hextall has spent the last two years digging the Flyers out of the salary cap hell created by his predecessor, Paul Holmgren. Insane deals like those given Ilya Bryzgalov and Vinnie Lecavalier crippled the team. Now Hextall must preach patience in a city that hasn’t seen the Stanley Cup in more than four decades.
The Flyers sorely need players who can actually score goals. But while solid forwards like Milan Lucic and Andrew Ladd garnered fortunes from new teams over the weekend, Hextall had to be content signing Dale Weise, a fourth-line grinder who seems a reincarnation of Shjon Podein.
His best strategy now is to wait for a team that misses out signing a free agent defenseman. Perhaps he can get a return trading Mark Streit — although I wouldn’t count on much.
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The Sixers certainly don’t lack for salary space. They entered the free-agent period more than $56 million under the cap. Their issues are: 1) it’s virtually impossible to attract top talent to a team coming off 10-72; and 2) they don’t want to overcommit to a stopgap player who won’t be part of the long-term plan.
That’s OK. While I was no fan of Sam Hinkie’s three-year Tank-a-thon, you can’t erase it by spending foolishly. The equally hideous Lakers, for example, went on a $137 million weekend spree that landed space filler Timofey Mozgov and aging role player Luol Deng.
What are the chances Mozgov and Deng are around when the Lakers get good again? Close to zero. So I can’t rip the Sixers for declining to commit money and — more importantly, years — to players not likely to be part of their nucleus going forward.
Bayless, adept at the catch-and-shoot, makes sense at $27 million for three years. He can open the floor for rookie Ben Simmons and help the development of whichever big men are still here when the season starts. By all accounts he’s a good veteran presence, although you do wonder why he’s already been through six franchises in his eight-year career.
Hey, it isn’t exciting. But it makes sense. In another era, the Flyers signed stars like Danny Briere and Jeremy Roenick. The Sixers attracted Dr. J and George McGinniss. Maybe next year, folks.