Tyler J. Altemose
The 2011 NHL trade deadline is exactly 5 weeks away, and I'm excited.
I've been following the Flyers since I was a wee lad, since sometime around 1994-95. I've seen a lot of Flyers squads come and go. Some were exciting (1996-97), some were not (2005-06). But I've always loved this team, and something about them always kept me coming back for more.
Fast forward 15 or so years and here I sit, writing my first Flyers trade deadline article. I have to admit that I put more time into this than I should have considering I'm receiving zero monetary gain for this venture.
But at the end of the day, none of that really matters. All you need is a computer, passion, and a little bit of knowledge about what your team might be looking for. Consider this a little disclaimer that I am not an insider. I figured that much went unsaid, but you can never be too safe.
So what are the Flyers looking for? If you ask me, the Flyers are looking for a veteran winger, a guy who can play on the third line but is versatile enough to move around the lineup if need be.
The question was raised as to why--if the Flyers really are seeking a veteran winger--they didn't just put out an offer for Bill Guerin at the beginning of the season. Why did we let him go?
The reason is that often times teams don't necessarily believe they need something in the beginning of the season that they realize they need around the halfway mark.
And no, I'm not talking about a situation where a top goalie or defenseman gets injured and a team has to backpedal. I'm talking specifically about Nikolay Zherdev.
In my opinion, the Flyers opted for the youthful Zherdev and his offensive capabilities over the veteran leadership and defensive skill of Guerin. I'm not saying that it hasn't paid off, because the Flyers are certainly Cup contenders. But Zherdev has shown lackluster effort this season, and that's something that Peter Laviolette and the Flyers brass just won't tolerate.
So it turns out that they should have opted for that "defensive veteran winger" instead. Does it really matter? Well, in the long run it might, and that's why I think the Flyers are going to be active at the trade deadline.
So, who to part ways with? In my opinion, aside from draft picks the Flyers' trade bait is limited. As I already hinted at, Nikolay Zherdev is a likely candidate for trade. Same goes for Dan Carcillo. I would also throw Betts, Powe, Nodl, and JVR as possible trade candidates.
Now before you all lose your minds regarding the possibility that JVR is traded, remember that this has two sides. Yes, JVR is a young forward that is only going to get better. Yes, JVR is very skilled. Yes, if JVR is traded and this team falls short of the Stanley Cup Flyers Nation will go berzerk.
But think of the alternative. If JVR is traded and we acquire a player that helps the Flyers win the Stanley Cup, I guarantee no one will be complaining.
Is it a risk? Of course it is, but no trade is a guarantee.
As far as cap implications are concerned, the Flyers have $1.9M in max acquisition space according to Capgeek, meaning that the Flyers can afford to take on $1.9M in salary so long as the roster remains the same and Lappy remains on LTIR throughout the end of the season. The team is also up against the 23-man active roster limit, meaning that if the Flyers acquire anyone, someone has to go.
These are things to keep in mind when reading through my picks for the trade deadline. It was a heck of a journey, but I enjoyed it. I hope you do, too.
Without further adieu, I present to you: Philly Reign's Flyers Trade Talk 2011
#8 Matt Cullen, C, Minnesota Wild
It's difficult to tell whether the Minnesota Wild are going to be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. They currently sit in 10th place in the West, but they're only two points out of playoff contention. Normally I'd say that their play within the next couple of weeks will dictate their movements at the trade deadline, but as things stand with the salary cap I'm going to go ahead and call them sellers.
Cullen, currently a 3rd line centerman, has spent 12 seasons in the NHL. He has great on-ice awareness and is an exceptionally speedy skater. Cullen is also capable of playing the point on the PP. He may prove to be an exceptional asset to the Flyers both on the 5 on 5 and on special teams.
Interestingly enough, Cullen was a member of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 when he won the Stanley Cup with--you guessed it--Peter Laviolette.
Unfortunately, Cullen plays a position which has already been filled. The Flyers don't need another centerman. But there is the option for Cullen to try to adapt as a winger. Also, he's injury-prone and can be inconsistent offensively from time to time. But I like to think that there's enough offensive depth on this roster to make that a moot point.
Cullen's biggest problem though is his cap hit. At $3.5M, he's out of reach for the Flyers. Furthermore, he's only in the first year of a 3-year, $10.5M deal with Minny. His contract is not only a problem now, it'll also be a problem down the road.
Adding Cullen would require the Flyers to take off an additional $1.6M from their roster. Walker could get the job done as his cap hit is $1.7M. In any case, someone would have to come off the roster, as the Flyers are against the 23-man active roster limit.
#7 Ethan Moreau, LW, Columbus Blue Jackets
Moreau is currently in his 14th season in the NHL. His leadership skills are commendable, as he was a former Edmonton Oilers captain and was a member of the Edmonton Oilers squad that went to the Stanley Cup finals in 2006.
At 6'2", 220lbs, Moreau also has exceptional size which he puts to good use. He has been known as a physical player and an excellent checker. That's the kind of thing that fits well into the Flyers system.
Like many aging players, however, Moreau is no stranger to the injury bug. He succumbed to a rib injury and was placed on IR on 6 January.
The biggest obstacle that the Flyers and Jackets need to overcome is the fact that the Jackets are looking to improve defensively. I see no reason for them to pick up Walker, and very little reason for any defensive prospects to get involved. If anything, I see this trade coming down to draft picks sent out in exchange for Moreau, followed by the waiver of a guy like Walker to make up room for him.
Moreau is currently in the last year of a 4-year, $8M deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
#6 Andrew Brunette, LW, Minnesota Wild
Perhaps the greatest asset to Andrew Brunette is the offensive threat he poses in the crease. Not since the days of Mike Knuble have the Flyers had a player who could "set up shop" in front of the opponent's net. JVR has begun getting into that form this season, but he is still a ways away from getting into that "Knuble" form.
Unfortunately, Brunette isn't a very good skater (insert Scott Hartnell joke here). The fact that he isn't a very efficient skater is going to limit how versatile he can be within the Flyers offense.
Brunette is currently in the final year of a 3-year, $7M deal with the Wild.
#5 John Madden, LW, Minnesota Wild
The biggest "pro" to John Madden is his experience. Madden has three Stanley Cup titles under his belt (two with the Devils in 2000 and 2003 and one with the Blackhawks in 2010). That is something the Flyers simply cannot overlook. The acquisition of Chris Pronger and Sean O'Donnell were both partially due to the fact that they've won Stanley Cups. They know what it takes to go all the way, and Madden is no different.
Aside from the hardware Madden has acquired, he's a player who plays with a lot of heart, has great defensive skills, and decent speed to boot. He doesn't pose a significant offensive threat, but that's something the Flyers can deal with. The team is deep enough offensively, and I'm sure that Madden's services would pay dividends.
Madden is currently at the end of a 1-year, $1.25M contract.
#4 Chris Clark, RW, Columbus Blue Jackets
Chris Clark's biggest asset is his grit and tenacity. If it's one thing the Flyers like, it's grit and tenacity. Clark, a 10-year veteran of the NHL, is the former captain of the Washington Capitals. He also went to the Stanley Cup Finals with the Calgary Flames in 2004.
Despite having only streaky offensive capabilities, Clark would still be a nice fit on the Flyers roster. He would have the ability to play on the top line occasionally while still fitting in well on the third line.
Clark is currently in the last of a 3-year, $7.9M deal with the Blue Jackets.
#3 Rob Niedermayer, C, Buffalo Sabres
Rob Niedermayer is a veteran's veteran. He has been to the Stanley Cup Finals three times over the course of his 16-year career. First in 1996 with Florida (if you can remember that far back), again in 2003 with the Anaheim Ducks, and finally in 2007, again with the Ducks.
Third time was the charm for Niedermayer, as he had finally won the Stanley Cup in 2007 after failing in 1996 and 2003. He was on the Ducks team that won the Cup along side Chris Pronger and Sean O'Donnell.
At 6'2", 200lbs, Niedermayer is a physical veteran forward with superior defensive instincts. Like many of the players on this list, however, his shortcomings are on offense. But at $1.25M, Niedermayer is cap-friendly enough for the Flyers to overlook that. And again, the team is deep enough offensively that it really doesn't matter.
However, we once again run into the problem of Niedermayer being a centerman. Again, if he can adjust to life on the wing he could pay dividends to the Flyers.
Niedermayer makes this list at number three because of the fact that, according to Dennis Bernstein of The Fourth Period, Buffalo will be sellers at this year's trade deadline. It makes sense. Buffalo has had problems all season and don't look likely to get into contention anymore at this point (although in their defense they haven't been doing half bad lately).
#2 Mike Grier, RW, Buffalo Sabres
Mike Grier is a great leader with natural defensive instincts. He's also strong in the corners, and that's something the Flyers need from a guy who will likely be filling in a third line role. He can also be an asset on the PK. That isn't as big a concern for the Flyers as the PP, but it's something to keep in mind.
It sounds like the same old song and dance, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Grier lacks certain offensive skill. It's a problem that really isn't a problem.
The biggest concern regarding Grier is his contract. He has a NMC, and in order to be traded to the Flyers he would have to waive it. I don't see why he wouldn't in order to move on to play with Cup contenders, but it's worth mentioning.
#1 Jarkko Ruutu, LW, Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators are, aside from the New Jersey Devils, the biggest disappointment in the East. What fans and the team expected to be another run in the playoffs has now turned into a waiting game for 2011-12.
It's no secret that Ottawa is going to sell. And Ruutu is on the chopping block as he has underperformed this season.
But that doesn't mean he can't be a good fit for the Flyers. Ruutu is a very versatile player. His in-your-face attitude and agitator-like style of play is the perfect fit in Philly, and he'd likely become a fan favorite sooner than later. You could almost consider him a replacement for Dan Carcillo.
The problem with Ruutu is that he's a troublemaker. His questionable hits can often backfire and get his team into trouble. He also isn't very strong offensively, especially this season. But it's hard to tell whether that's the product of being on a horrible team or not.
The other problem is that Ruutu is currently sidelined with an undisclosed lower body injury he recently (and ironically) suffered against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Ruutu is in the final year of a 3-year, $3.9M contract with the Senators.
In the long run I consider Ruutu to be the best fit for the Flyers. Is it because he's cap-friendly? Is it because he can fill in a role which the fans and team seem to like having filled? Is it because of his versatility? Or perhaps it's because he's Finnish.
I consider Ruutu the best fit for the Flyers for all of those reasons (especially because he's Finnish). It'll be interesting to see the moves the Flyers make (if any) at the trade deadline considering the fact that Ruutu seems like the kind of gritty player that Holmgren likes but also doesn't necessarily fit the "Peter Laviolette" system of Flyers hockey we've been witness to throughout the season.
So there you have it: Philly Reign's 2011 Flyers Trade Talk. I want to take the time to thank Fantasy Sports Services for assisting with the scouting reports for these guys. I wouldn't have been able to do it without them. Same goes to The Hockey News as well. And, as always, I want to thank Capgeek. Many of you know by now that Capgeek.com is practically my bible.
Finally, I'd like to thank my readers. Many of you were anticipating this article, and honest to God you're all the reason I had the motivation to do it in the first place. Thank you for your support and encouragement. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I've enjoyed writing it.