Steve Yzerman Fleeces Philly For Scoring Winger Simon Gagne
For newbie GM Steve Yzerman and owner Jeff Vinik, the word was patience. Yet when teams just give away a top line player for what's tantamount to a bag of hockey pucks, well, patience may not be in the Lightning's vocabulary when they hit the ice in October.
Vincent Lecavalier finally has a winger capable of putting the puck in the net, as Steve Yzerman traded defenseman Matt Walker and a draft pick to the Flyers for superstar winger Simon Gagne.
Yes, the same Simon Gagne who was drafted the same year as Lecavalier and is second only to Vinny in goal scoring from that draft class.
The same Gagne had 524 points in 664 regular season games in 10 seasons for the Flyers.
The same Gagne who has scored dramatic OT playoff goals for the Flyers, including Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Lightning in 2004.
Walker's a decent defenseman, who should be able to compete for one of the top six spots on the Flyers' roster. He would likely have been relegated to number five or six in Tampa Bay, a team that isn't known for its defensive prowess.
But a clincher in a deal for the likes of Simon Gagne? Wow.
In Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren, Yzerman has found a trading partner willing to help the Bolts out of cap hell by acquiring some of the worst contracts done by former Lightning GM Brian Lawton.
Early in the offseason, Yzerman sent underachiever Andrej Meszaros and his monster contract to Philly for a second round draft pick.
Now he gets Gagne for Walker, who definitely is not worth his $1.5 million dollar contract and a fourth round pick next season.
Gagne, 30, comes with a $5.25 million contract and a checkered injury history.
Suffering from concussion, groin, and toe injuries, Gagne has had a bit of an up and down career. If he can stay healthy, he's deadly. A two time All-Star, Olympic Gold Medalist, and two time 40-plus goal scorer, Gagne provides speed and scoring ability to a Lecavalier line that lacked both.
Lecavalier's numbers have dipped since longtime linemate Vinny Prospal was traded away and Martin St. Louis now plays with Steven Stamkos.
Despite his struggles, Lecavalier still put 70 points on the board last season playing with the likes of Alex Tanguay.
The Lightning hope Vinny will return to greatness with a quality winger on his line.
“In adding Simon to the Lightning today, we acquire a very talented player that will play alongside our top forwards,” Yzerman told Philly.com. “With his combination of speed and skill we are excited to have him with us and grateful he was willing to waive his no-movement clause. This trade not only makes us a better team in the short-term, it helps create long-term flexibility for us, which all along has been one of our top priorities.”
Gagne had to waive his no-movement clause to facilitate the trade and seems to have been more than happy to do so.
“I’m very excited right now,” Gagne told Philly.com “I’m looking at this opportunity as a new challenge and a new start. Tampa Bay was a team I was more than willing to waive my no-move clause for. I really like the direction the team is headed in with a solid owner, Steve Yzerman as GM and Coach Boucher."
Whether or not the Lightning are close to becoming contenders again for a playoff spot remains in question, as does Gagne's ability to stay healthy.
Still, Yzerman has the guts to take a chance on a talented player and gave up little to do so.
"I’m really looking forward to playing with guys like Lecavalier, Stamkos and St. Louis .” Gagne said, "I’m excited to be a member of the Lightning and I’m looking forward to starting next season in Tampa Bay."
Best wishes to Walker, he did his job with the Lightning. He was never spectacular but he wasn't a liability either (on most nights). He was just there with his lunch pail doing what he needed to do. He's not going to clear the mess in front of the net, nor is he going to carry the puck for you up the ice. He can't man a power play or join the rush for scoring. Nope, he's just your average Joe.
We can only hope that after securing two lopsided wins against the Flyers, Yzerman can find a way to talk Holmgren into a Mike-Richards-and-Jeff-Carter for Mike Lundin deal.
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