Monday, February 14, 2011

Flyers Acquire Versteeg For Two Draft Picks, Solidfy Spot As Eastern Conference Favorites

Up until today all of the major moves over the last week ahead of the NHL trade deadline have come from teams in the Western Conference.  The Philadelphia Flyers, already the top team in the Eastern Conference, became the first team in the East to make a splash in the trade market when, per TSN's Bob McKenzie, they sent this year's first and third round picks to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Kris Versteeg. The Flyers were likely the favorite in the Eastern Conference even before the move and this should only solidify that position. 
This season Versteeg, 24, tallied 14 goals, 21 assists and 35 points in 53 games for the Leafs.  A key attraction to Versteeg has to be him championship experience with the Blackhawks last season when he scored 14 points in 22 playoff games, including five points in the six-game Stanley Cup finals against Philadelphia.  The Flyers will also have control of him for next season with a salary cap hit of 3.083 million.
Versteeg is obviously a capable scorer and only adds to what is frankly an embarrassment of riches in the depth and quality of the Flyers forward core.  Given how deep and talented the group is, Versteeg could go back to playing a more third line role, similar to what he did in Chicago instead of being forced into a top line assignment in Toronto.
The price-tag on Versteeg seems high in the big picture, but when you are throwing your chips in the middle and making a run for the title, sometimes you overpay to get the guy you want.  The only perceived hole in the Flyers championship armor at the moment appears to be goaltending, but they have the assets to make a trade for a netminder if they feel it necessary over the next two weeks.  In the meantime everyone else in the East is now left to scramble to counter against a team that was already better than them before today and just got better themselves.