MONTREAL – If “Chris Pronger for Joffrey Lupul” sounds familiar, it should. In the only major player trade on the draft floor Friday, the Philadelphia Flyers acquired the hulking defenseman in exchange for Lupul, Luca Sbisa, two first round picks and a conditional third.
Lupul had earlier been shipped to Edmonton from Anaheim for Pronger in a trade back in 2006. Friday’s move was a monumental trade that shows clear benefits for both teams. The Flyers got the physical, big-minutes No. 1 defenseman they wanted for years and the Ducks improved their blueline, added scoring and will have two impact-level prospects from the first round picks over the next two drafts.
Looking behind the music, the trade has even deeper implications for both organizations long-term. Anaheim not only got a young “do it all” top four defenseman in Sbisa and a perennial 20-goal speedster in Lupul, the two first round picks will help Anaheim retool after a season in which they are certain to lose some key players to unrestricted free agency.
They also gained cap space, as the two players they acquired combined make more than a million dollars less than Chris Pronger. This will help them in trying to re-sign or replace Francois Beauchemin and pay Scott Niedermayer.
For the Flyers, the time to win is always now and they addressed their most immediate need while ditching enough salary in Lupul to allow them to acquire one of the league’s elite defensemen.
If they still had Lupul, it would have been very difficult to fit a free agent (Jay Bouwmeester, maybe?) under their cap. In addition, they have drafted so incredibly well in the last few seasons they were in a better position than most teams to give up a top prospect and two first rounders. Having drafted Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk and acquiring Ryan Parent recently made losing some good young talent more palatable.
On a different note, almost as interesting as the Pronger trade were the trades not made. Rumors have circulated for some time about the availability of Vincent Lecavalier, Dany Heatley, Phil Kessel, Ryan Clowe, and the rights to Bouwmeester.
If Lecavalier, Heatley or Kessel were moved, the deal almost certainly would have involved a first round pick, while the others had a possible first rounder as part of the whole package. Without a 2009 first round pick in play, it should be less likely now that Lecavalier and Kessel will move. The strong draft class this year may have been a factor in killing potential deals, as many teams were not willing to give up a first round pick with the large number of elite players available.
In fact, this draft class was so deep that five teams – Columbus, Minnesota, Calgary, Anaheim and Detroit – were willing to trade down in exchange for additional picks without receiving any immediate help in return.
These teams were confident they would still get the level of player they wanted later in the first round. Columbus, lacking a second round pick, and Minnesota, without a second or a third, were both eager to choose later in the first round in order to have another shot at this draft class in later rounds.
Columbus still nabbed great-skating defenseman John Moore from nearby Illinois with the 21st pick. Minnesota, meanwhile, had a great windfall as it was able to draft Nick Leddy, the state’s 2009 “Mr. Hockey” who captained his high school team to a state championship this spring in the Wild’s own arena.
Both picks were not only good hockey decisions, but will be popular moves with the fan base. And both teams will be able to add more prospects Saturday with the extra picks they gleaned.
Tom Lynn served for nine seasons as Assistant General Manager of the Minnesota Wild and for six seasons as General Manager of the Houston Aeros. Prior to that he was an attorney in New York representing the NHL and other sports entities in a wide variety of legal matters, and has taught Sports Law at St. Thomas Law School in Minnesota. Read more from Lynn HERE.