As I bask in my sheer delight at my beloved Philadelphia Flyers' acquisition of Chris Pronger, something bothers me. As I read articles written by professional journalists and casual writers such as myself, I routinely come across a phrase associated to this trade that leaves me dumbfounded—mortgaging the future.
This belief, held by some, that Flyers GM Paul Holmgren pulled a moronic move by trading roster player Joffrey Lupul, last year's top-pick Luca Sbisa, two first-round picks, and a conditional third-rounder.
In return, the Flyers received a career AHL player and a soon-to-be 35 year-old defenseman.
Let's start with what we received. Chris Pronger is a top-level two-way defenseman in this league. Arguably, he is a top-five defenseman behind Lidstrom, Phaneuf and Chara.
He is perhaps the meanest defenseman the NHL has ever seen, one of the best leaders in the game, a great penalty-killer, and a superb orchestrator of power plays. He is a minutes-eater that can take over a hockey game and make life miserable for opponents.
Pronger is exactly what this team needs on and off the ice. The young Flyers, at times last year, seemed to take nights off and just go through the motions. They lacked intensity and a sense of urgency (i.e. stumbling down the stretch and losing home-ice in the regular-season finale). That will not happen with Mr. Pronger in the locker room.
Sure, he is 35 years old, but history and his level of play tell us he will be a major force. Older defenseman like Lidstrom (39), Rafalski (35), Chelios (47), and Niedermayer (35) have remained productive despite their age. Heck, they should rename the Norris Trophy the Lidstrom Trophy.
Pronger is only signed for this upcoming season, a concern to many fans. However, Paul Holmgren did not make this move to have Pronger for one season and hope to win a Stanley Cup. Pronger will be resigned whether it is 3 or 5 years; only those involved know for sure.
What about salary cap issues? Pronger is on the books as a $6.25 million cap hit. The Flyers have $5.4 million remaining, but they need a backup goaltender, a fourth-line defensive center, and a RW (preferably resigning Mike Knuble). In all likelihood, Holmgren will move players such as Danny Briere, Randy Jones or Matt Carle in order to create cap space.
Let's look at what we gave up.
Joffrey Lupul, what a mutt this guy was. I am astounded that some Flyer fans miss him. Sure, he scored 25 goals but so did five other guys not named Briere or Giroux.
Lupul was the poster boy for the Flyers' problems—inconsistency and lack of intensity. He scores five goals in a week and looks like an All-Star, then you barely notice him while he is skating around and going through the motions. He belongs in Southern California.
Next up is Luca Sbisa. Was I impressed by the poise shown by the 19 year-old? Unquestionably. Do I think he will be a regular in someone's back six? I have no doubts. Sbisa will be a solid defenseman but never an All-Star. With guys like Marshall and Bourdon coming up in the system, Sbisa was expendable.
Then, the Flyers gave up two first-round draft picks. With the wealth of young talent on this roster and within the organization, giving up these picks does not hurt us at all.
How valuable are these picks?
Look at the compensation awarded by the NHL for restricted free agents. If a restricted free agent signs a deal worth $6.5 million or more, his former team is awarded four first-round picks. First-round draft picks are swapped like baseball cards.
As for the "mortgaging the future" argument, let's look at the Philadelphia Flyers organization.
The average age is 26 years old.
The big club's forward nucleus consists of Richards (24), Carter (24), Hartnell (27), Giroux (21), Carcillo (24), Powe (24), Nodl (22), Ross (26), and the old man Briere (31).
What about the defensive corps? There are older players like Pronger (34) and Timonen (34), but there are also younger players like Carle (24), Parent (22), Coburn (24), and Jones (27).
Plus, there are prospects coming up in the system like James Van Riemsdyk. The former No. 2 overall pick is regarded by many as a future star in this league. He will see some action with the big club this year.
Highly-touted defenseman Kevin Marshall will certainly be the team's seventh defenseman unless a top-six player (Jones or Carle) is traded.
Promising defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon and Danny Syvret along with goaltender Johan Backlund round out a talented group of youngsters waiting for their shot with the big club.
To me, this team has very young players and a young coach. In addition, the roster is one of the best in the league, top to bottom.
Ray Emery is a question mark, but he has something to prove and a much improved defense in front of him. He is a young man (26), and if he plays well, he will earn himself the opportunity of a long-term deal.
A solid mix of younger players and savvy veterans and a tremendous stream of organizational talent has made the Philadelphia Flyers a Stanley Cup contender for many years to come.
As a popular 1980's song says, "The future's so bright I gotta wear shades."
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