Following a closed-door meeting with the team, Philadelphia Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren announced that left winger Ben Eager had been traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for defenseman Jim Vandermeer just shy of 10:00 pm.
“The trade strengthens our defense,” Holmgren said. “Jimmy is a guy that grew up in our system and was traded away a few years ago for Alexei Zhamnov when we tried to make a Stanley Cup run in 2003-04. We think he’ll bring a lot of experience. He’s been a very good player on their team over the last few years and really strengthened their team.”
While the trade reportedly happened during the game, Eager was informed moments before and lamented, “It’s tough to leave. I’ve got a lot of good friends here, a lot of good times, but there’s a lot of guys here right now and I would say I’m not getting as much ice time as I would like to have. I think it’s a good opportunity for me to get into Chicago and work on my game.”
Following the announcement, Holmgren was sure to review the time Eager had with the organization. “Ben’s a good, young player and for some reason this year he had a hard time staying in the lineup. He’s been in and out of the lineup a number of times. Ben was terrific through his whole time in our organization; he was a part of our Calder Cup championship team a few years ago, a big part of that team. He’s been a good soldier here and we wish him well.”
Eager echoed those thoughtful praises and admitted the Philadelphia franchise is “a great place to play hockey, they treat you very well. I have nothing but good things to say about this organization and the people they have working for them.”
As for the reasoning behind his trade, Eager takes into account both his struggles and the needs of the team: “I could be playing better, I know that there are things that have to be addressed with every team and it’s just part of the game.”
The 23rd overall draft pick in the 2002 NHL entry draft is most revered amongst the Flyers’ faithful due to the fact that he led the NHL in penalty minutes in 2006-07, this despite being seen in only 63 regular season games. In 2007-08 so far, Eager has registered an average of 5.46 minutes and 8.3 shifts per game. He has posted 63 penalty minutes in this season’s 23 games, putting him at a grand total of 313 penalty minutes as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Unlike Eager, Vandermeer was never drafted, but originally signed with the Flyers in 2000. He left the organization February 19, 2004 via trade as the Philadelphia squad made a run for the playoffs. That season was split between the Philadelphia Flyers, Philadelphia Phantoms, Chicago Blackhawks, and Norfolk Admirals.
As one of the Blackhawks in 2005-06, he was seen in 76 contests, posting 24 points (six goals – 18 assists) and 116 penalty minutes. So far in 2006-07, Vandermeer has posted seven points (one goal – six assists) in 23 matches and falls ten minutes behind Eager with 53 PIM. Vandermeer is eight games shy of 200 in his NHL career, 47 of which were spent during his original stint with the Flyers.
Prior to joining the pro ranks, Vandermeer spent four seasons with the Red Deer Rebels, and joins current Flyers, Braydon Coburn, Jason Smith, Scottie Upshall, Joffrey Lupul, Scott Hartnell, Riley Cote, and Denis Tolpeko as alumni of the WHL.
Holmgren was adamant to point out the 27-year-old is “not old by any standards, but he’s certainly got more experience now than when he left here. He brings grit, his puck skills are good; he’s a good, solid defenseman.”
“Jim is a defenseman that plays in all situations; he can play on the power play, he can kill penalties, and he can play a regular shift. He’s an experienced guy. He’s not old, 27, he’ll bring a lot of character and a lot of determination to our team. Right now, nobody’s happy about the way things are going around here, so we felt the need to shake things up a little it. We do have some injury issues on our defense that we have to face up to. And it certainly gives insurance in terms of depth.”
As for his spot in the lineup, Holmgren responded: “We’ve got a couple days to think about that. Hopefully we can get him in tomorrow for practice and see how things shake out. Right now that gives us, if you count the eight defensemen that were here for the game tonight, it gives us nine, so we’ve got to shuffle the deck a little bit. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”
Derian Hatcher, Coburn, Randy Jones, Smith, Kimmo Timonen, and Alexandre Picard were seen in last night’s contest versus the Coyotes, with Rory Fitzpatrick and Lasse Kukkonen as healthy scratches. Hatcher has struggled in recent years with knee problems and Smith and Timonen have been treated on occasion with back maladies.
Picard, at 22, could easily be sent to the Phantoms and spent much of the season thus far with the AHL club. Coburn, also 22, could theoretically be sent down as well but due to the fact that his already strong skating and rocket shot continue to improve, that move is highly unlikely. Jones has had lapses in play in recent games and has been noticeably absent since his two-game suspension for a questionable hit on Boston Bruin, Patrice Bergeron on October 27th.
All in all, there is much to be speculated where Vandermeer will fall in the lineup, but the Flyers are dedicated to “shuffling” until the franchise comes up with a win. The squad travels to Buffalo Friday hoping to end a four-game losing skid, the longest since April 2007. In review, only time will tell how big of a role the newly acquired Alberta native will play in upcoming contests. But the Philadelphia Flyers franchise seems confident the defenseman will return to his former club “back with a vengeance.”