The Philadelphia Flyers trade for Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn was not among the most recently circulated rumors surrounding the National Hockey League draft. But, some type of deal involving the now departed James van Riemsdyk had been in the air for awhile.
Past smoke and fire
Remember last season when Mike Richards was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings and Jeff Carter was dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets? The only hardcore hockey fans who don't recall those deals must have been on assignment in the Kontinental Hockey League.
At that time, there was wide speculation that both Flyers were dealt for reasons that went beyond on-ice production. Clearly their no-trade clauses, which would have kicked in this July 1, provided incentive for general manager Paul Holmgren to make both deals. Beyond those contract considerations, something else helped to facilitate those moves behind the scenes.
Everyone knows that team founder and chairman Ed Snider has always been heavily involved in day-to-day affairs. Based upon Holmgren's emotional presentation of those dual trades at the time to the media, it appeared as though he was reluctant to part ways with two players who he personally liked.
Snider wanted to firmly address the Flyers long-standing goaltending weakness after last year's embarrassing Semi-finals sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins. Holmgren, after having received that directive, promptly acquired the rights to Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and then signed him to a massive nine-year deal. Doing so meant that other payroll had to be cut.
In most instances, with all due respect to the Eric Lindros trade to the New York Rangers being noted, no organization wants to damage its brand by engaging in negative talk about its own assets.
Obtaining Bryzgalov created the need to make the other two trades. So, the Flyers termed all of that a 'change of direction' and then skated on to training camp last fall.
Regarding van Riemsdyk: the Flyers have traded from strength by exchanging a young offensive-minded forward for a young defenseman in Schenn.
On the surface this move is much less about politics, than it is about addressing current needs through the use of an abundant resource. However, the talk about JVR not fitting in with the team during the season must have some merit.
There are likely many moves that could have been made to add a defenseman. This specific trade was chosen, like other transactions that other hockey teams make, for a variety of practical reasons.
I liked van Riemsdyk's potential, but also know that someone like Schenn is a fair-value addition. The Flyers are deep up front, they need to enhance their defense and should benefit from Schenn's right-handed point shot. As to any other issues surrounding why the deal was done, that's what offseason chatter has and will continue to be about.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He has written professionally for over two decades and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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