Blogs > In The Room with Anthony SanFilippo

Daily Times beat writer Anthony J. SanFilippo takes you inside the locker rooms of the Philadelphia Flyers and the rest of the NHL.

Monday, July 19, 2010


It was only a matter of time.

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.”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I know you've all been waiting with eager anticipation for the NHL preseason schedule, which is only slightly more interesting than the NFL and NBA preseason schedule because they're usually good for at least a good fight or two.

The Flyers schedule is pretty similar to those they have thrown together in years past.

Here it is. Start booking your travel plans for London, Ontario now!

Tuesday Sept. 21 vs. New Jersey, 7 p.m., Wells Fargo Center

Thursday Sept. 23 vs. Toronto, 7 p.m., John Labatt Center, London, Ontario

Friday Sept. 24 @ Toronto, 7 p.m. Air Canada Centre

Saturday Sept. 25 @ Minnesota, 8 p.m. Xcel Energy Center

Tuesday Sept. 28 @ New Jersey, 7 p.m., Prudential Center

Wednesday Sept. 29 vs. New York Islanders, 7 p.m., Wells Fargo Center

Friday Oct. 1 vs. Buffalo, 7 p.m., Wels Fargo Center

Sunday Oct. 3 @ Buffalo, TBA, HSBC Arena

Eight meaningless games to get us ready for the opener on Oct. 7 in Pittsburgh.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I spoke with several NHL sources today, all of whom confirmed that the Flyers have in fact asked Simon Gagne to waive his no trade clause.

One source close to both Gagne and the Flyers confirmed that Gagne has in fact agreed to waive it.

However, no trade is imminent this weekend.

The Flyers have discussed a possible deal involving Gagne with another team - believed to be the Los Angeles Kings - and both sides have agreed to take the July 4th weekend to sleep on it and think about it.

The rationalization behind the deal appears to be so the Flyers can clear enough salary cap space to sign restricted free agents Darroll Powe and Dan Carcillo and to sign another, higher-priced goalie.

I spoke with someone who knows former Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco really well and was I was told "Turco really wants to go to Philly."

The Flyers are looking for a veteran goalie for just 1-2 years before possibly turning the reins over to one of their young prospects.

Rumors are flying about several names from Los Angeles who could be coming back to the Flyers, but it's likely to be a package of a player and draft picks.

I tried contacting Gagne by phone both last night and today, but was unable to reach him.

The name of James van Riemsdyk has also been mentioned in these rumors, but I have not been able to get anyone to confirm for me that he is part of any trade discussion.

Gagne, 30, is one of the longest-tenured athletes in Philadelphia, arriving the same season as Eagles' kicker David Akers and Phillies' shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

I will update if I get any further information.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


The Flyers inked a durable veteran defenseman when they added Sean O'Donnell to their defensive stable Thursday afternoon.

O'Donnell, 38, has played in 15 NHL seasons, eight with the Los Angeles Kings, and was a teammate with Chris Pronger on the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks who won the Stanley Cup.

O'Donnell signed a one-year pact with the Flyers, worth $1 million.

O'Donnell is not an offensive defenseman by any means, scoring just 30 goals in 1,092 career games, but he is big (6-2, 237), strong and solid on the blue line, giving the Flyers some much needed veteran depth.

He was a plus-14 last season with the Kings and is so consistent that he hasn't been a minus since 1996-97, his third year in the league.

The Ottawa native is especially durable, even in his advanced age. He has missed only 33 games in the last 13 seasons.

Continuing with their remaking of the roster, the Flyers later signed free agent forward/fighter Jody Shelly to a 3-year, $3.3 million deal.

Shelley, 34, has played nine seasons in the NHL with Columbus, San Jose and the New York Rangers. If you want to know what he brings to the table, compare these numbers: 538 career games, 16 goals, 33 assists, 49 points, minus-29.

Oh, and 1,347 penalty minutes.

His signing almost certainly spells the end of the Riley Cote era in Philadelphia.

The Flyers now have just $578,000 in cap space left, and still have to sign Darroll Powe, Dan Carcillo and maybe add another goalie and forward.

Why do I think they're nowhere close to being done?


The Flyers couldn't acquire what they were looking for at last season's trade deadline because they didn't have a second round pick to trade away.

Guess what, they don't have one in 2012 now either.

Minutes before the start of free agency, the Flyers pulled off a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning, sending the aforementioned second rounder in exchange for defenseman Andrej Meszaros.

Meszaros, 24, had six goals and 11 assists for 17 points for the Lightning last season.

Meszaros is signed for the next four years at $4 million per year.

Trading for the Czech-born Meszaros, likely takes the Flyers out of the running for several of the top end defensemen available in free agency.

Meszaros has been a bit of a disappointment since posting impressive numbers as a 20-year-old rookie for Ottawa in 2005-06. That season he had 10 goals and 29 assists for 39 points and was a plus-34.

Since then, his point production has dropped precipitously, and he has been a minus-28 in four seasons with the Sens and Bolts.

Meszaros was originally a first round pick of the Senators (24th overall) in the 2004 NHL entry draft.

In other news the Flyers came to a contract agreement with restricted free agent Braydon Coburn. Coburn signed a two year deal with a cap hit of $3.2 million per year.

The Flyers now have one of the wealthiest blue lines in hockey.