Kris Versteeg is a Flyer and other Flyers stuff

Kris Versteeg, the 24 year-old right-handed RW, had himself quite a Valentine’s Day. He went from the out of contention Toronto Maple Leafs to the very much in contention (and best team in the East) Philadelphia Flyers. 

The Trade

Flyers Get:

RW Kris Versteeg

Maple Leafs Get:

Flyers’ 1st Round Draft Pick in 2011

Flyers’ 3rd Round Draft Pick in 2011

The forum and blog-o-sphere have been buzzing that this might be an overpayment for a 3rd line winger. But trust me, this is a deal that would be made everyday of the week and twice on Sundays from the Flyers perspective. The Flyers got a young player with top 6 winger potential without losing a roster player. But instead, just draft picks.

And the picks aren’t even that great. The Flyers are sitting atop the East right now, and were they to finish there and win the Eastern Conference Finals as projected they (at best) would have the 29th pick of the first round. Now, in recent draft years the 29th pick is nothing to sneeze at. But this year is not recent draft years.

This draft class does have prospects that most teams would like. But those players stop once you get into the 20th range. This year’s class is not that deep, making the Flyers’ late first rounder more like a late 2nd rounder. Using this logic–that the 1st round the Flyers sent to Toronto is actually a late 2nd rounder–the chances the Flyers had of drafting a player of Kris Versteeg’s abilities at that spot are very slim. Not that it is impossible, just very unlikely (KrisVersteeg is a 5th round pick, himself). The 3rd rounder, using the above logic, also is dropped to a 4th or 5th rounder, which seems to be a really inconsequential draft pick to lose. Especially considering the Flyers have another 3rd rounder that they received by trading Dan Hamhuis’ rights to Pittsburgh this off-season.

So, in essence, the Flyers had to match the precedent set by Nashville and Ottawa in the Mike Fisher deal (which they did). For the Flyers, however, that deal is a lot better given what this draft class looks to be.

Now that we have assessed that the Flyers did not overpay for Kris Versteeg, let’s talk about what he brings to the table.

Versteeg has three big things that teams usually look for at the trade deadline, but hardly ever get all in one player. He has won a cup (last year with the Blackhawks), he is young and he has potential. Most people thought Paul Holmgrenwould go the way of a rental winger for the third line. Someone like Erik Cole. However, Holmgren went for a piece that would significantly help now and in the future. Holmgren said, “He’s 24 years old and he’ll fit in with our group of players here” hinting that Versteeg could become a part of this core group of young forwards.

And there is no reason why he shouldn’t be. He is a prototypical Flyer. Think Justin Williams and Scottie Upshall (with better hands, sorry Scottie). He plays just as well in the defensive zone as the offensive zone, and with as much vigor. That is an important part of Laviolette’s system that will surely endear him to his new coach. Also, Versteeg can play both specialty units, PK and PP. On the Powerplay you can line him up on the left top circle and let him blast away. His ability to get off good shots, and willingness to do so, will help the Flyers unit who has been plagued by too much perimeter play recently and desperately needs a surge.

But what might have attracted the Flyers to Versteeg the most, besides his work ethic, grittiness and potential, is his ability to be consistent. He is not going to put up 90 points (well, maybe with all the talent in Philly….) but he is good for 50 points and a well paced 50 at that. He, unlike some of the Flyers forwards, does not run streaky but rather runs smooth.  Over his career, Versteeg has averaged .610 points per game. And playoff production? Well that is consistent too. In the playoffs he averages .667 points per game.  He is dependable not only in what to expect of him in the D zone, but also of what he will contribute offensively.

That is the rub: dependability. The Flyers were looking to address the only foreseeable weakness in their starting lineup of skaters. That 3rd line winger. That winger to fill Mike Richards line. That winger who could provide the defense Nodl was able to but bring more offensively to the table. That winger who would be a pain in the neck on the forecheck now that Carcillo has fallen. Now the Flyers have, in my opinion, the best top 9 in the league.  Followed closely by Vancouver.

Yes, Thomas, I know how Versteeg has greatly enhanced the Flyers’ chances of hoisting the cup. But what about the cap next year (Versteeg still has one more year on his contract after this year before he is an RFA–another benefit toVersteeg)? What about re-signing Leino? Will the Flyers have to fire sale in the off-season like the Blackhawks did?

The Flyers are walking the cap tight rope perfectly right now. I will not continue that praise, out of fear of jinxing it. They are only about 300k under cap at the moment, however I see that changing. I would not be surprised to see DanCarcillo (who is now the 13th forward, and 14th when heavy-weight Jody Shelley needs to be played) flipped for cap relief for this year should they need to make another move or call-up a player. But what lies ahead next off-season I can’t be sure of. I can only guess and speculate. But these guesses and speculations lead me to believe everything will be mighty fine for Philly this off-season.

The Flyers have a few forwards who come off the books after this year, Nik Zherdev, Dan Carcillo, Andreas Nodl, VilleLeino, and Darrol Powe. All together that right there gives the Flyers $5.45 million in cap space. Zherdev, Carcillo andPowe will most likely be let go. Ville Leino, a vital part of this team’s best line, will most likely be resigned to a deal around $3 million (according to reports). That leaves $2.45 million left to resign Nodl (who Laviolette seems to really like) and fill in the left over forward holes. I would say Nodl gets, at most, a million dollars. That leaves $1.45 million to fill gaps which should be enough. In summary, though it will be tight, the Flyers taking on Versteeg’s salary for next year is not going to hinder re-signing Ville Leino.

Plus, there are other possibilities that exist. For instance–will Versteeg’s brand of hockey make Hartnell expendable to save cap space? Hartnell does have a No Trade Clause but in the off-season could be forced to waive it. Versteeg, in my book, is better than Hartnell. Hartnell is a great guy and a good player but he does not have the same tool set thatVersteeg has. If Versteeg plays hard in front of the net thus doing Hartnell’s job, we might see the Flyers cut ties with Hartnell to save money on redundancy.

Also, I would not be surprised to see Matt Carle traded for a third pairing defenseman and a pick as Andrej Meszaroshas proven that he deserves top 4 minutes. Carle’s contract would likely go up from the $3.5 million it is now when time comes to resign him. Carle has played well since  he has been moved to Philly, but with a logjam of top 4 defensemeneating big money, one of them might leave to make room for one of the many young prospect D the Flyers posses.

But that is getting too far ahead of ourselves. Let’s just enjoy this lovely trade. The Flyers targeted a player who will not only improve almost every facet of the Flyers’ game (offense, defensive, powerplay, penalty kill) but will also play the brand of hockey that the fans of Philadelphia have always loved. Kris Versteeg will be a good core piece of this Flyers team for a few years to come.


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