Well, here comes another move that was hard to not see coming. On Saturday afternoon, the Flyers confirmed that winger James van Riemsdyk was shipped to Toronto for defenseman Luke Schenn, giving the Flyers a beefier presence on the back end. It also ends a tumultuous period in Philadelphia for van Riemsdyk, and a tumultuous one in Toronto for Schenn, who had fallen out of favor with coach Ron Wilson over the past few seasons before finally falling out favor with the front office, apparently.
On the surface, it looks like a great deal for both sides. The Maple Leafs desperately needed some scoring up front, and they will get it with van Riemsdyk, who just turned 23. For the Flyers, it gives them a defenseman that GM Paul Holmgren felt they needed. Schenn will also be reunited with his brother Brayden, whom the Flyers acquired last off-season from the Los Angeles Kings. The elder Schenn, Luke, was the 5th overall pick in the 2008 draft. For the Flyers, it means giving up a little bit of offense to get some defense, a move that is not completely unsurprising.
Schenn, known to many as "The Human Eraser", will hope to erase the opposition here in the city of Brotherly Love. Both players have been trade targets by other teams for what seems like years, so it's only fitting they were traded for each other. It is not believed at this time that any other players are involved in the trade, nor are any draft picks. It appears to be a straight up, old-fashioned one-for-one deal.
The man known as "JVR", van Riemsdyk had 24 points in 43 games for the Flyers last season, but dealt with hip troubles throughout the season, and was maligned by injury for a good part of the year. Over recent weeks, rumor had it that van Riemsdyk did not want to have a surgery to repair the hip. Then, Holmgren came out and said that there was no surgery needed and that van Riemsdyk was fine. Maybe the writing was on the wall, but it appeared there was some tension between van Riemsyk and the Flyers over the past few weeks, if not months.
In return, the Flyers get a 22-year-old defenseman to add to their already-strong corps. It remains to be seen who Schenn is paired with, but the Flyers seem to have five capable NHL defenseman in Schenn, Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossmann and Andrej Meszaros. At this point, the Flyers could literally put just about anybody back as the 6th defenseman and feel comfortable. This move also points to another near-fact: Chris Pronger will probably never play hockey again.
Matt Carle is the Flyers' key un-restricted free agent on the back line, so he may have told the team he is seeking a larger contract than the Flyers were interested in giving. It was rumored that he may be re-signed by the team, but this move does seem to lessen the chance of that happening. The 6th defenseman could be Andreas Lilja, Marc-Andre Bourdon, or Erik Gustafsson.
In Schenn, the Flyers picked up what they needed. He is 6'2", 229 pounds, and a right-handed shot. He had 22 points last year with Toronto, and although he was a -6, he was on an awful Toronto team. And, while hits can be a subjective stat because they are looked at by whomever is scoring inside the arena, Schenn had 270 last season, most among defenseman in the NHL. He certainly won't be an offensive force for the Flyers, but they don't need him to be. Pairing Schenn with somebody like Coburn could be completely scary for the opposition to face.
He will also be able to log major minutes. In the 2010-2011 campaign, Schenn averaged 22:22 of ice time. Last year, that was down to 16:02, mostly due to problems with the coaching staff. Expect Flyers coach Peter Laviolette to press Schenn into more of the 20:00 range, particularly with an aging Kimmo Timonen needing some time off. This move may also indicate that the team will give Timonen some off-days as the season goes along to keep him fresh in the long run. That would not surprise anybody.
We'll have to wait and see whether that is the case come October, but as of right now, mark this down: putting Schenn on the Flyers' back line will make them heavy favorites to come out of the East in 2013. It's hard to look at this Flyers roster and find flaws, but New Jersey found them in round two of the playoffs this year. Holmgren obviously knew it was time to upgrade the ferocity and health of the back line, and he has.
Sources: Behindthenet.ca, Hockey-Reference, ESPN, TSN.ca
Victor Filoromo is a featured contributor for Yahoo! and also contributes to PhuturePhillies.com, a Phillies' prospect blog. He grew up just outside of Philadelphia, and enjoys Philadelphia sports, media, and politics.
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