In case you needed another reminder that sports are a business, the Philadelphia Flyers trade of longtime winger Simon Gagne proves just that.
The fan favorite was the epitome of class both on and off the ice. However, on a team up against the cap and full of veterans with no-trade clauses, somebody had to go.
It's sad that the era of players starting and finishing their careers with one team is essentially over. There aren't many Steve Yzermans, Tony Gwynns or Cal Ripkens anymore.
In an uncapped world, the Flyers would not have dealt Gagne, and even if they did, the return would have been much greater than a depth defenseman and fourth round pick.
As disappointing as the trade is, it is not surprising.
This deal enabled the Flyers to go from about $1.4 million over the $59.4 million cap to nearly $1.1 million under it at the time of the move.
Gagne will earn $5.25 million this season and can become an unrestricted free agent after the year.
The 22nd overall pick in 1998 netted 17 goals in an injury-plagued 2009-10 season, but he scored nine goals in 19 playoff games.
Gagne broke his foot in Game 4 against the Devils and returned to the lineup 17 days later for Game 4 against Boston.
His OT winner that game kept the Flyers alive and started a streak of seven straight games with a point, with seven goals and an assist.
However, his last game as a Flyer wasn't one to remember as he was a -3 and was on the ice for Patrick Kane's Cup-winner.
Gagne put up tremendous numbers despite missing 156 games over 10 seasons in Philadelphia with various injuries.
The winger missed 84 games over the past three seasons alone, suffering from a concussion, sports hernia and broken toe.
1998 Draft Class
Gagne scored 259 career goals. From that draft class, only first-overall selection Vinny Lecavalier has more goals (326). Lecavalier also played in 205 more games than his current teammate.
The only other player from the class with over 200 goals is Alex Tanguay with 203.
Tanguay and Lecavalier are the only two players selected ahead of Gagne that year to reach an all-star game.
Think about how fortunate the Flyers were that Gagne fell to number 22 for them.
Some not so notable players picked prior to Simon include: Bryan Allen (4), Rico Fata (6), Mark Bell (8), Mike Rupp (9), Jeff Heerema (11), Michael Henrich (13), Patrick DeRochers (14), Mathieu Chouinard (15), Eric Chouinard (16), Scott Parker (20), and Mathieu Biron (21).
Numbers to Consider
- No player has scored more overtime goals in a Flyers sweater than Gagne’s five. That doesn’t include his two playoff OT tallies—in Game 6 of the 2004 Eastern Conference finals against the Lightning and the comeback-igniter in Game 4 against the Bruins this year.
- No player has scored more regular season goals against Martin Brodeur than Gagne's 18.
- Only Eagles kicker David Akers, who came to Philly one month before Gagne joined the Flyers in 1999, has been in town longer.
- It's hard to believe, but now Mike Richards and Jeff Carter are the longest tenured Flyers, with five years each on the big club.
First Round Picks
Gagne is one of 37 all-time first rounders for the Flyers, and the 25th to be traded away.
- Of that group, four are currently on the team (Richards, Carter, Giroux, JVR). Five, if you include Brian Boucher, but Boosh is in his third tenure with the organization.
- Two never played in the NHL (Bob Currier, who was selected ahead of Bobby Clarke in 1969; Ryan Sittler, who was selected seventh overall in 1992).
- One played six games in the NHL before being allowed to leave as a minor league free agent (Danny Lucas).
- Two were selected in expansion drafts: Lew Morrison and Darren Rumble.
- One was claimed in the waiver draft (Steve Smith).
- One saw his career end due to injury after 19 NHL games over three seasons (Glen Seabrooke).
- Only one played an entire, significant career for the Flyers: Hall of Famer Bill Barber.
The point is Gagne's trade is nothing new in Flyers history, 25 of 37 first rounders have been traded away.
Of those 25, there are plenty of significant names: Brian Propp, Peter Forsberg, Ken Linseman, Mike Ricci, Ron Sutter, Boucher, Bridgman, Behn Wilson, Dainius Zubrus, Joni Pitkanen, Justin Williams, Luca Sbisa, and Steve Downie.
Who is the last homegrown Flyer to play his entire career in orange and black? I can't think of any in recent years, going all the way back to Clarke and Barber.
Notable Flyers Careers to End Unceremoniously
Dave Poulin was traded to Boston for Linseman in January 1990. Bob Clarke has called this the worst trade of his career.
Less than two months later, Propp was traded to the Bruins for a second round pick which turned out to be Terran Sandwith.
Poulin and Propp helped the B's reach the Cup Final that spring. Propp also reached the Finals in 1991 as a member Clarke's Minnesota North Stars.
Tim Kerr was left unprotected in the expansion draft after the 1990-91 season and was selected by the Sharks. San Jose then promptly traded him to the Rangers.
Mark Howe played in only 42 games for the 1991-92 Flyers due to back problems. After the season, the team granted him free agency so he could go to a contender. Howe signed in Detroit, where he went on to play parts of three seasons.
John LeClair was bought out in July 2005, as a result of a new CBA which introduced a salary cap to the NHL. The Flyers were forced to part ways with Johnny Vermont, and they bought out LeClair's and Tony Amonte's contracts to create cap space.
LeClair signed a two year deal with the arch-rival Penguins on August 15.
#12's Career Achievements
The Daily News posted a few categories where Gagne ranks in orange and black:
FLYERS' REGULAR-SEASON HISTORY:
2004 Game 6 vs. Tampa: OT winner
2006 Regular Season vs. Rangers: OT winner just seven seconds in
2010 February vs. Devils: OT winner as Gagne broke a long scoreless drought with maybe the best shift of his career.
2010 Game 4 vs. Bruins: OT winner as Gagne's return sparks incredible run for both the team and himself.
2010 Game 7 vs. Bruins: Series winner . The crowd reaction at the Wachovia Center says it all. Still get chills every time.
Gagne's Thank You to Fans
"The organization becomes like your family a little bit. But you have to understand that hockey is a business and that is the way it is. I am going to miss a lot of people there and it is going to be tough. But I am looking forward to this new challenge of going to Tampa Bay. I think it will be a great place and great fit for me."
"I think the thing I will miss the most are the Flyers fans. All the support I got there for the 10 years that I played, even during the tough times when I had some injuries, the fans were really fair with me the whole time. There were a lot of No. 12 jerseys in the stands even when I started with the team in 1999. To them, I would just like to say a huge thank you. Those are the people I am going to miss the most."
The fans won't have to wait long to return the thanks, as Tampa Bay comes to Philly for the fourth game of the season on October 14.