Inquirer Daily News
Flyers add another weapon in Versteeg

By Dan Di Sciullo
NHL Editor


Dan Di Sciullo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - If you didn't already think the Flyers were gearing up for a run at a Stanley Cup title then there's a good chance you were convinced of that fact by Monday's trade for Kris Versteeg.

Philadelphia is currently leading the Eastern Conference thanks to one of the deepest rosters in the NHL and general manager Paul Holmgren decided to add yet another weapon to his arsenal when he acquired Versteeg from Toronto for a pair of picks in this summer's draft.

The main reason to like this move for Philly fans is that Holmgren was able to add a talented player without giving up a single player currently in the organization.

That being said, a first and third-round pick is not exactly a small price to pay, but the Flyers are clearly trying to make the best of what they consider to be an excellent chance to win it all this season. Even before Versteeg, Philadelphia fully expected to make a deep playoff run this spring, meaning its first-round selection this summer could be a mid-to-high 20s pick.

Versteeg gives Philadelphia, a team that already has eight players with double figures in goals this year, another forward that can put the puck in the net. The 24-year-old Alberta native posted 20 or more goals in each of his first two full NHL seasons, and, he is on his way to reaching that plateau again this year after potting 14 goals in 53 games for Toronto.

Even before Kris Versteeg, Philadelphia fully expected to make a deep playoff run.
With the Feb. 28 trade deadline approaching its uncertain what Philadelphia's roster for the stretch run will ultimately look like, but with the addition of Versteeg the team currently has a potent mix of forwards for head coach Peter Laviolette to mix-and-match.

A case can be made that Philadelphia did not address a need by dealing for Versteeg. The Flyers enter Tuesday with 181 goals on the season, leaving them behind only Vancouver and Detroit in the NHL.

But, what Holmgren and Laviolette see is an endless array of options on how to form the club's top three lines. As was mentioned earlier, the Flyers had eight double-digit goal-scorers prior to landing Versteeg. They now have the potential to fill the top three lines with nine guys who have scored 10 or more goals already this season.

Plain and simple, the Flyers were already one of the toughest teams to match up against in the NHL and Holmgren made the Orange and Black an even more difficult opponent to face.

While the trade for Versteeg is hard to argue against in the here and now, adding a player who makes just over $3 million a season could make for an interesting salary cap situation in Philadelphia past the 2010-11 campaign.

By carrying two cheap goaltending options in Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky, the Flyers have been able to build depth not just on offense, but also at the blue line. At some point, however, Holmgren is going to have to make some difficult decisions on who gets to remain in the City of Brotherly Love.

The fact that Versteeg's contract extends through the 2011-12 season could mean Flyers winger Ville Leino is no longer in the club's long-term plans. Philadelphia had reportedly been working on an extension with Leino and the Finnish play-maker is expected to get a big increase on the $825,000 he is making this season if he hits the market this summer as an unrestricted free agent.

But, the Flyers are willing to lose Leino on the open market if it means a Cup title this season. Philadelphia has lost its last six trips to the Stanley Cup Finals since it won the second of back-to-back championships in the spring of 1975 and the club tasted that defeat last spring when Versteeg and the Blackhawks beat the Flyers in six games.

Of course, the Blackhawks would probably still like to have Versteeg, but he was one of many players Chicago had to get rid off this summer to help alleviate their own salary cap problems. In fact, Chicago's cap purge may have indirectly helped Versteeg land in Philly. The defending Stanley Cup champions' salary woes helped to solidify the Flyers' status as a championship contender and the void left by Chicago's cap problems has helped encourage Philadelphia's aggressive front-office strategy.

Versteeg proved to be a valuable playoff performer during his brief time with the Blackhawks and the Flyers are hoping he gets the opportunity to help another club raise the Cup this spring.

Of course, the funny thing about any sport, and especially the NHL, is that the best team on paper doesn't win nearly as often as they should. For now, we can all agree that Versteeg makes Philly a more talented club, but time will only tell if he gives the Flyers a better chance at actually winning that elusive third title.

If the Flyers do come up short once again in their quest for a Cup, it at least won't be for a lack of trying.

FORSBERG FOOLS HIMSELF AGAIN

Peter Forsberg's latest comeback attempt is over and the only good thing to come of it is that Foppa has finally come to the conclusion that his hockey career is over. Sadly, he was years behind just about everybody else in recognizing that fact.

Forsberg, of course, joined the Colorado Avalanche earlier this month, but he wound up playing just two games before announcing his retirement on Monday. Once again, chronic foot problems prevented the former Hart Trophy winner from playing the game he loved, and this time, the 37-year-old Forsberg sounds like he's closing the door on his hockey career for good.

"The time has finally come. I'm here today to announce that I'm retiring from the game of ice hockey," Forsberg said at a press conference.

To the best of my knowledge the last time I wrote more than a few sentences on Forsberg was back on Nov. 17, 2009. Back then, Forsberg was announcing that he was going to play the entire 2009-10 season in the Swedish Elite League rather than make another mid-season return to the NHL, but he was clearly still trying to prove there was a place for him in the biggest league in the world.

My thoughts back then closely resemble how I felt about Forsberg's latest comeback attempt. Back then I said, "It's sad to see injuries to take such a toll on a once-great player but sooner or later Forsberg needs to face the facts and simply call it a career."

It took Forsberg a long time to admit that his playing days were over, but now that he's done it we can finally remember him for what he was, a superb all- around player and a proven winner.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Dan Di Sciullo at ddisciullo@sportsnetwork.com.

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