The Flyers and general manager Paul Holmgren have made another big move in improving the club. On Tuesday night the team announced that they had acquired forward Kris Versteeg from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for 1st and 3rd round draft picks. While Versteeg has been rumored to be moved for some time now (with the Flyers being one of the rumored destinations), there have been all kinds of crazy rumors floating around about who the Flyers would or would not be willing to give up to make a deal happen. There were a lot of falsehoods floating around regarding a possible Versteeg deal.
James van Riemsdyk was a player who was involved in some of the earlier rumors surrounding a possible trade for Versteeg. A Flyers source who I reached out to reiterated that the team is still very high on JVR and he was not going to be dealt in any Versteeg deal. While many fans are somewhat reserved about this deal, I’m here to say that it works for the Flyers. While the Flyers are considered by many experts to have “cap” issues, the team has really done a good job managing it and understanding it. They are not in danger of being in a position like Chicago was last summer with so many cap casualties. Versteeg’s cap hit is just over $3 million and his contract expires after next season. The rumors that the Flyers were looking for forward depth were true all along and Versteeg was high on their list and a player the Flyers think highly of.
Since the Flyers surrendered a 1st and 3rd round pick in this deal, many feel that the Flyers are not done yet. They will need to free up a roster spot, possibly by dealing a player for a pick. The Flyers can solve this problem short term by sending someone down to the AHL, but they will most likely try to make another move. While the Flyers would most likely love to deal Nik Zherdev, it may be a tough sell to other teams based on his play this season. He hasn’t exactly been getting rave reviews around the league.
While some out there would like to believe the Flyers feel they aren’t set in goal and are looking to make a blockbuster deal for a goaltender such as Tomas Vokoun, don’t hold your breath. The Flyers are in a good spot with rookie Sergei Bobrovsky posting a .919 save % while Brian Boucher has played extremely well and is on the books for a cap hit under $1 million. The Flyers are very confident in their goaltending, and they feel it has improved over last year’s situation when they fell two games short of winning the Stanley Cup. I do not expect we’ll see another goaltender added as the deadline approaches.
What does this trade mean for the Flyers this year? Where does Versteeg fit in? Anything can change and Peter Laviolette has shown he isn’t afraid to shake things up, but most people see Versteeg fitting in really well with Mike Richards. Richards has had his fair share of linemates the past couple of years and has played with forwards ranging from Dan Carcillo to Andreas Nodl. Versteeg can help the team in many ways. He has very good upside. He’s 24. He’s a guy who can kill penalties for you, as well as score the timely goal you need to win the game. Versteeg is a very gritty player and the type that the Flyers have tended to covet over the years. One more established forward was probably the single most important need the Flyers could have made prior to the deadline, and Versteeg fits that bill perfectly.
I’m sure the first question in the minds of many of you is “What will happen to Ville Leino now?” One might think the Flyers do not have the cap space to sign Ville now and the fact that he hasn’t signed a contract extension already is a concern to many that there may have been trouble in the negotiations. I had a chance to pose that question to Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren on Monday evening. “We will continue to have dialogue with the hopes of reaching an agreement,” Holmgren said. His reply makes sense. Danny Briere has said repeatedly that Ville is a huge part of his line and he really doesn’t want to lose him. Besides, it can be done. Versteeg’s contract really isn’t that bad.
For the type of player Versteeg is, $3 million is a relatively low cap hit. On top of that, he is only signed through the end of next season. It makes things maneuverable knowing that you will either have some flexibility or some flexibility in sight to be able to keep the core together. The Flyers once again have to be happy with the job Paul Holmgren has done. Whatever your opinion is on Versteeg, there is no doubting that this move makes the Flyers better for the playoffs, and that is something Paul Holmgren has proven over and over he does better than most others GM’s.
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