Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Trade of R.J. Umberger

In my very first posting, I'd like to talk about the Flyers' draft-day trade of fan-favorite R.J. Umberger. Like many of you, I was sad to see R.J. go. The man was a great fit for Philly: a real blue-collar, lunch-pail kinda guy who left it all out on the ice every time out. The man was a huge contributor to the Flyers' unlikely postseason run, almost single-handedly knocking off the top-seeded Canadiens in the conference semis. Finding out he was traded was certainly an 'aww' moment.

That said, it was the right move. for a few reasons.

First is that the trade allowed them to draft this Swiss kid Luca Sbisa, one of the top-rated defensive prospects available in the draft. According to the scouting reports, he is exactly what this team needs: a strong, puck-moving, two-way defenseman who should be a great point-man on the power play.

Second is that, in the new salary-cap NHL, the move was necessary. What it does, according to GM Paul Holmgren's explanation, is free up money to sign Jeff Carter and Randy Jones to long-term contracts. I like jones, and signing him long-term could end up being as important as Holmgren thinks it is. Time will tell on that one. But signing jeff carter is absolutely crucial, there's no other way to put it. He and Mike Richards, who won the AHL's Calder Cup together for the Philadelphia Phantoms, are the cornerstone of the future of this team. It may be early for this comparison, but think Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg of the late 90's Avalanche teams. Signing Carter long-term is perhaps a better move than any possible free-agent acquisition. Whatever they give him, I promise you it will be worth it. If this past season has taught us anything, it is that we can trust Holmgren.

Third--though really a corollary to reason #2--is that it might free up enough money for Holmgren to go after the stud of the free-agent defenseman pool--San Jose's Brian Campbell. My gut tells me that we can't offer him the kind of money that he's going to command, but we shall see.

And finally, I like the move cause Holmgren sent Umberger to the Columbus Blue Jackets. It's not like he traded him to a divisional or even conference rival. And, though one can never tell, I don't see Columbus as big movers and shakers, certainly not in the stacked Western Conference. This is not likely to come back to haunt us.

As said, I trust Holmgren. Because of his trades and signings, this team is absolutely a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, as long as they stay healthy. Just keep in mind that as incredible as the playoff run was this year, all the way to the NHL's Final Four, it was all out without their best scorer. Anyone remember Simon Gagne?

Keep the faith,
Go Phils,