The Flyers traded a top-6 winger for an inferior player today. No way around that. Scott Hartnell is better at hockey than R.J. Umberger, and the Flyers will not be able to replace Hartnell's production with Umberger, even if they say otherwise.
But there are bright sides to this trade. We still disagree with it, but it's not all bad. Let's look at the good parts.
A bigger role for Read? Or somebody else?
The Flyers just flat out seem to like R.J. Umberger as a hockey player. Look at the two players objectively and it's easy to disagree, but the Flyers and their scouts clearly have their reasons. Umberger is better on his skates faster, and, like seemingly half the Flyers lineup, can play both the wing and center.
Maybe they think he'll fit well on the top line. Or, better yet, maybe this opens up room for Matt Read to step in on the top line -- after all, we do love Matt Read, and think he's damn well ready for a bigger role. Throw Read on the top line and give R.J. Umberger those third line minutes. Or maybe Brayden Schenn or Wayne Simmonds get a look on the top line.
Hartnell was kind of in the way as a top line player here, and by replacing him with a lesser player, that gives more opportunity to other guys in the lineup who deserve it.
Umberger's contract is better
Scott Hartnell's a good player, but his contract was very bad. He made $4.75 million against the salary cap, and that contract doesn't expire until the summer of 2019. He had a career year and got paid as a result, and those are just the worst kinds of contract. R.J. Umberger is objectively not as good as Hartnell, and his contract is also bad, but it's not as bad at $4.6 million until 2017. The Flyers will pay slightly less each year to Umberger, and it expires two years before Hartnell does.
There are three years left on Umberger's deal. If you're looking at cap savings down the line, the Flyers got it with this deal.
Fewer stupid penalties
Scott Hartnell took 38 penalties in 2013-14. R.J. Umberger took 13. Those dumb Hartnell penalties will now happen against the Flyers four or five times a year. It'll bite Columbus directly in the ass at least once, and that'll be fun.
That draft pick is nice
It's only a fourth rounder, but 2015 is a deep draft and it'll be nice to have an extra pick in it. You never know who that player is going to become, and Hextall said he's going to rely more on drafting and developing from within.
It's not the end of days
This trade is pretty clearly a loss for the Flyers, but that doesn't mean the playoffs are suddenly out of reach or anything. It's a bit of a head scratcher but there are good points to this trade, and it's not like Scott Hartnell turned the Flyers into a Stanley Cup contender by himself or anything of the sort. Umberger is a decent hockey player and will help the Flyers ... and, well, hey ... Columbus will regret that Hartnell contract in three years when Umberger's off the Flyers books.