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THN at the NHL Draft: Time is now for Flyers after Pronger deal

Chris Pronger has one year left on his current contract before becoming a UFA. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Chris Pronger has one year left on his current contract before becoming a UFA. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

MONTREAL – There are trades made for hockey reasons and trades made for financial ones and the Chris Pronger deal represented both sides of the equation.

The Philadelphia Flyers made an unequivocal hockey deal in getting Pronger on their blueline. There is little doubt they are better today than they were yesterday and much better than they were when Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin roamed the slot with impunity during the first round of the playoffs.

The Anaheim Ducks, on the other hand, made a deal based strictly on finances. With Scott Niedermayer committing to coming back to play for the Ducks next season, there simply wasn’t enough cap space or dollars to go around and dropping $6.25 million from their payroll represents a huge financial relief for the Ducks. They take back a total of $4.25 million in Joffrey Lupul – a staple in any trade involving Pronger – and promising young defenseman Luca Sbisa.

The view from this corner is that the Flyers are better today and the Ducks are worse. Down the road, though, you have to wonder whether the Flyers aren’t selling their souls for immediate gains because long-term, this deal could lead to financial disaster for a couple of reasons.

First, Pronger has just one year left on his deal and has made it clear he wants a long-term extension. In fact, since the Flyers will be able to negotiate with him on that beginning July 1, Pronger is essentially viewing that date as the beginning of his unrestricted free agency. You’d have to think Pronger will command somewhere in the range of at least $7 million a year on a multi-year deal.

That will be difficult enough for the Flyers to deal with, since they are only about $1.25 million under the salary cap for next season already. The Pronger deal has essentially forced the Flyers to say goodbye to a very useful and versatile offensive player in Mike Knuble, who becomes an unrestricted free agent next week.

Going into next season, the Flyers have a mind-boggling seven players whose cap hit is in excess of $5 million in Daniel Briere ($6.5 million), Kimmo Timonen ($6.3 million), Pronger ($6.25 million), Mike Richards ($5.75 million), Simon Gagne ($5.25 million) and Jeff Carter ($5 million).

High-priced talent such as that is well and good, as long as you have young and cheap players coming into your system and the Pronger deal is going to hamper that possibility in a big way. In dealing 2009 first-round Sbisa and their first-rounders in 2009 and 2010 – plus a third-rounder if they win the Stanley Cup next season – the Flyers have effectively dealt away the kind of assets with the potential to fill the holes in their lineup cheaply.

“It’s a lot to give up, absolutely,” said Flyers GM Paul Holmgren. “Ask me a year from now or a couple of years from now if it’s worth it. Joffrey Lupul is a fine young man and a good player and Luca Sbisa is going to be a good player and, obviously the unknowns are the draft picks, but we’re trying to win here and we think Chris is a guy who can help us get closer to achieving our goal.”

And if the Flyers goal is to leave every elite opposing forward black and blue, they might just reach that one. Imagine driving to the Flyers net and having Pronger and goaltender Ray Emery standing in your way. Having a top three of Pronger, Timonen and Braydon Coburn will give the Flyers the kind of defense corps they need to go against East beasts such as Crosby, Malkin, Alex Ovechkin and Eric Staal.

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“He brings a lot of things to any team he’s on,” Holmgren said of Pronger. “First of all, he’s a proven winner. Secondly, he brings the size and he can pass the puck as well as anybody. And he brings a nice physical presence, both in stature and the way he plays.”

The Flyers had better win with Pronger now because the way they’re constructed, they are looking very much like a team that could be headed straight toward salary cap disaster.

McCAULEY BACK IN 
Former NHLer and Selke Trophy finalist Alyn McCauley has been named to the Los Angeles Kings staff as a pro scout. McCauley spent last season as an assistant coach at Queen’s University in Kingston.

THN.COM SHOOTOUT
From the road in Montreal, host Ken Campbell, writer Ryan Kennedy and web content specialist Rory Boylen discuss... The Chris Pronger trade… The players that went higher then expected… Those who fell… And the high number of Swedes that went in the first round. Producer: Ted Cooper.



Ryan Kennedy, Ken Campbell and Rory Boylen are at the 2009 NHL Draft in Montreal and each will be filing regular reports throughout the weekend.

Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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