Thursday, January 7, 2016

Yesterday's Flyers-Kings Trade Was A Win For Everyone Involved

In case you were on vacation under a rock or your phone was broken yesterday, there were two huge trades in the NHL. The night ended with Columbus sending disgruntled center Ryan Johansen (bad attitude) to Nashville for Seth Jones (hockey's number one diversity man). Both players will turn over a new leaf - Johansen with his crappy attitude and Jones with the role of number one defenseman.

But in Philly, the biggest news of the day was the trade made between the Flyers and the Los Angeles Kings. The short version: Vinny Lecavalier and Luke Schenn to LA for prospect Jordan Weal and a third round pick. The long version: the Flyers will retain half of Lecavalier's and Schenn's salaries (Schenn expires after this year), and Lecavalier will agree to retire after this season and forfeit the remaining 2 years (and $9 million) on his contract.

Flyers twitter blew up with joy. We got rid of Vinny's contract. Holy shit.

Holy shit.

Ron Hextall actually did it.

It was a win for us in the short-term and long-term. But it was also a win for the Kings, and for each of the three players involved.

Philadelphia Flyers

The hope in Philly all season has been for Vinny to retire or agree to mutually terminate his contract. He still feels he can contribute, and was using his enormous contract as leverage to try to get on the ice in Philly. He left Hextall with three options: play him (quick note: he stunk when he played this year), buy him out (and be stuck with $2.25 million of dead cap money until 2020), or look to trade one of the worst contracts in the NHL.

Somehow, Ron did the damn thing. The one downside for the Flyers is they have to retain half of each player's salary. But if Vinny follows through this summer and retires, then there is no money on the books past this season (more on that part of it in the sections still to come).

The Luke Schenn side of the trade stings a little for me, as I'm sure it does for any Flyers fan with a brother. I loved watching Brayden and Luke play together. As dumb as it is, this interview made me start to tear up:
Luke was not a great fit for Coach Hakstol's system, and I believe (sticktap Sean Tierney) that he only had 1 pass leading to a shot attempt in his last 8 games. He clearly wasn't in the long-term plan, so give credit to Hextall for extracting assets and not holding onto him for too long.

The asset they extracted is 23 year old center Jordan Weal. His THN scouting report lists point production and play in his own end as his assets, and size as his flaw. Their bottom line on him is he's a depth forward with a little upside.

The Flyers turned a $4.5 million healthy scratch and an expiring defenseman that didn't fit their system into a prospect and a pick. That's a win (1/5).

Los Angeles Kings

On the other side of the table, it's hard to say the Kings got "fleeced" or even "taken advantage of". On the day when their goaltender and top defenseman were both named to John Scott's All-Star team, they added depth on defense and a little bit of potential on offense, without really giving up all that much.

Schenn will likely end up being their fourth or fifth best defenseman, which means he's going to be asked to (1) kill penalties (2) be big and physical (3) maybe contribute to the offense every now and then. Boom, done.

Lecavalier, on the other hand, is a question mark. He certainly has the size to fit with the Kings's style of play, and he has the experience and the pedigree to serve as a veteran leader. To his credit, he handled his disgruntling situation in Philly literally as well as he could have. He's a professional, and just wanted his chance. He'll get it, but we'll have to see who he spends his time on ice with, and how much time on ice he actually gets.

The Kings got both of these guys for a mid-round pick, a prospect that's too small to fit in with the team, and a total expense of around $4 million (none of which stays on the books past this year). That's a win (2/5).

Vincent Lecavalier

Tired of being the goat in Philly and sitting in the press box during games, Vinny finally decided to give in a little to get his old ass back on the ice. He was in a position to take a hit on his salary the next two years because he's already made upwards of $90 million in his career.

There were rumblings of a trade yesterday morning, but the only way it was ever going to work was if he agreed to retire after this year.

Vinny now has a chance to chase a cup with the Pacific-leading Kings, and there was a real outpouring of support from Flyers fans on Twitter wishing him luck. This saga could have ended very differently, but I get the sense that a big number of Flyers fan will (once again) be Kings fans in the spring.

Lecavalier has all the money in the world, and he gets to chase a second Stanley Cup with a team that (1) can contend and (2) has demonstrated that they want him. That's a win (3/5).

Jordan Weal

Weal's situation is strikingly similar to Lecavalier's, though it's a prospect compared to a potential Hall of Famer. He's been an elite AHL contributor the past few years, including leading the Kings' minor league affiliate to the Calder Cup and winning playoff MVP. But he can't seem to get on the ice for the big club this year.

In my eyes, it seems like Weal is too small to play the style of hockey LA wants to play. I wouldn't be surprised if, like Jonathan Drouin in Tampa, he asked to be traded. It's telling that we never heard any noise about any sort of request: First, it tells us that he's not as good as Drouin because he didn't feel like his talent could overcome the bad attitude label. Second, it tells us that he's not a dick, which is good.

It should. I'd love to see Hakstol use Weal to get Scott Laughton going. Both guys are nearing the end of their "prospect" phase, and both could benefit a lot financially by having some success in the second half of this season. Plus, don't they look like they could be the bad guys in any movie ever?

The bottom line is Weal needed a change of scenery. Ron Hextall said it best - "He’s a player that’s trying to prove he belongs in the NHL." He was having a hard time doing that on a team that didn't value his skill set, and he needed to get out.

He's going to get an extended tryout in Philly because he's not waiver-exempt - so if they try to send him to the AHL he could be claimed and they could lose him for nothing. Weal gets a chance to prove to everyone that he can play at the highest level in the sport, and he's now with a team that shuffles it lines around every two weeks. He should see time in the bottom-six but may end up spending time with the Flyers' core guys as well. That's a win (4/5).

Luke Schenn

I'm saving the hardest part for last. I'm going to miss Luke Schenn. By all accounts, he's a great person. He's just too big and slow for the style of hockey the Flyers want to play. So they turned him into assets, and that's good for the Philadelphia Flyers.

But it's also good for Big Schenn (or Fat Schenn, if you prefer), He's going to have less pressure on him in LA because he's going to have a legit top four above him. He can focus on doing what he's good at, and the team will appreciate his bruising style of play.

As it stands, the Flyers have a -22 goal differential and have five teams ahead of them in the Wild Card (not counting Toronto and Carolina, who have the same number of points as Philadelphia). They probably aren't going to make a run, and they obviously weren't planning on re-signing him. It would have been a waste for Luke to stick around.

The Kings, on the other hand, are ten points clear of everyone chasing them in the Pacific, and are almost a lock to play postseason hockey this year. Luke can chase a ring, and he (like Vinny) left on about as good terms as he possibly could have. That's a win (5/5).


The Flyers will play their first game without Luke and Vinny on the roster tonight in Minnesota. I expect Brayden Schenn to either score a hat trick and lead the team in hits or never score another goal again.

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