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Philly Adds to League Best Forward Group

The Philadelphia Flyers made a move to bolster their forwards corps today, adding Kris Versteeg from the Toronto Maple Leafs. See what the Flyers gave up in the deal and my analysis after the break.

The Flyers sent their 1st and 3rd round picks in this years draft to the Leafs for the young Stanley Cup winner.

The Off Wing View: The price for a player like Versteeg may have already been set last week, when the Nashville Predators acquired Mike Fisher from Ottawa for a first round pick, and a conditional second or third round pick in 2012. Fisher makes $4.2M a season, and is signed through 2013. He is on pace for about 35 points. The thirty year old is more renowned for his two-way play then his scoring prowess though.

Versteeg, 24, already has 35 points on the season, and is making only $3.083M to Fisher’s $4.2M. In the respect that he is younger, and has been producing more offense, the Flyers seem to have made relatively good value on their picks, compared to Nashville anyway. Versteeg is signed through next season, and becomes an RFA on July 1, 2012.

From the Leafs view point: They had miscast (as they do with almost all of their players) Kris Versteeg as a top 6 forward, when in actuality he is best served in a bottom 6 role. A lot of times, teams see players excel in bottom 6 roles with other teams and assume that they would increase their production with an increase in minutes and responsibilities. That was not the case with Versteeg, as he was on pace to put up similar numbers to his time in Chicago as a third liner.

They recognized that they had a guy who didn’t fit into the role they’d projected him to fill, and were paying him to be, and made a move to get rid of him. In return, they got pretty fair market value. As I said, they might not have gotten quite the return that Ottawa got on Fisher, but a 1st and a 3rd isn’t bad at all. According to Brian Burke, the Leafs are already in the process of flipping Philadelphia’s third round pick for a player who will contribute right away on forward. Assuming it is not a player destined for fourth line minutes (god knows they have an abundance of those), Toronto will have basically dealt a guy who SHOULD be on the third line, for another third liner and a first round pick.

Leaf fans I’ve spoken to so far don’t seem happy about the deal, but I think they should take a closer look. If Burke does pull of a deal to net them another forward, it will be a definite win. If not, the upside is that they’ve acquired potentially two young building blocks while losing one in Versteeg.

From the Flyers view: The Flyers may have already had the best group of forwards in the league. Their top three lines of forwards can all put the puck in the net, and their fourth line is very good at what they do. Adding Versteeg to the mix only makes that group stronger. He will get a chance to play in a role more suitable to his skill set. He will likely play on the third line with some talented players (I’m thinking Jeff Carter and James Van Riemsdyk) where he can generate some offense and contribute with his strong defensive game.

He will bolster a penalty kill unit that is already in the top 10 in the league, and features Mike Richards who is among the most dangerous players in the league while short a man. He can also play on the power play, but I don’t expect he’ll see very much time there, as the Flyers are incredibly deep on talent up front.

The Flyers didn’t have to give anybody on their roster up to acquire Versteeg, which is the best part of the deal for them. The only issue with adding a player like this when your team is rolling along well is that you’ll upset the chemistry your lines have developed, but when you have a chance to add a player who could be a difference maker, I think you have to do it.

A first and a third really isn’t that high of a price to pay, especially since the Flyers will likely be picking 28-30th in each round, and at this time this years draft doesn’t look as deep as in years past.

The downside to acquiring a player with Versteeg’s cap hit is that they are essentially “capped out” now. They were rumored to be pursuing goaltender Steve Mason from Columbus, and no longer have the cap space to do so without basically losing a dollar for every one they take on. Some have said that Nikolai Zherdev could be on the trading block if the Flyers do move a forward, since his production hasn’t been what they’d expected out of him. I doubt that Columbus would take Zherdev back (he was drafted fourth overall by Columbus in 2003 and played all of his NHL hockey there until being traded to the Rangers in 2008), because there may still be some hurt feelings over the way previous contract negotiations went down.

However, if prior bad feelings could be put aside, Columbus could net themselves some desperately needed offensive help. Philadelphia would still have to shed a little more salary, and a player like Daniel Carcillo is another who has been rumored to be available. The Flyers have too many forwards right now, and Carcillo could find himself a healthy scratch more often than not until a deal gets done to either move him or free up a spot. I think Zherdev and Carcillo for Steve Mason (and maybe a late round pick) is a deal that benefits both parties immensely. As a Red Wings fan, I hope that Columbus doesn’t end up with Carcillo, because he is an absolute pain in the ass to play against.

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