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Numbers Game: Flyers Land Versteeg From Maple Leafs

Scott Cullen
2/15/2011 12:29:33 PM
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The Philadelphia Flyers added a young, playoff-tested forward from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a couple of picks.

Numbers Game examines the Kris Versteeg trade.

The Flyers Get: RW Kris Versteeg.

Versteeg, 24, is on pace for his third straight 20-goal season and may have a shot at challenging his career-best 53-point season in 2008-2009, but that will depend on where he fits with his new team.

After starting the season in Toronto as a premier player -- playing 20 minutes per game through December -- it became apparent that Versteeg wasn't capable of handling that workload.  While he had 24 points in 35 games, Versteeg was also minus-13, so his ice time started to decline, to 17:31 per game in January and 15:24 per game in February.

As a young player who played a regular role for the Blackhawks on their way to a Stanley Cup win last seaon, Versteeg should have an opportunity to play a significant role in Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, there could be an opportunity for Versteeg to play a prominent role.  As deep as the Flyers are up front, they do have some pieces that are replaceable, including Nikolay Zherdev, James van Riemsdyk and Andreas Nodl, all of whom effectively have places in the top nine forwards (though Zherdev ranks tenth among Flyers forwards in ice time, losing out to penalty killer Darroll Powe for that coveted ninth spot).

Should Versteeg get installed, say, on the wing with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, well that would present an ideal opportunity to produce points, but to do so while improving his plus-minus the rest of the way. 

20 goals, 50 points and a single-digit minus should be reasonable targets for Versteeg (who currently has 14 goals, 35 points and a minus-13 rating) by season's end.

Signed through next season, at a cap hit of $3,083,333, Versteeg's arrival does put the Flyers in a tight salary cap position for the time being, but he also presents long-term value, since he'll be a restricted free agent at the end of the 2011-2012 season.

The Maple Leafs Get: A first-round pick and a third-round pick.

When the Maple Leafs acquired Joffrey Lupul in the Francois Beauchemin deal, it did make Versteeg more easily expendable.  While the Maple Leafs aren't jammed against the cap, having Versteeg and Colby Armstrong both making more than $3-million on the third line seemed out of place.

Nevertheless, Toronto isn't a better team without Versteeg, even if he wasn't having an ideal season.  For the time being, Christian Hanson has been called up from the Marlies to fill the spot in the lineup and Leafs GM Brian Burke did suggest that the third-round pick could be in play for a forward that would help the Leafs immediately but, as of this moment, the Leafs are worse than they were yesterday.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, though, since Toronto's goals should be with an eye towards the future and even if the Flyers' pick is going to be late in the first round, there's still an opportunity for Toronto to acquire future value.

The trouble for Toronto, though, is that Versteeg is only 24-years-old.  It's one thing for a team to move out older players or those on expiring deals in order to build for the future, but when the Maple Leafs are moving out a 24-year-old who has years remaining on his contract, that's not the standard plan of attack for rebuilding teams.

It feels like one step back and maybe, possibly, some day, a step forward.

So, the order remains the same, a good Flyers team gets better and a weak Maple Leafs team gets weaker.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.



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