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The five best — and five worst — moves made by the Flyers this decade

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The Flyers have won the free agent and trade markets this decade...and also lost (sometimes poorly).

2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series - Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It is fair to say that the Flyers have had their fair share of ups and downs.

I summed it up in my “team of the decade” article, where I wrote:

It started with a Prince of Wales Trophy and a Stanley Cup Final berth in what would ultimately be a disappointing series loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. This was quickly followed by an “all in”attitude, from both management and ownership, which ultimately caused more problems than solutions. The years following in the middle of the decade were spent trying to rescue the club from cap peril, and in the process of rebuilding, set the Flyers up for a dynasty. However, despite the success in the former, the Flyers’ pursuit of the latter was marred by a dogged obstinance on part of the very same man who put them in a position to succeed. Ultimately, both he and his protege were disposed of, and the Flyers would end the decade with a renewed sense of optimism.

Now, the Flyers are third in the division, and the optimism is even more evidently permeable among fans and writers alike. Summer signings like Kevin Hayes, and trades for key pieces like Matt Niskanen have proven to be very fruitful for the organization. However, over the past ten years, though many of the Flyers’ moves have hit, there have been some that we will remember less fondly.

As the decade wraps up, let’s take a look back at five of the very best moves (free agent signings and trades, etc...) and five of the very worst:

Best

5. June 27th, 2015 - Sam Gagner trade

Working some of his patented “cap magic”, former Flyers GM Ron Hextall managed to flip Chris Pronger’s contract for actual assets! He traded Pronger, along with Nicklas Grossmann, to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Sam Gagner and a conditional 2016 or 2017 pick (4th for the former and 3rd round for the latter). This move was the equivalent of pulling a dollar out of thin air on Hextall’s part. Though perhaps the Coyotes were thinking Pronger may play again one day, it was clear to most he was finished, so to flip him and a third pair defenseman (at best) in Grossmann for a decent goalscoring winger with power play finish in Gagner.

This move set the Flyers up for success in the long run, and exhibits just how good Hextall was at getting the Flyers out of trouble.

4. June 23rd, 2011 - the Mike Richards trade

Though this move was a shock at the time, in the end the Flyers definitely won this one. Along with Rob Bordson, a prospect who would never make the NHL, Richards was shipped to the Los Angeles Kings. Richards would help the Kings win their first ever Stanley Cup in 2012, and would go on to play four more seasons in the NHL with diminishing effectiveness.

As for the Flyers, they received Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, and a pick the Flyers would trade to the Stars to acquire Nicklas Grossmann (oh how the times change). Simmonds would become one of the greatest and most iconic Flyers of the decade, and Brayden Schenn was a meaningful top six forward before he himself would also become involved in a trade that the Flyers would win (at least we believe so at the moment).

3. July 1st, 2011 - Jaromir Jagr signed as a free agent

After a three year break playing with Avangard Omsk in the KHL, Jagr returned to the NHL with the Flyers, signing a one year, $3.3 million dollar contract. Perhaps Paul Holmgren’s best move as Flyer GM since the moves following the dismal 2006-07 campaign, Jagr immediately found chemistry with a young Claude Giroux and fiery Scott Hartnell on the Flyers top line. Jagr managed 54 points in 73 games, not bad at all for the then 39 year old. Of course, we all know that Jagr would continue to play well in the NHL and still continues to play in the top Czech division to this day (15 points in 21 games! At 47!). We would’ve loved to see the Flyers hold on to Jagr, as he would ultimately sign with the Dallas Stars in the offseason, but regardless, making the move for Jagr was a brilliant play from Holmgren, and was worth every penny.

2. June 23rd, 2017 - the Brayden Schenn trade

Just looking at this trade alone, as some did, makes it look like one of the dumbest in Flyers history, however, that is clearly not the case.

Schenn, now 28, would help the Blues win their first Stanley Cup last year (I hate this trend), and in 2019-20 has scored 31 points in 38 games. Jori Lehtera, on the other hand, was an all star along the boards was absolutely terrible in his tenure as a Flyer, and we are all glad he is now gone. However, the most important piece in the deal was the two first round picks, in 2017 and 2018, that the Flyers received. These picks resulted in both Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee. Need I say more?

Farabee, Frost, and Lehtera for Schenn? I make that move any day of the week.

1. June 23rd, 2011 - the Jeff Carter trade

In 2011, along with the Richards trade, Jeff Carter was dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets in an effort to save room for the legend that was Ilya Bryzgalov. Eventually winding up in Los Angeles, Carter would help the Kings win two Stanley Cups, and has scored 195 goals since being traded from Philadelphia.

For Carter, the Flyers received Jake Voracek, who has become one of the most talented wingers in the league, and makes up the current core of this Flyers team. Along with the then 22 year old Voracek, the Flyers received two picks in the 2011 draft. Those picks would become Nick Cousins, and far more importantly, future elite 1C Sean Couturier.

It’s safe to say that was a great move in the long run.

Honorable mentions: signing Kevin Hayes, trading Petr Mrazek for conditional draft picks, Braydon Coburn trade (led to Flyers getting the Konecny pick)

Worst

5. May 20th, 2015 - Evgeni Medvedev free agent signing

This seemed like a good idea at the time, as Medvedev had come off a silver medal campaign with the Russian national team in the 2015 IIFH World Championships and played well. However, after only playing in 45 games (with 12 points total), Medvedev just never clicked in Philadelphia. In the end, his deal was one wasted as the Flyers defense was lacking for most of the season.

4. July 2nd, 2013 - Vincent Lecavalier free agent signing

And now we get into the really bad stuff.

If you had told me in 2006 that the Flyers had inked Lecavalier to a $4.5 million AAV deal over five years, I would’ve been ecstatic. He was one of the premier players in the game at that point. Heck, he was a 100 point player in 2006-07! His last season in Tampa Bay came in 2012-13, the lockout shortened season, where he scored 32 points in 39 games. Therefore, you can imagine the Flyers excitement when they managed to pick him up. However, headed into his age 33 season, he hadn’t been a point-per-game player for a couple of seasons prior, and his form really took a dip when he became a Flyer, and he was often healthy-scratched.

Overall, Lecavalier registered 58 points in 133 games as a Flyer from 2013-14 until 2015-16. The Flyers ultimately traded Lecavalier, along with Luke Schenn, to the Kings for Jordan Weal (also no longer a Flyer).

3. July 1st, 2016 - Dale Weise signing

Though Chris VandeVelde was originally the man I had in this position, he originally signed with the Phantoms as a free agent so I shan’t include him on this list though he was terrible. Instead, we have the, perhaps, GREATEST ever signing made by Ron Hextall in the “moving forward to a winning culture” era of the re-build: Dale Weise.

Signed to a F O U R Y E A R , 9 . 4 M I L L I O N D O L L A R C O N T R A C T , Weise was expected to bring depth scoring to a Flyers team looking to make some noise in the playoffs and perhaps even claim a top-three divisional spot as prospects were brought into the team.

In the end, prospects saw few NHL minutes (besides Ivan Provorov who had all of the minutes), and Weise only contributed 17 goals over two and a half seasons.

2. March 4th, 2014 - Andrew MacDonald trade

Where do I even start...

Towards the end of Paul Holmgren’s tenure as GM, during a period I would like to call “madness”, the Flyers traded for the then Islanders defenseman MacDonald, giving up a 2nd round pick, a third round pick, and Matt Mangene, who is an AHLer.

Worse yet, the two picks traded by the Flyers ended up becoming CKSA Moscow goaltender Ilya Sorokin who looks set to come to the NHL, and Brandon Carlo, who is a far better defenseman than MacDonald wishes he could be.

I would write a paragraph about just how bad the six year, thirty million dollar contract extension was, and about how bad MacDonald was at hockey, but I’ll let this do the talking for me (courtesy of an article written by Travis, formerly of BSH):

To put this clip in context, THIS IS A PHANTOMS GAME. A-MAC GOT WRECKED BY AN AHL FORWARD.

1. June 23rd, 2012 - James Van Riemsdyk for Luke Schenn trade

The Flyers have made some dumbfounding moves over this decade, but this one takes the cake.

“Hey, let’s trade our young, 23 year old winger who just scored 21 goals a season ago, for a consistently Corsi-negative defenseman who will wind up in the AHL by the end of the decade”

“One for one”

“Yeah”

Honorable mentions: Streit for Filppula trade, re-trading for RJ Umberger, BRANDON MANNING