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Numbers Game: Umberger and Hartnell swapped

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Scott Cullen
6/23/2014 2:11:17 PM
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The Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets hooked up to make a deal involving veteran wingers, both of whom have size and can score.

Numbers Game looks into the trade that sends Scott Hartnell to Columbus for R.J. Umberger and a pick.

The Blue Jackets Get: LW Scott Hartnell.

Hartnell, 32, is coming off a season in which he scored 20 goals for the seventh time in his career and his 52 points represented the third-highest total of his career. Since joining the Flyers in 2007, he's one of eight players with at least 100 goals and 500 penalty minutes.

While Hartnell does take more than his share of penalties, he's an aggravating player to play against, doesn't hesitate to go to the other team's net and has a tendency to fall, which means he also draws a lot of penalties. So long as he's healthy, Hartnell gets involved in the play.

Despite his style of play, Hartnell is durable. He's missed 23 games in seven seasons with the Flyers, including 16 games with a broken foot in 2013.

Part of the reason that Hartnell has been so effective is that he has been riding shotgun alongside Claude Giroux for a good portion of the last handful of seasons. While Hartnell isn't necessarily the one driving play on that line, he's been a very good complement to Giroux and Jakub Voracek, most recently, as that trio has generated better possession numbers together than when they were apart.

In Columbus, that ability to play with top talent, could give Hartnell a legitimate chance to spend time on the wing with Ryan Johansen on the Blue Jackets' first line, though Boone Jenner and Nathan Horton can make some claims to those wing spots as well.

Where this deal could become an issue for Columbus is that Hartnell is signed through 2019, that's five more seasons, at a cap hit of $4.75-million. Hartnell isn't the fleetest afoot already, so as he gets into his mid-thirties, that is only going to be more of an issue in a game that is getting ever faster. But, if Hartnell could fill a top six role for the next couple seasons, and a third or fourth line spot for a couple more, then maybe the last year could be tolerable when compared to what the Blue Jackets felt they could be getting out of Umberger going forward.

The Flyers Get: LW R.J. Umberger and a fourth-round pick.

Umberger is a 32-year-old who can play all three forward spots and is a five-time 20-goal scorer who has hit for 50 points or more three times in his career. This past season, Umberger's role was reduced, his 16:53 average time on ice representing his lowest since 2006-2007, when he was playing for Philadelphia.

While Umberger doesn't stir things up the way Hartnell does, he's still a physical player, using his 6-foot-2, 220-pound frame to his advantage and Umberger is a stronger skater.

The trouble for Umberger is that he's been getting worse as a possession player. He had some okay years mixed with some bad years earlier in his career, but Umberger has been thumped in possession terms over the past three seasons and virtually every one of his teammates has fared better without Umberger on the ice.

That doesn't mean Umberger can't play. It does mean he was likely playing too big a role on a Columbus team that, until 2013-2014, has been on the wrong side of the scoreboard all too often.

Where does Umberger fit in Philadelphia? Well, his flexibility does help in this respect. While Umberger isn't necessarily a natural choice to play with Giroux and Voracek, playing alongside Sean Couturier and Matt Read could be a possibility. Umberger has also played enough centre that he could fit into that spot if the Flyers juggle some pieces around when composing their lines. If Umberger isn't going to play on the Flyers' top line, that's a plum opening. If it is going to come from within, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn or Vincent Lecavalier could get that opportunity.

Umberger is signed for three more seasons, at a cap hit of $4.6-million per season, so he doesn't provide much cap relief, aside from the fact that his deal runs a couple of years less than Hartnell's.

A fourth-round pick doesn't offer huge value, but of the 600 picks in the 91-120 range made between 1990 and 2009, just over 4% became top-six forwards, top-four defencemen or starting goaltenders, while just under 20% have played (or are most likely to play) 100 NHL games.

Immediately, the Blue Jackets appear to be the better team for making this deal. Not that Hartnell holds a monumental advantage over Umberger, but he's been more productive and has fared positively no matter who he plays with.

Umberger had requested a move out of Columbus, not appreciating his declining role, and he should have a chance to play a top nine role in an organization that he played with for the first three seasons of his NHL career but, in a vacuum, this deal makes the Flyers slightly worse.

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

Jakub Voracek Scott Hartnell Wayne Simmonds (Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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