Jaromir Jagr and 7 Other Players the Flyers Acquired Too Late in Their Careers
The Flyers' acquisition of Jaromir Jagr on the first day of free agency this summer has been a somewhat controversial one. While you can't argue with bringing in one of the all time great scorers in league history and a marquee name that automatically puts every Flyers game this coming season in the spotlight, in the past, the Flyers have had a habit of acquiring a once great player when the greatness was pretty much all gone.
Jaromir Jagr's pedigree is a very impressive one: two Stanley Cups, one Hart Trophy, five Art Ross Trophies, three Pearson Awards and a seven-time member of the NHL First All-Star team. You don't let an opportunity to add a player of that caliber to your roster go by, and his tremendous past successes bode well for this season with the Flyers—even at the age of 39. But, as we have seen, past success does not always translate to future success, particularly for the Flyers.
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Darryl Sittler is a Hall of Famer and widely recognized as a hockey icon, one of the all time greats. He played 12 years with the Toronto Maple Leafs, becoming a fan favorite and team captain there. In the later part of his career, problems with management and direction of the team lead Sittler to request a trade, telling the Leafs he would only waive his no trade clause if he were dealt to the Minnesota North Stars or the Philadelphia Flyers. After a deal was agreed upon between the Flyers and Leafs, it took seven additional weeks to complete, with Sittler leaving hockey while it was finalized due to being “mentally depressed."
The Flyers finally got Sittler on January 20, 1982. Interestingly enough, the Flyers tried to acquire him during their 1980 Stanley Cup Finals run, but the Maple Leafs rejected the Flyers' offer. Who knows how the Stanley Cup Finals would have turned out had the Flyers acquired Sittler, who scored 40 goals and 57 assists for Toronto that season?
Sittler played well for the Flyers, posting good numbers and providing team leadership, but the team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs each season he was here. He scored his 1,000th NHL career point while playing for the Flyers during the 1982-83 season, becoming the second Flyer player to reach such a career milestone while playing in Philadelphia.
Before the start of the 1984-85 season, Sittler was named team captain, replacing Bobby Clarke. At a press dinner held before the start of the season, rosters were handed out with the “C” next to Sittler’s name. Just before the press conference, however, new GM Bob Clarke traded his friend Darryl
Sittler to the Detroit Red Wings for Murray Craven and Joe Patterson. Sittler recalled the incident in his 1991 autobiography saying, “Clarke can't come close to realizing how much he hurt me, and my family, that day.”
The Flyers eventually got their man, but had they gotten him when they wanted him during that 1980 season, Sittler’s tenure with the team would almost assuredly have been more remembered and may also have featured a Stanley Cup championship.
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At the end of the 1992-93 season, the New York Rangers faced a dilemma. With the approaching expansion draft, teams could only protect one goaltender on their roster. The Rangers had two top-tier, elite NHL goalies on their roster: Mike Richter and John Vanbiesbrouck. Instead of losing Vanbiesbrouck for nothing, the Rangers put him on the market. At the time, the Flyers had two NHL goaltending studs on their roster named Tommy Soderstrom and Dominic Roussel. Actually, both were bitter disappointments best forgotten. The Flyers didn’t make a serious move to go after Vanbiesbrouck. Instead, the Rangers traded him to Vancouver, who purposely left the goaltender exposed so that the new Florida Panthers and their GM, Bob Clarke, could acquire him with the No. 1 pick in the expansion draft. Vanbiesbrouck, three seasons later, lead that expansion team to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Vanbiesbrouck’s play—along with the Panthers’—diminished over the next few seasons, and his last year in Florida the team finished 12th in the Eastern Conference. That offseason the Flyers acquired the 35-year-old goaltender, teaming him with Ron Hextall to give the Flyers the oldest goaltending tandem in the league. He played well his first season, 1998-99, but fizzled in the playoffs as the Flyers were eliminated by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. The next season he lost his position on the team as starting goaltender to rookie Brian Boucher, who then in turn lost his starting position the following year to rookie Roman Cechmanek.
The Flyers had a shot to get Vanbiesbrouck in his prime, but they passed. The goaltender would go on to be the primary reason an expansion team could put together a Stanley Cup Finals run in an extremely
quick fashion, but by the time he did arrive in Philadelphia, he was just another average goaltender who filled time in net for the Flyers.
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Remember when Adam Oates was a Flyer? No? Not a lot of people do, and from all indications, he'd rather not remember, either.
The Flyers acquired the 39-year-old forward at the trade deadline of the 2001-02 season for goaltending prospect Maxime Ouelette and the Flyers' first, second and third-round picks in the 2002 NHL Draft! Quite the steep price to pay for a guy who didn’t seem too excited to be coming here in the first place and would skip town just four months later.
Oates didn’t play bad, recording three goals, eight assists for 11 points in just 14 regular-season games. He even managed to record assists on the only two playoff goals the Flyers managed to
score during a first-round loss to the Ottawa Senators. With the team going through offseason turmoil that saw veteran players openly mutiny against head coach and Flyers legend Bill Barber, Oates decided to walk in the offseason, signing a free agent deal with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Oates played just 19 games for the Flyers overall. He failed to make his mark on the franchise and jumped ship as soon as he could.
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The Flyers drafted Forsberg sixth overall in the 1991 draft. Forsberg himself was shocked at the pick, figuring he’d go to a team in the second round and also due to the fact that it was common knowledge that Forsberg was ambivalent about playing in the NHL. He played for his home team Modo in Sweden the following season and seemed to be in no hurry to come to North America to play for a team located in a major American city. This factored into GM Russ Farwell’s and team President Jay Snider’s decision to include Forsberg in that blockbuster Eric Lindros deal.
Forsberg eventually did decide to come to North America three years later, figuring the French-speaking, Euro-Chic Quebec City was more his style than blue-collar Philadelphia, where almost everyone is a walking, breathing life critic. Forsberg excelled with Quebec and with the Colorado Avalanche when the franchise moved west. He won an MVP award, an Art Ross Trophy and two Stanley Cups.
After the lockout season of 2004-05, the Flyers signed Forsberg to a two-year deal, “bringing him home.” But Forsberg’s NHL career and his international play for his home country Sweden over the years wore down his body. His two short seasons with the Flyers were marked by injuries, frustration and a team falling apart around him. He gladly accepted a trade to the Nashville Predators, who were surprisingly the best team in hockey at the time of Foppa’s arrival. The Predators went into a bit of a skid and were bounced from the playoffs in the first round by the San Jose Sharks.
The Peter Forsberg the Flyers got in 2006 was certainly not the Peter Forsberg the Flyers traded away in 1992.
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Dale Hawerchuk was an amazing offensive powerhouse who scored over 100 points in six of his first seven NHL seasons, including 103 in his rookie season when he became the youngest player in league history to reach that milestone. He won the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year. He was a prolific scorer, great playmaker and perennial All-Star. The biggest problem was he played in Winnipeg, so not a lot of people noticed.
The Flyers noticed, and in the late 80s there were constant trade rumors swirling that the Flyers would acquire the center. Each trade deadline came and went and Hawerchuk remained with the Jets. In the summer of 1990, it was expected Hawerchuk would be moved and the Flyers looked to be in the running.
Instead, he was dealt to Buffalo during the entry draft in a blockbuster deal. In Buffalo, he continued to excel, recording an average of over a point a game during his entire career with the Sabres.
In his final year with Buffalo, his play and production began to decline. He signed as a free agent with St. Louis in the fall of 1995 at the age of 32. The Flyers did not try to sign him. Hawerchuk scored only 41 points over 66 games with St. Louis before the Flyers traded Craig MacTavish to the Blues for him. He played much better for the Flyers than he did for the Blues, and he scored four goals and 16 assists for 20 points in just 16 games for the Flyers. The following season, the 33-year-old’s body seemed to be breaking down and he was plagued by injuries, limiting him to only 51 games and a diminished role for the Flyers team that would eventually make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Hawerchuk announced his retirement in the offseason.
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The only one on this list who comes close to matching Jagr’s credentials, Paul Coffey was the Edmonton Oilers' best defenseman and a major part of the Oilers’ Stanley Cup championships in 1983-84, 1984-85 and 1986-87. Two of those came against the Flyers, who got to see Coffey’s greatness firsthand. In the 1987 offseason, Coffey was engaged in a bitter monetary dispute with Edmonton and it was clear that he would be taking his talents elsewhere. The Flyers looked to be the destination, with GM Bob Clarke and Oilers' GM Glen Sather in serious trade discussions. The Flyers started the 1987-88 season with a 6-13-3 record and were desperate to make improvements. Coffey was there for the taking. The Flyers offered center Ron Sutter and defenseman Doug Crossman. The Oilers wanted Rick Tocchet. Clarke balked on the Tocchet deal and the Oilers traded Coffey to the Pittsburgh Penguins who, with the emergence of Mario Lemiuex as a superstar, were improving drastically.
Coffey would spend four-and-a-half seasons in Pittsburgh, winning two more Stanley Cups. The Flyers would dramatically decline as the Penguins rose. In 1997, after spending time with the Los Angeles Kings and Detroit Red Wings, Coffey once again made himself a problem to his team’s front office and he was put back on the trading block. Again it looked like the Flyers had the inside track. Instead the Hartford Whalers acquired him. Coffey did not seem too happy in Hartford and played there only 20 games before the Flyers finally, finally, successfully traded for him, sending Kevin Haller and their 1997 first-round pick to the Whalers.
Coffey was an immediate fan favorite and played a large part in the Flyers Stanley Cup run in the spring of 1997. In the Finals, playing against his former team Detroit, Coffey was definitely not the same Coffey who helped Edmonton and Pittsburgh capture Stanley Cups. During the first two games of the series he was on the ice for six of Detroit's goals and the Red Wings scored a power play goal while Coffey was serving a penalty. A crushing hit from Darren McCarty in Game 2 left Coffey sidelined for the rest of the series with a concussion. His scoring line for the Finals: 0 points and a minus-five in two games.
His second season with the Flyers saw him limited by injury to only 57 regular-season games, and he missed the playoffs. The Flyers traded him in the offseason to Chicago for a fifth-round draft pick.
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Stevens was a hard-hitting, dominate power forward who played left wing alongside Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr for the Penguins. He was one of the game’s best. He surpassed 50 goals and a 100 points in back-to-back seasons (1991-92 and 1992-93). He played a major role in the Penguins' two Stanley Cup championships, being the only Pittsburgh player to play in every single regular-season and playoff game over those two seasons. Unfortunately in the 1993 playoffs, Stevens suffered one of the worst on-ice injuries in league history when he was knocked unconscious by the Islanders’ Rich Pilon while still on his feet. He fell, unable to protect himself, and landed face first on the ice. The impact shattered his facial bones and required extensive reconstructive surgery and the implanting of several metal plates. Stevens was never the same player.
He bounced around the league, playing with the Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers, having a decent but not spectacular career. His arrest, along with a prostitute, for possession of crack cocaine landed Stevens in the league’s Substance Abuse Program. After his release, the Flyers signed him as a free agent during the summer of 2000. He had almost no impact on the team, scoring
just two goals and seven assists over 23 games. In January of 2001, GM Bob Clarke traded Stevens back to the Penguins where he had previously enjoyed so much success, hoping it would revive the winger’s career and help him stay on the right path in his personal life.
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Ulf Samuelsson was one of the dirtiest, most despised defenseman ever to play the game. He was also incredibly effective. He was a member of those two Penguins teams that won the Stanley Cup in 1991 and 1992. He played for the Flyers' other most detested rival, the New York Rangers, from 1995 through 1998. He went head-to-head with Flyers' star Eric Lindros many times (almost always winding up on the bad end of things), and he was a player the Flyers' fans loved to hate.
In October of 1999, the Flyers signed him as a free agent. His nasty demeanor was still there, but he was pretty ineffective as a defenseman. He had trouble cracking the lineup and only dressed for 49 games as a Flyer. He scored one goal and two assists for three points and did not play at all in the Flyers' playoffs in the spring of 2000. Samuelsson's tenure with the Flyers, his last before retiring in the summer of 2000, is somehow even more forgettable than Adam Oates'.