GAGNE TRADED TO TAMPA
The Flyers traded long-time winger Simon Gagne to the Tampa Bay Lightning today in exchange for defenseman Matt Walker and a fourth round draft pick in 2011.
It was expected that Gagne would be moved, but the question was where. Multiple teams were interested but the Flyers made a trade for a solid defenseman, a draft pick and most importantly, salary cap space.
The deal puts the Flyers a little more than $1 million under the cap with 23 players signed.
Gagne, 30, was the longest tenured Flyer and the co-dean (with Eagles kicker David Akers) of Philadelphia professional athletes having played for the Flyers consecutively since 2000.
“I was expecting it because of all that has happened in the last few weeks," Gagne said. "The Flyers asked me to waive my no-trade clause maybe about a month ago. At that point I was not quite ready to do that. But as time went on, I pretty much had no choice. But to hear today that I was traded is still a little bit of shock for me. It’s the first time that I have been traded.
“But, I am looking forward to going to Tampa Bay. I’m very excited. I look at this as a new challenge. They have a great bunch of guys there that I know already... I like the way the team is going right now with the new direction under Steve Yzerman and the coaching changes. It is a tough time but on the other side I am very excited to being able to play in Tampa next year.”
Gagne has one year remaining on his contract at $5.25 million and will be an unrestricted free agent after the upcoming season.
He joins a Lightning team that can create the new French Connection if they desire - by playing Gagne alongside Vincent LeCavalier and Martin St. Louis. The Lightning also have Steven Stamkos, Ryan Malone and former Flyer Steve Downie to make for a formidable top six.
In return the Flyers got Walker, 30, a hard-to-find right-hand shot on the blue line, but Walker is more of a physical presence than he is offensive.
Standing at 6-4 and weighing 215 pounds, Walker is known for his more bruising style of play. In parts of seven NHL seasons with St. Louis, Chicago and Tampa Bay, Walker has played in 306 games, has scored just four goals and 26 assists for 30 points and is a minus -7. He also has 444 career penalty minutes and set a career high with 90 last season with the Lightning.
“This was a move to solidify our defense,” said Holmgren. “Matt Walker is a right shot defenseman that we like. He brings size, grit and toughness to our backend. Simon Gagne played 10 seasons for the Flyers and was not only a good player for us, but also handled himself in a first class manner on and off the ice.”
Walker, 30, appeared in 66 games during the regular season for the Lightning, recording five points (2G,3A) and 90 penalty minutes.
Walker becomes the eighth defenseman on the roster joining Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle, Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros, Sean O'Donnell and Oskars Bartulis.
Considering Pronger, Timonen, Carle, Coburn and Meszaros all have spots virtually locked up, the No. 6 spot is going to be one of the closest battles to watch once training camp begins in seven weeks.
"We really like the way (Walker) plays," Holmgren said. He's an intense character guy who plays physical. He's a good penalty killer that provides us with sturdy minutes. He won't be a liability and he'll be a positive force in helping us to defend our end."
As for Walker, he was on a plane flying home from vacation with his wife when the trade went down.
"When we landed our phones kind of blew up on us," Walker said. "When they did I read that I was going to Philly and I looked at my wife and there was a look of shock on her face. But I'm very excited to put on a Philly uniform.
"It's a team I always thought... where I would fit in," Walker said. "It's great to be going back to a hockey town and to play for a team that's always had a certain reputation and a certain style of play. When I talked to everybody in my family - my brother and my dad are big int hockey - they were excited too. I don't think it could be better. It really worked out well."
Ultimately it may not seem as if the Flyers got value for Gagne, who when healthy is a consistent 30-goal scorer. However, they put themselves in a tough spot when they exceeded the salary cap and needed to trade his salary - or the equivalent - just to get back under.
As such, that, combined with Gagne's no-trade clause, which gave him the opportunity to provide a small list of teams he was willing to play for, reduced the market for Gagne's services.
Although Gagne's injury-history makes his salary a gamble, for Lightning G.M. Steve Yzerman, it's low-risk, high-reward play.
If Gagne pans out, he traded very little to get him. If it doesn't work out, he'll get $5.25 million in salary cap relief next season.
Gagne is one of the most prolific offensive players in Flyers' history.
His 524 points ranks 10th all-time.
His 259 goals are ninth-best in franchise history.
With 47 game-winning goals, he's sixth-best all-time for the Flyers.
He has also played 664 games for the orange and black, 10th most of any player.
“(The people of Philadelphia) are what I am going to miss the most," Gagne said. "I’ve been there for 10 years. Philadelphia was like my second home. When you stay there more than a decade you start to get familiar with the area. You build friendships with the players, the training staff and all the people working for the Flyers. The organization becomes like your family a little bit.
"But you have to understand that hockey is a business and that is the way it is. I am going to miss a lot of people there and it is going to be tough. But I am looking forward to this new challenge of going to Tampa Bay. I think it will be a great place and great fit for me.
“I think the thing I will miss the most are the Flyers' fans. All the support I got there for the 10 years that I played, even during the tough times when I had some injuries, the fans were really fair with me the whole time. There were a lot of #12 jerseys in the stands even when I started with the team in 1999. To them, I would just like to say a huge thank you. Those are the people I am going to miss the most.”