Why the Flyers might trade Simon Gagne

Bruce Bennett

UPDATE, Jul 2 8:36 PM: Simon has been asked to waive his no-trade clause, and he's reportedly done so, making this story all the more relevant. We're pushing it up top for that reason.

ORIGINAL POST, Jul 1 11:59 PM: Today's moves, on the first day of free agency, have understandably left a lot of Flyers fans upset. They didn't get a goalie. They spent $1 million on a goon with a girls name. People are pissed, and that's only been amplified by some rather somber rumors this evening.

According to two different reports from Rogers' Sportsnet in Canada, the Flyers have talked about moving Simon Gagne in a trade to free up some cap space. Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos said that there's "talk of Flyers trying to unload Gagne's contract," while Doug Maclean, an analyst at that network, said more bluntly that "Gagne has played his last game as a Flyer."

That second thought is no doubt a depressing one for anybody who's followed this team over the last decade. Gagne is the longest-tenured Flyer. He's someone who's poured his heart into Philadelphia and the Flyers organization since the day he was drafted, and he's responsible for countless memories in orange and black.

From his rookie season in 1999 to his game-winning goal in Game 6 against Tampa in 2004 to his two game-winners against Boston in 2010, Gagne is more a Flyer than any other player on that roster right now. We all want to see him win a Cup here and retire here. We all want to see his number retired into the Wells Fargo Center (or whatever its called in 15 years) rafters. The sheer thought of any of that not happening is enough to set off the saddest of our emotions tonight.

But for one second, let's try to put all of that aside.  Any Gagne trade talks should be qualified of course, with the fact that he has a no-trade clause. We have a query out to Gagne's agent if the Flyers have in fact asked Simon to waive that NTC, and as of now we've yet to receive a response.

With that said, the Flyers can probably get around an NTC. Let's try to justify why the Flyers would opt to move number 12. This might be unpopular, but, well, here we go.

One thing we just can't hide about Gagne's recent career is that he's been a magnet for injury. He's missed 83 games in the last three seasons due to injuries, whether it be serious head injuries or relatively minor foot problems.

His declining health is just one of the reasons that Gagne's career in Philadelphia is coming to an end sooner rather than later, and that's with or without a trade of him this summer. The Flyers are looking at salary cap hell next summer, and with the aging Gagne set to become a free agent, it's widely thought that Paul Holmgren and the organization will part ways with him anyway.

When you think of it this way, that Gagne could and likely will be gone in a year anyway, it's a bit easier to understand why they'd think of trading him over a younger guy like Jeff Carter or Scott Hartnell.

Sure, there's the issue of Carter, who plays a position at which the Flyers are completely stacked. Personally, after watching him in the playoffs and, really, for his entire career, I would love to see the Flyers trade Carter over Gagne. He has the incredible knack to frustrate you time and time again, and that was amplified even more in Game 6 of the Cup Finals. Hell, if Carter scores on a wide open net in the third period, the Flyers could have won the Cup.

For that, he deserves our scorn, and he probably couldn't be further away on the popularity index than Gags.

But despite the fact that it might seem logical to ship Carter away, both emotionally and in the hockey sense, he's still a 30-plus goal scorer in the NHL with restricted free agency coming up in a year. There aren't many of those types of players out there. He's more of an asset to hold at this point than Gagne is, and that's just the harsh truth of the situation. While the Flyers are likely to lose Gagne in a year for nothing, Carter's value is only likely to go up.

No matter what happens, Carter will be more valuable than Gagne in 12 months.

He's only 25 years old, he's entering a contract year and he's going to be completely healthy in time for training camp. The Flyers can decide to keep him, trade him, or at worst, lose him to restricted free agency next summer, where they would likely get at least one first round pick for him.

I'm not trying to say it's not a good move for the Flyers to trade Jeff Carter now. I'm merely making the case as to why the Flyers would choose to send Gagne away now as opposed to someone like Carter in a salary-freeing move. Despite what many of us may think of him, Carter is still a hot commodity in the NHL, while Gagne is on the back end of his career.

Unfortunately, we need to take away our emotional attachments to these guys when thinking about their futures here. I love Simon Gagne and I want to see him retire a Flyer, but sometimes the business of the sport gets in the way.

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