Philadelphia faithful were a little shaky after the last few days of NHL draft action as the Flyers moved to get a player in the first round in Scott Laughton, who reminds critics of the likes of Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and the recently departed Mike Richards. Not that two-way centers aren’t worth picking in the 20’s (yes, I remember one recently drafted named Claude Giroux) but the Flyers most urgent needs were on defense with Chris Pronger’s future questionable to be polite. Those are some big skates to fill for any NHL general manager especially with the premium on defenseman each year.
Today, in a move that many thought was coming at the past trade deadline, Paul Holmgren traded his former number 2 overall pick, James van Riemsdyk to Toronto for 6-foot-2 220 pound plus defenseman Luke Schenn. The Leafs loaded up on defense at the 2012 draft and could afford to move a 22 point player even if he is early in his career as JVR represents a potential first line, power forward if he lives up to his significant hype and can stay off of the trainer’s table. The Flyers get both size and a shutdown defenseman in Schenn who will now play with his brother Brayden who the Flyers picked up exactly one year ago when the Flyers traded Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings. Most importantly for the Flyers is the fact that they got a right handed shot from the point which Pavel Kubina was supposed to provide but failed to deliver via a trade deadline deal this past year.
In terms of cap space, the Flyers are quietly making room for their next move which will likely come in free agency. Moving a $1.750,000 backup goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky was good for the player and good for the salary cap as a backup likely will cost close to $1,000,000 less and will allow the Flyers’ franchise goalie to not fear that anyone else is coming for his job in 2012-13. The JVR for Schenn deal clears about another $1,000,000 in cap space thus any possible deal to get Bobby Ryan or even Rick Nash is more economically viable. How Holmgren plans to make a blockbuster like this happen without JVR as a trade chip is hard to see at this point.
At $3.6m, Schenn could develop into a bargain of a defenseman. Phoenix’s Keith Yandle is more touted and more offensively driven, but he comes at a higher price in terms of both players and cap space especially with well-heeled teams like Detroit looking for a Lidstrom replacement. The $2,000,000 saved could be used to make a “deal you can’t refuse” to Ryan Suter who will likely be a UFA on July 1. Through the media Suter said he doesn’t want to play in Philadelphia (or any east coast team) but with enough Benjamins (remember Ben was from Philly) any problem can be overcome and Kimmo Timonen is getting a little long in the tooth at 38 years old.
In today’s trade, Toronto likely just got themselves a 30 goal, 55-65 point power forward which is exactly what they needed. JVR isn’t that gritty but he’s plenty talented. Nagging injuries have limited his upside as has being drafted by a pretty deep Flyers team. Expect him to thrive in Toronto in ways he might not have in Philly. Schenn, now teamed with his brother Brayden, will get a clean slate in The City of Brotherly Love where he can hopefully grow into a 35 to 40 point, shut down defenseman. You’d love to replace Chris Pronger’s production but unless you are getting Weber or Chara – you are likely going to have to do it with two players. In the Flyers’ case they might have to do it with Matt Carle and Luke Schenn.