For what it's worth, my sources tell me the bag of pucks the Flyers received in exchange for left wing Simon Gagne are indeed very nice pucks.
By now you have no doubt heard that the Simon Gagne era in Philadelphia ended yesterday, as the Flyers shipped their longest tenured player to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for journeyman defenseman Matt Walker and the Lightning's fourth-round draft selection in 2011.
Considering the fact that many observers and fans of the team were expecting a bit more of a return for the Flyers beloved 30-goal scorer, the hue and cry across southeastern Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey and Delaware resounded in a collective, "WTF?!"
Because this trade appears on its surface to be so disproportionate in value that it defies any rational explanation, let's just skip to the analysis of this butterball and try to understand how such an odious transaction was made by the Flyers, shall we?
The Flyers Had Limited Options
I have little doubt the Flyers would have received a better return for a player of Gagne's caliber were it not for the obstacle of the player's no-trade clause.
It should be noted Paul Holmgren did not have the ability to field serious offers from 30 different NHL teams, since Gagne only agreed to waive his NTC for teams that he approved of as acceptable destinations.
I can't say this enough: This is why NTC's are so prized in player contract negotiations. The NTC gives the player absolute control in any trade scenario.
Considering Los Angeles and Tampa Bay were the only two teams that came up consistently in trade speculation, it's possible the Flyers were forced to choose a deal from one of just two possible suitors, with both of those teams fully aware of the leverage each possessed in such a negotiation.
If Matt Walker and a fourth-round 2011 draft selection were the best offers on the table for Gagne, I would love to know what the worst offer was.
So Why Not Just Keep Gagne And Wait For A Better Deal?
For a couple of reasons, actually.
First and foremost, I believe Paul Holmgren when he says his intent was to solidify his defense.
The scouting on Matt Walker is that he is a physical defenseman who makes sound decisions in the defensive zone, blocks shots, and likes to hit.
In last season's Stanley Cup Final, none of those elements were present in the Flyer's third-line defensive pairing, and Philadelphia paid dearly.
A rotation of Matt Walker and Sean O'Donnell at No. 6 on the Flyers defensive depth chart is a major upgrade over Ryan Parent and Oskars Bartulis. There is no disputing this.
Throw in Andrej Meszaros as a major upgrade over Lukas Krajicek at the No. 5 spot, and there is no denying an already formidable Flyers blue line just became much, much better.
And dare I say it, such depth on the Flyers blue line just might have been the difference for the Flyers in the SCF last season.
Of course, you may not agree. But looking at the Flyers offseason moves, it's hard to come up with a better explanation.
Secondly, the Flyers were ready to move on from Simon Gagne, even if fans of the team were not.
Gagne will enter the final year of his contract after a 2009-10 season where the left winger suffered from a concussion and a broken foot.
The calculus on each says that as a 30-year-old player, Gagne's production as a Flyer is more likely go down in 2010-11.
Of course, there's no way to know that for certain.
But the Flyers looked at the situation, weighed the odds, and came to the conclusion that moving Gagne now, while he still had some value, was the safest bet for the organization.
And Matt Walker was deemed as an acceptable return for Philadelphia, whether Flyers fans agreed or not.
With all due respect to the faithful, the Flyers are the ones with scouts in the stands shrewdly evaluating talent in a division most of us know nothing about.
You may look at the deal on its face and see that a productive, beloved player left Philadelphia in exchange for a physical third-pairing defenseman; the organization sized up their needs and reached the decision that the two things the Flyers needed more than an oft-injured 30-year-old left winger in the final year of his contract were:
More physicality in the defensive zone.
Salary cap relief.
The Flyers got both in the deal.
Who Will Be Matt Walker's Roommate For Road Games Next Season?
My suggestion? Dan Carcillo. He knows a thing or two about incurring the wrath of fans after arriving in Philadelphia to replace a dearly departed player.
You have to feel bad for Matt Walker. He really stepped into it the moment he became part of a trade he had no say in.
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