Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall Gets Things Rolling with Scott Hartnell Trade

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IJune 23, 2014

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 13:  Scott Hartnell #19 of the Philadelphia Flyers warms up prior to his game against the Carolina Hurricanes on April 13, 2014 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
Len Redkoles/Getty Images

I've been thinking it for a couple years, but I only really started putting it out there in the past few weeks. Regardless, I was right: Scott Hartnell has been traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets, per The Philadelphia Inquirer's Sam Carchidi

In exchange for Hartnell, who had a no-movement clause in his contract, the Flyers will receive R.J. Umberger and a 2015 fourth-round pick in the deal.

If you're assuming this is it for any major moves this offseason, then you would think this not a particularly great trade. 

Umberger may be a better skater and somewhat more reliable than Hartnell, but he cannot produce offensively and is roughly the same age as Hartnell. He isn't as extroverted as Hartnell but brings similar veteran leadership.

But he also doesn't really provide any salary cap relief—his hit is $4.6 million while Hartnell's is $4.75 million. Umberger's contract expires two years before Hartnell's but is still on the books for the next three seasons.

The fourth-round pick is fine to have as a very minor extra piece, but it's nothing to get excited about.

Some people will look at those raw terms of the deal and consider it a loss for the Flyers. In that sense, it might be. But we cannot assess these things in a vacuum.

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It will take a long time for new general manager Ron Hextall to fix the financial mess that former GM Paul Holmgren left him in Philadelphia. At the very, very least, Hextall made things easier in the future.

What we also have to consider, however, is what this deal now means for the next week or so. Don't forget that the draft is on Friday, and the Flyers could move either up or back from No. 17. 

Also don't overlook the fact that Hartnell had a no-movement clause, as did Umberger. However, now that he waived it to come to Philadelphia, Umberger can be traded to any team at any time.

That is a huge plus for the Flyers, who are a team that should have a lot of moving pieces in the near future and needed to start somewhere.

So don't just look at this as one singular trade.

The Flyers started today with a 32-year-old forward who had a no-movement clause and was signed through 2019.

While the age and position stay the same, Hextall essentially got rid of the no-movement clause and shortened the contract to 2017.

That gives him the flexibility to package Umberger in a future deal, and the shorter contract makes him a little more moveable.

And future deals are coming.

Vincent Lecavalier could easily be the next domino to fall. Brayden Schenn's future is also very much in the air, and nobody would be surprised (or disappointed) if his brother Luke were traded away this offseason. Nicklas Grossmann could be available as well.

I also don't think prospects like Samuel Morin, Robert Hagg and Scott Laughton are totally untouchable either—Hextall wants to build through the draft, but those were not his draft picks.

At the very least, it was beyond time for Hartnell to pack up and head out of town. He will never come close to his breakout 2011-12 season when he scored 37 goals.

He is no longer a first-line winger, and he didn't really fit all that well alongside Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. 

He also just didn't really seem to fit coach Craig Berube's style. There was a sense that he was an (overpaid) man without a place on this new roster moving forward.

With his name recognition and locker-room standing, it wouldn't have really worked to demote him to the third or fourth line permanently, but there isn't that problem with Umberger.

Now, guys like Matt Read, Jason Akeson and Laughton have chances to move up in the lineup (or crack the lineup, in Laughton's case) and prove themselves.

It also gives someone like Wayne Simmonds the potential to step up and take on a more prominent leadership role—which he and Read both deserve.

If Umberger isn't traded, then he also brings the added benefit of being able to play both center and winger. This gives the Flyers some help if Vincent Lecavalier and/or Brayden Schenn is traded.

If one of, or both of them are moved, Umberger could start out at the wing and then move into center when someone inevitably gets injured.

Just looking at this trade at the surface, there's certainly a case to be made that it wasn't a good one. Many people will argue that Hextall should have gotten more for Hartnell, but the GM really had his hands tied here.

But when you look at it from the bigger picture, as the first deal which gives them flexibility for more moves in the future, then it really does make some sense.

This is just getting the ball rolling.

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