Radko Gudas Was Born to Play Hockey on Broad Street

Radko Gudas was born to play for the Philadelphia Flyers. In 126 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the bruising defender had Broad Street written all over him. Now that the perfect match is a reality, there’s plenty to be optimistic about.

A Misleading Reputation

Anyone who’s watched Radko Gudas throughout his tenure in Tampa Bay is well aware of his physicality. The 6-0, 193-pound Czech has dished out 475 hits in his young NHL career, 273 of them coming in 73 games last season.

Gudas’ borderline hits on Kris Versteeg and Antoine Roussel lead many to believe that the former third-round draft pick is overly physical, or even dirty. But with only one game misconduct tied to his rap sheet, the 24-year-old lumberjack has yet to be suspended.

Upon his acquisition, many compared Gudas to current Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo. But that correlation is simply misguided and untrue. Rinaldo’s 562 penalty minutes in 205 NHL games exhibit the contrast right off the bat, with multiple suspensions to further debunk such conclusion.

In other words, the newest Flyer has leveled out a high volume of clean hits, forcing opponents to always account for him when deployed on the ice.

In other words, Gudas (2 goals, 5 points in 31 games this season) runs around hitting people. In Hextall’s mind, the Flyers needed a little more of that, but from somebody who knows how to do it without gaining a bad reputation with refs (See: Rinaldo, Zac)… — Rob Parent, Delaware County Daily Times

Since Gudas is recovering from knee surgery, it’s likely he won’t make his Flyers debut until next season. His addition, however, will undoubtedly make the Flyers a team opponents won’t look forward to playing next year. Especially if they uphold their current hit totals (1,885 through 63 games), eighth most in the league.

“He hits hard, he steps in, he fights,” said Flyers forward Jakub Voracek. “He’s strong as a bull. Other teams are afraid to play against him because when he hits, you’re gonna get hurt.

“I played with him in AAA back home and he was already tough. Played in junior. He wasn’t sure he’d make the NHL and when he did, I was very happy for him. He made it with his passion and style of play.”

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No one on the roster knows Gudas like Voracek does. The fellow countrymen have been friends since Gudas was 16, on top of being childhood teammates in the Czech Republic.

“I’m excited to see him,” Gudas said after being dealt. “We played a couple seasons together… so mostly I’m excited about that. I already talked with him a little bit. That’s going to be fun, for sure.”

The native of Prague brings more than just bone-crushing hits, though. And with Voracek in place to accommodate Gudas’ transition over, the Flyers stand to benefit immensely.

Overlooked Dividends

Radko Gudas Lightning
Radko Gudas (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

With 32 career NHL points, Radko Gudas was not brought to Philadelphia for his offense. The right handed stick-handler netted three goals last season, while adding 19 assists. And before undergoing knee surgery this season, Gudas left the Bolts with five points in 31 games. But that doesn’t mean his offensive contributions will be stagnant in Philadelphia.

“I don’t want to say I’m just a stay-at-home defenseman,” said Gudas. “That’s my main thing, but I think I can produce offensively as well. It’s up to wherever the coach puts me.

“I think (stickhandling is) one of the things I’ve been working on since I’ve got in the minors. That was one of the biggest things that was holding me from the NHL. I’m glad it’s worked out and everything is better.”

Despite his limited offense in Tampa Bay, Gudas brings more than just intimidation to the table. While the former Calder Cup-winning defender won’t be quarterbacking one of the two units on the power play, his notoriety for lacking speed and puck-moving skills may leave the door open for Gudas to surprise the opposition.

“I think everybody knows he can hit,” said Flyers forward Vinny Lecavalier, who played with Gudas in Tampa Bay for a season. “He’s a big-time, one of the few left that steps up in the middle of the ice and hits guys. He’s like a little bulldog. He can play with the puck, not just a guy that can hit or run around. He can play with the puck, make some plays. Great guy, too.”

The bearded skater stands to be a perfect fit for Philly’s third pairing come next season, and possibly even the second – depending on what GM Ron Hextall does before now and then, as well as the status of defensive prospects looking to make the jump.

In comparison to Braydon Coburn, whom he was traded for, Gudas holds his own.

Despite seeing an overall average of over three fewer minutes of ice time per game, Gudas’ 52.4 percent SAT percentage at even-strength bests Coburn’s 51 percent SAT percentage. Further, the two have skated with similar quality of teammates (Coburn – 16.6 percent, Gudas 16.5 percent), as well as against similar competition (Coburn – 17.5 percent, Gudas 17.2 percent).

Obviously, Coburn plays a larger role of the two, with his size, experience, and penalty killing skills making him valuable enough for the Bolts to trade for him. But the Flyers weren’t nearly as concerned about that as much as gaining cap relief with added value as a complimentary addition.

If Gudas can play a regular role, he’s a relative bargain, with a cap hit of $991,667 through next season, at which point he will be a restricted free agent. — Scott Cullen, TSN

From a financial standpoint, the trade brings even more of a payoff. In trading Coburn to the Lightning, Flyers GM Ron Hextall not only obtained Tampa Bay’s first-round draft pick, but also gained over $3.5 million of cap space. With Coburn’s $4.5 million AAV counting through the end of next season, that’s a critical chunk of change for a team that continues to gain value in their climb out of the salary cap basement.

That’s not to say Hextall settled on the defenseman who resembles the cartoon version of the Tasmanian Devil on the ice.

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“He’s very highly competitive, and I felt like the one thing we wanted to do was get a little bit more competitive,” said Hextall.

“When I say competitive … we’ve got a lot of competitive guys, but there’s guys that compete quietly and guys that compete loudly. I would say Radko competes loudly. I think everybody knows it. He brings energy to a game, he brings enthusiasm, and he brings a win-at-all-costs type of attitude.”

Although that competitive edge won’t be seen until next season, the wait will likely be worth the reward.

Whether he knew it or not, Radko Gudas is perfect for Philadelphia.