|Paul Holmgren admitted the Peter Forsberg deal is one of the major building blocks on which the Flyer’s success this season has been built.
As hard as it may be to part with an elite player at the trade deadline, it needs to be remembered that the payoff can be spectacular.
Just look at the Philadelphia Flyers.
Last February, the Flyers were foundering as the worst team in hockey; the team’s long-term outlook as bleak as it had been in recent memory. This February, the team is one of the NHL’s success stories, in the mix for a playoff berth and still in the running for an Atlantic Division title.
How was such a rapid turnaround affected? Look no further than Peter Forsberg.
Sure, there is more to the Flyers’ renaissance than just the trade of Forsberg to Nashville last season; but there is no denying that the bounty the Predators offered -- Scottie Upshall, defenseman Ryan Parent and 2008 first- and third-round picks -- certainly jumpstarted a revival that has also been helped by the maturation of young prospects and other aggressive personnel moves.
Flyer GM Paul Holmgren admitted the Forsberg deal is one of the major building blocks on which the team’s success this season has been built.
“I think the deal we made with Nashville for Peter Forsberg last year gave us some pieces that we're able to use in other deals later,” Holmgren says. “Ryan Parent is a kid developing with our minor-league team. He's an outstanding, young prospect, tremendous skater. Tremendous defender. We look for big things from him in the future. Scottie Upshall is kind of an unknown guy. He came in last year after that trade and played very well and this year he's been hurt more often than not. So, it's kind of hard to get a read on him.
“But we're certainly happy that at the time we were able to make that deal. We thought it kind of gave us a jump-start into the summertime and what we needed to do to get back into the thick of things in hockey. Last year we were the worst team in hockey and at least this year we're kind of in the mix right now.”
Not only did the Flyers get an emerging young forward in Upshall, the sixth-overall pick in the 2002 Entry Draft, and top-end defenseman Parent, a first-round pick in 2005, to add to their talent cupboard, but the Flyers also got a pair of draft picks with which to play.
And, Holmgren used those future assets to their fullest potential.
He traded the first-rounder back to Nashville in the summertime deal that sent free-agents-to-be Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell to Philadelphia. At the draft, he packaged the third-round pick with the Flyers’ own second-round pick to net Carolina’s second-round pick, a selection used turned out to be Quebec League defenseman Kevin Marshall, a heart-and-soul type standout with Lewiston.
That activity, combined with a February trade for goalie Martin Biron from Buffalo and a July trade with Edmonton that netted Jason Smith and Joffrey Lupul, got the ball rolling. The free-agent signing of Daniel Briere completed the process and the Flyers have been more than competitive since Day 1 this season.
The trade did not work out as well for Nashville, which was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, losing a back-and-forth series to the San Jose Sharks. Plus, Forsberg walked away as a free agent at the end of the season and, because of injury, has not played NHL hockey this season.
There is strong media speculation, however, that Forsberg could return to the NHL in the coming weeks -- with Philadelphia as the leading suitor.
“I think the deal we made with Nashville for Peter Forsberg last year gave us some pieces that we're able to use in other deals later” - Flyers GM Paul Holmgren
Still, Holmgren believes that the Predators did the right thing in aggressively prying Forsberg away from the Flyers.
“David Poile in Nashville had a good team,” Holmgren says. “And, he had extra assets to give up and he made the trade that he felt would put them over the top. That's going to happen all the time. He had extra assets.”
Now that the Flyers have almost been rehabilitated to their former glory as an annual playoff participant, will Holmgren become a buyer this deadline instead of the accomplished seller role he inhabited at last season’s deadline?
That’s unlikely, especially if Forsberg does commit to the Flyers in the next week or so.
“I think right now we're looking at a lot of things that might improve our hockey team,” Holmgren said. “And I don't believe there's anything imminent. We may just end up not doing anything other than playing maybe some of our young kids in certain situations.
“I think the last thing the Flyers need to do is do something crazy for a short-term fix right now, to try to, A, give us a push into the playoffs; or, B, try to do something crazy. I just think we need to be patient here and take a look at the big picture.
“Last year we were the worst team in the League. I think we're certainly a better team this year and I think our future is still bright because of some of our young players.”