Ranking the Flyers Top-5 Trades of the Past 25 Seasons

Now that the Flyers have acquired goaltender Petr Mrazek via trade with the Detroit Red Wings, Flyers fans wait in excruciating anticipation as to what else Ron Hextall will do prior to next week’s trade deadline to enhance the Flyers and better prepare them for a deep playoff run.  In the past, the Flyers have made numerous trades that have not only benefited them for that season in which the trade was made, but also future seasons as well.

So now the task becomes trying to quantify exactly which trades have benefited the Flyers the most. Perhaps the most polarizing trade in the history of the Flyers organization is the trade that brought Eric Lindros to Philadelphia. I use the term “polarizing” because of what the Flyers had to give up and even though it brought a generational talent to the Flyers, it failed to result in the ultimate prize; a Stanley Cup Championship. Therefore I have decided to limit my quantitative analysis to only Flyers trades over the last 25 seasons in an intentional effort to avoid adding onto the ad nauseam discussion of the famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) trade.

I want to do more than just give my subjective opinion as to which trades I feel are the most beneficial to the Flyers.  Therefore, I have developed a very simple numerical algorithm or ranking system in order to quantitatively rank the trades based upon weighted criteria.

The criteria used for ranking include:

  • Time spent with the Flyers post trade
  • Player production with the Flyers surpassing that while with the previous team
  • Deepest round of the playoffs the Flyers achieved in the players years with the team

Players were also given credit (bonus points) for:

  • Playoff production surpassing regular season production
  • Becoming team captain
  • All-star appearances while with the Flyers
  • Post season awards won while with the Flyers

The objective was almost solely to focus on what the acquired players contributed to the Flyers. The only exception was if the player that the Flyers traded eventually won a Stanley Cup with the team to which the Flyers traded that player. In that case, the overall score (and likely the ranking) of the trade were negatively affected.

Here is a look at the five best trades the Flyers have made in the last 25 seasons.

Honorable Mentions

#7: June 23, 2001 the Flyers trade Mike Richards (C) and Rob Bordson to the Los Angeles Kings for Brayden Schenn (C/W), Wayne Simmonds (RW), and a 2012 2nd Round Pick

This trade occurred the day before the 2011 Entry Draft and was part of possibly the single biggest roster re-structuring in Flyers history given that Richards was the still young (26 years old), very productive captain of a Flyers team that went to the Stanley Cup Finals the previous season. There were concerns with Richards’ off-ice activities being less than acceptable and potential dangerous. Off-ice indiscretions would eventually come back to haunt him later in his career. This trade would’ve made the Top-5 but not for the fact that Richards won 2 Stanley Cups while with the Kings.

#6: February 24, 2007 the Flyers trade Alexei Zhitnik (D) to the Atlanta Thrasher for Braydon Coburn (D)

The Atlanta Thrasher were on their way to winning a Southeast Division title and felt they needed a veteran defenseman to fill out their roster for a deep playoff run.  The Flyers in 2006-2007 were on their way to finishing as the worst team in the NHL and needed an injection of youth for an aging, increasingly unproductive roster.  Enter former #8 over pick in the 2003 NHL Draft, Braydon Coburn.  While Coburn failed to live up to his lofty draft status and was the cause of heartburn for Flyers fans more often than not, he spent 9 years with the Flyers and the team made the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals during his tenure.

 

Top Five

#5:
June 12, 2002 the Flyers trade Brian Boucher and a 2002 3rd Round Pick (Joe Callahan) to the Phoenix Coyotes for Robert Esche (G) and Michal Handzus (C)

Coming off of consecutive early round playoff exits and with starting goaltender Roman Cechmanek illustrating a disturbing habit of giving up soft goals in the playoffs, the Flyers looked to not only rejuvenate their goaltending situation but also add more size and depth behind Jeremy Roenick and Keith Primeau.  In addition to his size, Handzus possessed a magical set of hands that offset his below average skating ability and that resulted in 20+ goal seasons each of his first two years with the Flyers. Robert Esche spent parts of 4 seasons with the Flyers and was part of a playoff run that got the Flyers to Game 7 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals. During those playoffs Esche was 11-7 and had a 2.32 GAA & .918 SV%.  The deep playoff run in 2003-2004 along with both Handzus and Esche performing better with the Flyers after the trade then they did previously with Phoenix gets this deal into the top-5.

 

#4:
June 18, 2007 the Flyers trade a 2007 1st Round Pick (Jonathan Blum) to Nashville for Scott Hartnell (LW) and Kimmo Timonen (D)

This trade was made five days before the 2007 NHL Entry Draft and was another attempt at adding some much needed youth and production up front as well as adding a versatile, puck-moving, mobile defenseman in the prime of his career to the blueline. Hartnell and Timonen combined to play 14 years in a Flyers uniform. While Timonen’s production as a top pair defenseman remained steady with the Flyers, Hartnell saw a major boost in his production post-trade, especially in the goal-scoring department.  The duo combined for 3 All-Star appearances in their time with the Flyers and was also part of the core that got the Flyers into the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals.

 

#3:
August 20, 1997 the Flyers trade Karl Dykhuis (D) and Mikael Renberg (RW) to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a 1998 1st Round Pick (Simon Gagne), a 1999 1st Round Pick (Maxime Ouellet), a 2000 1st Round Pick (Justin Williams), and a 2001 1st Round Pick (Tim Gleason)

While Maxime Ouellet had a cup of coffee in the NHL and the pick that resulted in Tim Gleason was traded to the Ottawa Senators, it is obvious that Simon Gagne and Justin Williams are the key players in this trade. While most of the career production of Justin Williams was spent with other teams in the NHL, the combination of him and Simon Gagne spent a total of 15 years in a Flyers uniform (most of that coming from Gagne).  Since they were both draft picks their production while with the Flyers weighs heavily in this ranking as does the fact that Simon Gagne was part of the 2009-2010 team that would make a run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Gagne also made two All-Star appearances for the Flyers in 2001 and 2007.

 

#2:
June 23, 2011 the Flyers trade Jeff Carter (C) to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jake Voracek, a 2011 1st Round Pick (Sean Couturier), and a 2011 3rd Round Pick (Nick Cousins)

Carter was traded on the same day as Mike Richards (see Honorable Mentions for the Richards trade) also amid concerns over his commitment away from the ice.  Carter was 26 years old, coming off of a 36 goal season, and was also part of a core group of players that helped the Flyers reach the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals so it would stand to reason that the Flyers get a huge return. The huge return here is Jake Voracek (a former #7 overall pick) and Sean Couturier whom the Flyers selected with the #8 overall pick in the 2011 Entry Draft. The trio of Voracek, Couturier, and Cousins has, to this point, spent a total of 17 years in a Flyers uniform.  Cousins has since moved on, but Voracek and Couturier are still in Philadelphia and are both highly productive players.  The fact that the Flyers have yet to advance beyond the Conference Semifinals in their tenure keeps this trade from making it a close race for the #1 spot in this ranking.

 

#1:
February 9, 1995 the Flyers trade Mark Recchi (RW) and a 1995 3rd Round Pick (Martin Hohenberger) to the Montreal Canadiens for Eric Desjardins (D), John Leclair (LW), and Gilbert Dionne (LW)

It is amazing that the Flyers managed to trade away a future Hall of Famer and a player who scored 123 points (still the Flyers single season record) and 107 points in consecutive seasons yet still manage to orchestrate the run-away winner for the best Flyers trade in the last 25 seasons.  Recchi while having a very productive career post-trade would never get to 100 points in a season again. It is also important to note that Martin Hohenberger, whom the Canadiens drafted with the 3rd round pick, never played a game in the NHL.  Meanwhile Desjardins and Leclair would spend a combined 21 seasons in a Flyers uniform.  They would score a combined 426 goals and 1,039 points in the orange and black while also being part of the core group of players that led the Flyers on several deep playoff runs.  The Flyers would make the playoffs each of the 10 seasons that both were on the team, including 4 appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals as well as an appearance in the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals. Leclair and Desjardins combined for 7 All-Star appearances while with the Flyers and Eric Desjardins would go on to become captain of the Flyers for 3 seasons. Both John Leclair and Eric Desjardins are both distinguished members of the Flyers Hall of Fame.

 

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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