Acquiring Chris Pronger Was Necessity For Flyers

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Acquiring Chris Pronger Was Necessity For Flyers
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

There is no question the Philadelphia Flyers had dreams of trading for Florida Panthers' defenseman Jay Bouwmeester.

As an upcoming unrestricted free agent, Bouwmeester had been the talk of the town leading up to last Friday's NHL Draft.

Then, a funny thing happened.

Veteran defenseman Scott Niedermayer told the Anaheim Ducks that he was coming back for another season, leaving the pricey yet talented Chris Pronger up for trade.

Enter Philadelphia General Manager Paul Holmgren, whom TSN's intrepid reporter Darren Dreger said was "knocking down the door" of the Ducks to acquire Pronger early Friday. A few hours later, the Flyers had their man.

Yes, he will be 35 by the time the season starts, and he's been in the league for 15 seasons. You could say he's lost his youthfulness.

But one thing Pronger hasn't lost is his snarl, competitive edge, and will to win. Besides Boston's Zdeno Chara, Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom and Niedermayer, there aren't many defensemen a team would want more than Pronger.

However, in this salary cap world, the Ducks had no choice but to trade Pronger and his $6.25 million cap hit to the Flyers.

The Flyers are taking on more salary in the deal, but it's apparently something Holmgren was willing to do in order to acquire a potential future Hall-of-Famer.

Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, two first-round picks, and a conditional pick were sent to the Ducks in exchange for Pronger and forward Ryan Dingle.

The Flyers were able to deal Lupul, who had 25 goals and 50 points last year, because they feel they have enough depth up front. Despite trading Lupul, the Flyers (barring any more moves) will carry Simon Gagne, Mike Richards, Daniel Briere, Scott Hartnell, Jeff Carter, and Claude Giroux into the 2009-2010 season.

That's not even mentioning free-agent Mike Knuble, who still could return for the right price, and 20-year-old James van Riemsdyk, the Flyers' top forward prospect, who could make the team with an impressive showing in training camp. That, however, would be unlikely.

Lupul was drafted seventh overall by the Ducks in the 2002 draft, and has now been traded three separate times in his career. Ironically enough, he was traded by Anaheim to Edmonton so the Ducks could acquire Pronger prior to the 2006-2007 season.

Lupul signed an extension last summer which would have seen him make $4.25 million against the cap for the next three years. With the flux of talent up front, and streaky play from Lupul, it's easy to see why the Flyers dealt him.

There will be some questioning the trading of Sbisa, 19, who was the Flyers' first round pick in last year's draft. Sbisa played in 39 games last season for the Flyers, and proved that he had a bright future.

There certainly appeared to be some wearing and tearing on Sbisa, whom the Flyers eventually sent back to the Western Hockey League.

He then returned to the AHL's Philadelphia Phantoms for the final two games of his season.

Sbisa has that rare blend of skating ability, vision, and toughness that will surely make him a second-pairing defenseman for years to come.

That being said, the Ducks wanted talent in return, and as the old saying goes, "you have to give something to get something."

Draft picks are always a crapshoot, and though the Flyers have drafted well near the spot where they were scheduled to pick this season, they realized that the time to win is now.

It can be argued that the Flyers gave up too much in the deal. However, they have just acquired one of the best defensemen in hockey in Pronger.

He's a five-time All-Star, a Hart Trophy winner, and most importantly, a Stanley Cup winner.

This was a deal that the Flyers had to make. Last season, the defense in front of Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki was too soft.

Was it a good deal? Time will tell. On paper, it appears too good to be true.

This is a message being sent by Holmgren.

The Flyers crumbled under pressure numerous times last season, especially in their first-round exit against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Pronger hasn't just been acquired to watch the opposing team.

He's been acquired to watch his own team in the locker room as well. He will instantly demand respect from coaches and teammates.

Respect is earned, not given. Pronger's earned it.

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