MONTREAL - The Philadelphia Flyers made the biggest early splash at the NHL draft - and they were nowhere near the podium.
The Flyers acquired towering defenceman Chris Pronger and prospect Ryan Dingle from the Anaheim Ducks for forward Joffrey Lupul, defenceman Luca Sbisa, first-round picks in 2009 and 2010 and a conditional third-round pick in 2010 or 2011.
Pronger, who had 11 goals and 37 assists in 82 games last season, is going into the final year of a deal that will pay him US$6.25 million next season. He said he had been hearing trade rumblings for some time.
"I wouldn't say I'm surprised," said Pronger. "When you hear it once, you brush it off, You hear it twice, you brush it off, when you hear it persistently over and over again, you start to think it's going to be a reality and you start planning and preparing yourself and family that you're going to be moving."
Pronger, 34, was the second overall pick in the 1993 NHL draft and broke into the league that year with the Hartford Whalers. He was traded to St. Louis after the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season and spent nine years with the Blues.
The Dryden, Ont., native was dealt to Edmonton in 2005 and helped the Oilers get all the way to the Stanley Cup final in 2006, where they lost out to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games.
Pronger would get his Cup the very next season. The Oilers sent Pronger to the Ducks after he requested to be traded, and Anaheim went on to win the 2007 Stanley Cup over the Ottawa Senators in five games.
In 1,022 career games, Pronger has 124 goals and 464 assists for 606 points.
"(Philadelphia's) obviously a city that is very passionate about the sport of hockey," said Pronger. "The style of play the Flyers have been known to play certainly fits my game.
They've got some great young talent. I hope to help develop the team not be one of the top teams in the league, but win the Stanley Cup. That's why we all play the game. To win. "
Following this year's bitter first-round playoff loss to the rival Pittsburgh Penguins, the Flyers are no doubt hoping Pronger's arrival will provide a rugged physical presence that will serve them well in the post-season.
Pronger believes it will.
"I like to think so," said Pronger. "I don't know a whole lot about the team.
"Playoff hockey is funny. Chemistry and peaking at the right time and all these things, injuries, they all play a factor and all need to be working in your favour to be successful. Sometimes its one team's time and other times, it's not."
General manager Paul Holmgren said he targeted Pronger because he wanted to add some intimidation to his defence.
"I think Chris Pronger is still one of the top defencemen in the league," Holmgren said. "I think he makes everyone around him better. He's a winner, he's won a championship. He's a tremendous character player, he works hard. I wanted a guy who would make life miserable for the other team. Chris is one of those guys."
The move not only frees up cap space for the Ducks, it also lands them two promising forwards in Lupul and Sbisa.
Lupul, 25, returns to Anaheim after scoring 25 goals and 25 assists in 79 games with the Flyers last season. He'll make $4.25 million next season in the first year of a four-year contract extension he signed last July.
"We felt this was a deal we had to make," said Anaheim executive vice-president and general manager Bob Murray in a statement. "We've addressed a present need with the addition of a top-six forward while adding some youth for the future as well."
Lupul was taken seventh overall in the 2002 NHL draft by Anaheim and broke into the league in 2003-04 with the Ducks, scoring 31 goals and adding 21 assists in 75 games.
The Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., native was traded to Edmonton in 2005 where he spent one season before being dealt to Philadelphia.
In 372 career games, Lupul has 102 goals and 109 assists.
The 19-year-old Sbisa was taken 19th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2008 NHL draft.
The defenceman played 39 games with the Flyers last season, recording seven assists to go along with 36 penalty minutes.
Sbisa, a native of Ozieri, Italy, spent the 2007-08 season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League, scoring six goals and adding 27 assists in 62 games.
Dingle had 11 goals and seven assists in 70 games with the Flyers' AHL affiliate in Iowa last season.
-With files from The Associated Press.