clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Would you take back the Scott Hartnell for R.J. Umberger trade?

New, comments

Let's play a game with hindsight as our friend.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

It's been about two years since Ron Hextall and the Philadelphia Flyers traded fan favorite Scott Hartnell to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for R.J. Umberger and a fourth round pick in 2015. It was a trade that was widely disliked in Philadelphia, and to this day remains one of the few blemishes on Hextall's record as a general manager.

The Flyers traded a top-6 forward for a clearly inferior player. It wasn't a good trade. But even in criticizing the move, we recognized some positives in it -- notably, that Umberger's bad contract would be off the Flyers books in 2017 while Hartnell, who was already in decline at the time of the deal, would be on Columbus' books until 2019. Hartnell's contract was handed to him after his best NHL season, and it became quickly evident that he wouldn't live up to it even if he was a better player than Umberger.

So if you were of the optimistic view, the Hartnell-for-Umberger swap was seen as a salary cap move for the Flyers. Take three years of the lesser player, but get free of that money sooner. And for a team like the Flyers that was and still is in retooling mode, the theory is that the contract flexbility is more valuable than the on-ice difference between the two players.

Here we sit in 2016, though, one year before Umberger's contract is set to expire. And as the NHL's offseason buy out period begins tonight at 5 p.m., we're expecting the Flyers to cut their losses and send Umberger off into the sunset.

Should they buy him out between tonight and when the buy out period ends on June 30, they'll be forced to keep him on the books for both 2016-17 and 2017-18, but the cap hit will be significantly lower than the $4.6 million it would hit them for next season: just $1.6 million next year and $1.5 million the following year. So they take a $1.5 million hit in two seasons but save $3 million this coming season. It also relieves them of any concern regarding Umberger and a potential expansion draft headache.

All things considered, Umberger's presence on the ice was pretty minimal. The Flyers haven't been true contenders these last two seasons anyway, and it's not as if Umberger's money held the team back in any real way. Umberger was pretty bad for both seasons here, but it's hard to say that his play cost the Flyers any real number of wins.

And the extra draft pick ... well, TBD on that. The Flyers wound up trading that pick they acquired for Hartnell to the Kings on draft day, adding the 104th overall pick in 2015 -- which turned into Russian center Mikhail Vorobyov -- and a sixth-round pick in 2016. More assets: never a bad thing.

Meanwhile, Hartnell has turned into a bit of a burden on the Blue Jackets. He hasn't been a bad player on te ice, scoring 23 goals and adding 26 assists last season for Columbus. But they've been trying to trade him since at least the trade deadline, and he's reportedly waived his no-trade clause to facilitate a deal. That contract is a big concern for teams in a potential trade. And from Columbus' perspective, there are concerns that being forced to protect Hartnell in an expansion draft next summer would leave a valuable, younger player up for grabs by the new Las Vegas expansion team.

So ... now that it's been two years and we have the benefit of hindsight, would you change the deal? Would you rather have Hartnell on this team, or are you OK with how things have played out? Vote in the poll below.