The Philadelphia Flyers have serious concerns about their defensive shortcomings.
The biggest problem they face on the blue line is the loss of Chris Pronger, who suffered a concussion prior to the midway point of last season and did not return the rest of the year.
There are no indications that Pronger will be able to return in the foreseeable future once the NHL lockout comes to an end.
With that injury in mind, general manager Paul Holmgren acquired defenseman Luke Schenn from the Toronto Maple Leafs, sending former No. 2 draft pick James van Riemsdyk to Toronto in return.
On the surface, this looks like a reasonable trade for both teams. The Flyers certainly were stronger on the front line than they were on defense, so it seemed reasonable that they part with van Riemsdyk.
The Leafs had a strong need to upgrade their scoring, so it also made sense for them to part with Schenn.
But van Riemsdyk certainly seemed like more than just another forward. The Flyers selected him with the No. 2 pick in the 2007 draft, meaning they thought he had superstar ability.
He skates well, drives to the net and he has the skills to find the top corners of the net from tight spots. He is a skilled and dangerous player.
However, the 6'3", 200-pound van Riemsdyk has not turned into a star in the NHL.
He has had his moments, primarily in the 2010-11 season, when he scored 21 goals and added 19 assists. He also had seven goals in 11 playoff games.
However, his 2011-12 season was not a good one. He had a series or injures (source: metro.us), including a broken foot, and he was held to 11 goals and 13 assists in 43 games. He had just one goal and one assist in seven playoff games for Philadelphia.
The trade to Toronto represents a new start for van Riemsdyk, one where he will have a chance to become one of the team's primary scorers. He has the tools to approach 30 goals in a season if he can stay healthy.
The Flyers have high hopes for Schenn, who was the fifth pick in the 2008 draft. He is coming off a disappointing 2011-12 season in which he averaged slightly more than 16 minutes per game on the ice after averaging 22:22 per game the season before.
Both players have quite a bit to prove and both are happy to be going to their new teams. Van Riemsdyk referenced Toronto's all-time status as a high-profile franchise, calling them the "New York Yankees of the NHL," according to James Mirtle of the Toronto Globe and Mail.
Schenn is happy to move on to Philadelphia where he will get a chance to play with his younger brother, forward Brayden Schenn.
Both players will feel unburdened as they leave the franchises that placed such high value on them when they came into the NHL. However, both will face new pressures in their new homes.
Van Riemsdyk may have the higher upside. During his 2010-11 playoff showing, he had 70 shots on goal. Much of the Flyers' offense seemed to be on his shoulders, and he thrived in that role.
If van Riemsdyk avoids injuries, he should become the consistent scorer that he never was in Philadelphia. The Flyers would almost certainly miss that kind of contribution no matter what they get from Schenn.
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