It’s getting to the point where I’m starting to feel sorry for any player who arrives in Philadelphia via trade or free agency these days.
For those of you disappointed with the deal, let me address your grievances, one by one:
Pronger Is On The Back End Of His Career
The funny thing about truly elite defenseman in the NHL is they tend to be durable, leading to very long, very productive careers right up to the day they decide to hang up their skates.
Ray Bourque helped the Colorado Avalanche to a Stanley Cup in 2001 as a 41 year-old and was anything but a hunched-over, withered old coot by the time he said farewell to the game.
Scott Stevens won two Stanley Cups and competed for another on the “back end” of his career, from the ages of 36-39.
Nicklas Lidstrom won Stanley Cups at ages 37 and 38 and was a Game 7 victory away from winning another at age 39.
Scott Niedermayer will be 36 in August and despite not competing for the ultimate prize in two years, is still one of the game’s elite blueliners.
All of these players are Chris Pronger’s peers. He is among the league elite, and has shown no signs of slowing down.
In fact, considering how fast and wide open the Western Conference is with regard to overall team speed, I can’t see how Pronger’s already strong defensive game does not get even stronger in a slower, more physical Eastern Conference.
The Flyers Paid Too Much
An elite player with more hardware in his home office than the entire Flyers roster combined (name on the Stanley Cup, Hart Trophy and Norris Trophy).
Future first-ballot Hockey Hall of Fame player, who wants to finish the last five years of his career in Philadelphia.
An effective two-way player capable of quarterbacking the power play unit and anchoring the penalty kill unit.
One of the league’s most feared hitters.
The league’s nastiest mean streak.
An overpaid, underachieving right wing with a problematic contract.
A 19-year old defenseman that may or may not become an effective NHL regular.
2009 first round selection (No. 21 overall).
What is certain to be a late first-round selection in 2010.
To our credit as a fan base, everyone seems to recognize the fact that Lupul was about to become grossly overpaid for his production, as his salary was set to escalate to $4.25 million annually over the next four seasons.
But if you’re upset about the inclusion of Luca Sbisa in the deal, I have a question for you:
Correct me if I’m wrong: the kid scored five points during a disastrous October in which the Flyers came stumbling out of the blocks with their pants around their ankles. He then virtually all but disappeared for the remainder of his 39 games as a pro before being shipped back to Lethbridge of the WHL.
If Sbisa had Calder Trophy written all over him, I might understand the hue and cry over shipping him to southern California.
But Sbisa has shown nothing to suggest he will ever approach the level of skill displayed by say, Braydon Coburn, let alone players of Pronger's or Timonen’s caliber.
Fact of the matter is, Ryan Parent is a much better NHL prospect at this point, and there’s nothing to suggest that Sbisa would have jumped ahead of him for the sixth and final slot on the blueline as the 2009-2010 NHL season got underway.
In fact, the only reason Sbisa got his opportunity with the Flyers in the first place was due to Parent’s preseason injury last year.
As for those late-round first round draft picks, yes, they have in the past produced players such as Simon Gagne, Mike Richards, and Claude Giroux.
I would conveniently remind you that they have also produced Maxime Ouellet, Jeff Woywitka, and Steve Downie. There’s just no way to know.
Pronger Is In The Final Year of His Contract
Is there really a single person out there entertaining the notion that, after an investment that cost the Flyers a roster player, a prospect, and two first-round selections, Paul Holmgren won’t lock Chris Pronger into a long-term deal?
Pronger’s reported asking price is a five-year, $6 million deal, and despite salary cap concerns, the Flyers can accommodate such demands.
We’re currently in the worst economic downturn in nearly a century, and the NHL salary cap just went up by $100,000.
For a team that has most of its core players locked in long-term, the Flyers will have more and more room with each passing season to re-sign core players, upgrade goaltending, and replace spare parts, despite adding Pronger’s contract.
The Flyers need an elite player to lead them back to the Stanley Cup, and they got one.
His name isn’t Jay Bouwmeester, but Philadelphia still got the right player anyway.
For Ronny's daily hockey thoughts, visit the Ronnybrook blog.