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Analysis

The Flyers’ Best and Worst Trade Deadline Acquisitions in the Last 20 Years

With the NHL trade deadline about 6 weeks away and with the Philadelphia Flyers still pitted near the basement of the NHL standings, one would assume that this year the Flyers would be packaging anything they can for futures. However, there’s a lot of uncertainty with how the front office and ownership group wants to move forward with this year and the next. In any way, the Flyers have generally been a busy team at the trade deadline, especially in their pre-2010 years. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the good and bad moves that the Flyers have made in and around the trade deadline in the last 20 years.

The Good:

Peter Forsberg Trade/February 15th, 2007

With the Flyers sitting at the bottom of the standings and Peter Forsberg wanting out, the Philadelphia Flyers and Paul Holmgren shipped the star forward to the Nashville Predators. The Predators believed they had the nucleus to go far in the playoffs and adding Forsberg to their lineup was thought to be the icing on the cake. In his short stint with the Flyers, one that was mired with injuries, the Swedish superstar put up 115 points in 100 games. The foot injuries that plagued him for a large part of his career, remained an issue in Philadelphia but he was truly sensational in the games he suited up for. 

In return the Flyers received a package that included Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, alongside first and third round selections. Upshall put up 64 points in 134 games in parts of 3 seasons with the Flyers, and Parent was seen as the prize of the deal but he never really played up to his lofty draft selection as he tallied just 7 points in 102 games. 

What turned out to be the steal of the trade was the first round selection that was sent back to Nashville in the summer for the negotiating rights of Scott Hartnell and Kimmo TImonen. They both signed 6-year deals, Timonen netting $37.8 million and Hartnell signing for $25.2 million. Both players represented the Flyers for several years and played at the top of their careers while donning the Orange and Black. Timonen played 7 seasons and recorded 270 points, and Hartnell played 7 seasons as well, scoring 157 goals and 326 points. 

Forsberg played in 17 regular season games for the Predators, while recording 15 points and then an additional 5 games in the playoffs before being eliminated in the first round. He left Nashville and returned to Colorado the following year but only played 9 games due to injuries. The Predators drafted defenseman Jonathon Blum with the first rounder they received in exchange for the negotiating rights. Unfortunately, Blum only played parts of 4 seasons before playing in the KHL and SHL.

Stealing Braydon Coburn from the Atlanta Thrashers/February 24th, 2007

The 2007 deadline was a goldmine for the Flyers as they executed 3 trades that helped them in the present and future. The second trade executed by Paul Holmgren was acquiring former first round pick Braydon Coburn for the veteran defenseman, Alexei Zhitnik. The Thrashers were in the playoff race and decided to go all-out for the veteran defenseman, even if it meant trading away the 8th overall pick from the vaunted 2003 NHL Draft.

The Flyers won out that trade like gangbusters as the hulking, smooth skating defenseman played in parts of 9 seasons with the Flyers, tallying 161 points in 576 games and played in the top 4 for most of his tenure. He played in large part with Kimmo Timonen, averaged around 22 minutes of ice-time, and had a career-high 36 points in 2007-08. 

The Flyers acquired Zhitnik earlier that year from the New York Islanders for Freddy Meyer and a conditional third-round pick. However, with the Flyers continuing their downward spiral in the standings, they decided to trade him only 2 months later for a package they couldn’t refuse. He played in 18 regular season games for Atlanta, scoring 14 points and then played in all 4 games during their playoff sweep at the hands of the New York Rangers. 

Martin Biron gets his wish of becoming a number one goalie/February 27th, 2007

In the summer of 2006, Martin Biron requested a trade from the Buffalo Sabres after losing his starting job to Ryan Miller. After having to wait several months for the trade to finally transpire, the Flyers acquired his services from the Sabres for a second round pick. Biron played in parts of 3 seasons with the Flyers, including 2 full seasons where he registered records of 30-20-9 and 29-19-5. He played an instrumental role in turning the Flyers around from basement dwellers to final 4 in one season. He appeared in 23 playoff games, posting a record of 11-12 with a .908 save percentage and a 2.87 G.A.A.

He had cemented himself as a starting goalie after losing his gig earlier in Buffalo but after requesting far too much money from the Flyers, he walked into free agency with most teams having already secured their goaltenders. He eventually signed a one year deal worth 1.4 million with the New York Islanders, who already had Rick DiPietro and Dwayne Roloson. He appeared in 29 games but posted a 9-14-4 record, ending any chance he had at becoming a starting goalie elsewhere. He finished his career with the New York Rangers as the backup to Henrik Lundqvist for parts of 4 season. 

Minor trade with major upside/February 6th, 2010

In what originally seemed like a minor trade, maybe for bare-bottom depth, the Flyers sent defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and a 5th round pick to the Detroit Red Wings for Ville Leino. The Finish forward had only appeared in 55 games through parts of 2 seasons with the Red Wings, where he scored 9 goals and 16 points. 

In 13 regular season games for the Flyers on their run to the playoffs, Leino only managed 2 goals and 4 points. However, his playoff heroics will always be remembered as Leino, Daniel Briere, and Scott Hartnell were the epitome of the Cinderella story in 2010. In 19 games, Leino scored 7 goals and 21 points helping the Flyers reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1997. Fellow line mates, Scott Hartnell and Daniel Briere added 17 and 30 points respectively that summer. 

The following year that trio returned and Leino scored 19 goals and 53 points in 81 games as the Flyers finished first in the Atlantic Division and second in the conference. The playoff magic didn’t translate to the next year as he only mustered up 5 points in 11 games as the Flyers were swept by the Boston Bruins in the second round. After a resurgent year and a half, Leino entered free agency looking to cash in on his recent success and found a suitor in Buffalo. He signed for 6 years and 27 million but was bought out after 3 very disappointing seasons. 

Steve Mason’s resurgence/April 3rd, 2013

With the Flyers on the outside looking in on the playoffs and goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov overstaying his welcome, it was essentially known that he would not be returning the following season. After trading Sergei Bobrovsky earlier in the summer of 2012 and letting Bryzgalov know he would be bought out, the Flyers were once again in need of a goalie. 

The unsung hero of the 2010 playoff run, Michael Leighton couldn’t replicate his success and was lost in the depth chart. He was flipped to the Columbus Blue Jackets for former Calder Trophy winner, Steve Mason. Mason struggled to match his early success with the Blue Jackets and took a backseat to the former Flyer Bobrovsky. 

In return the Flyers got 5 strong seasons from Steve Mason, where he played in 231 games, posted a 104-78-36 record, and had strong peripherals of .918 save percentage and a 2.47 G.A.A. He currently sits third in franchise history for most wins and games played as a goaltender and 5th in shutouts. 

Unfortunately near the end of his tenure, he sort of had a falling out with his team-mates and management decided it was best to part ways. He represented strong goaltending for a Flyers team that was always searching, while playing in front of some dysfunctional defences as well. Michael Leighton never suited up for the Blue Jackets and didn’t play another game until 2015-16, where he appeared in one game for the Chicago Blackhawks and then another 4 games for the Carolina Hurricanes in 2016-17. 

Traded for in the same year, traded away in the same year/Winter of 2015

With the Flyers once again out of the playoff picture, general manager Ron Hextall executed two trades, 3 days apart, that would help the betterment of the Flyers in the distant future. Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen, who were both acquired in 2007, the former being a trade deadline acquisition and the latter being in the off-season, were shipped away in separate deals after representing the Flyers for 7+ years. 

Coburn was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Radko Gudas, a first round pick, and a third round pick. Timonen, who hadn’t suited up for the Flyers that season, was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for a second round pick in 2015 and a conditional pick in 2016. The two trades intertwined with each other a little as the first rounder received in the Coburn trade was packaged alongside the second rounder they acquired from Chicago (a pick previously owned by the Toronto Maple Leafs) in the Timonen trade to move up in the draft and select Travis Konecny. 

Coburn played parts of 6 seasons with the Lightning, winning the Stanley Cup in 2019-20. Timonen played 16 regular season games and 18 playoff games, recorded 0 points, played third pair minutes, but gave the Blackhawks an additional leader in the locker room en route to a Stanley Cup. Gudas played parts of 4 seasons with the Flyers and Konecny has played in parts of 6 with the Flyers, recording 102 goals and 244 points. 

The Bad:

Win-hungry Flyers, once again trading away picks for veterans/March 19th, 2002

Adam Oates is a Hall of Fame playmaker, who played 19 seasons in the NHL, amassing 1,079 assists and 1,420 points. The Flyers acquired his services in 2002 for goaltender Maxime Ouellet, a first, a second, and a third round selection in 2002. He scored 10 points in 13 regular season games and 2 points in 5 playoff games. The Flyers were hoping for a lot more from the veteran but the Flyers flamed out in the first round to the Ottawa Senators. 

He was not offered a contract the ensuing summer, marking the acquisition as a complete dud. They lost out on former first rounder Maxime Ouellet, as well as the first, second, and third round selections in the draft for a combined 18 games and no playoff success. Oates played 2 more seasons, one with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim where he helped them reach the Stanley Cup Final and one with the Edmonton Oilers, before finally retiring. 

Mike Comrie Debacle/February 9th, 2004

Mike Comrie went from hero to zero in Edmonton in just a few years. His downfall led to trade talks as he was almost dealt to the Anaheim Ducks for Corey Perry and a first round pick. The deal mostly fell through because it stipulated that Comrie would have to reimburse the Oilers for 2.5 million that he received as a bonus for his entry level deal. When that deal fell through, he was then dealt to the Flyers for defenseman Jeff Woywitka, a first round pick in 2004, and a second round pick in 2005. 

Comrie only played in 21 games for the Flyers as he fell through the cracks with then-head-coach Ken Hitchcock. Hitchcock was not impressed with his game play, style, and lack of defense. So he was then shipped to the Arizona Coyotes for Sean Burke, Branko Radivojevic, and Ben Eager. Once again, trying to make a big move to help the team win, Clarke traded more picks. However this time it backfired within the same season and he was dealt for a goalie that was not liked and 2 depth forwards who made very little impact. 

Kris Versteeg Trade/February 14th, 2011

After their Cinderella playoff run in the summer of 2010, the Flyers came back the next season flying high off that momentum. They finished first in the division and second in the conference and were looking to buy at the trade deadline. After defeating the Flyers in the Finals, the Blackhawks had to trade several young players away to become cap compliant and Kris Versteeg was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

With the Maple Leafs on the verge of missing the playoffs and Versteeg having a good season, they traded him to the Flyers for a first and third round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. In 27 regular season games, Versteeg only scored 7 goals and 11 points and then adding an additional 6 points in 11 playoff games before being swept by the Bruins. 

Versteeg wasn’t the typical trade deadline acquisition as he still had a year left on his contract. The trade, however didn’t merit the price of acquisition as Versteeg barely had an impact. After signing Jaromir Jagr in the summer, the Flyers shipped Versteeg to Florida for a second and third round pick. 

2 Defensemen in 2 days that cost too much/February, 2012

A lot of these bad trades have come on the heels of a playoff race and in the winter of 2012 the Flyers executed two trades for two defensemen in a span of two days, shelling out vital future assets. The Flyers traded a second round pick in 2012 and a third round pick in 2013 to the Dallas Stars for defenseman Nicklas Grossmann. 2 days later the Flyers traded a second round pick in either 2012 or 13 and a fourth round pick in 2012 to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Pavel Kubina. 

Both defensemen were big, hulking, and prototypical stay at home defensemen. Kubina was on the wrong end of his career when the Flyers acquired his services. He had 3 seasons where he averaged 39 points from 2007-08 to 2009-10 but his previous 2 seasons with the Lightning he only recorded 34 points in 131 games. He played 17 games for the Flyers and an additional 5 in the playoffs. Grossmann played in parts of 4 season, wasn’t anything outside of a penalty killer and defensive defenseman. 

The price of acquisition for both players, in the same season, was high and the Flyers never got the correct value in yet another showing of Holmgren’s lacking sensibilities for the future. 2 second round picks, a third round pick, and a fourth round pick for 2 defensive defensemen, one of which only played 17 games and one playoff series victory.

Andrew MacDonald/March 4th, 2014

With the Flyers in the playoff race, a defenseman was needed and they decided to send Matt Mangene, a second round pick in 2015, and a third round pick in 2014 for the expiring contract of Andrew MacDonald. Before the playoffs started, the Flyers extended the defenseman to a 6 year deal, worth 30 million dollars. 

It didn’t take long for that contract to look ugly as the Flyers waived him 2015. He cleared waivers and was sent to the minors before returning to the big club near the end of the season. His play was faltering, diminishing, and his contract was never worth his on-ice play. He played big minutes, including top pair minutes with Ivan Provorov near the end of his NHL career. 

The third round pick in 2014 turned into goaltender Ilya Sorokin and the second round pick in 2015 turned into Brandon Carlo. He played in parts of 6 seasons with the Flyers, played 291 games and recorded 72 points before being bought out after the 2018-19 season. 

Flyers fan born in the heart of Leafs nation, living in Guelph

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