With sadness but understanding, the wait is mercifully over — the Flyers have officially traded forward Simon Gagne to the Tampa Bay Lightning for defenseman Matt Walker and a fourth round pick in the 2011 NHL entry draft.
Gagne, 30, was coveted by new Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, who fell in love with the two-way forward while playing for Team Canada together in the 2002 Winter Olympics. Gagne will likely play beside his friend Vincent Lecavalier.
Matt Walker, 30, makes $1.7 million through the 2012-13 season. He has good size at 6’3, 215 lbs., and uses it effectively to punish the opposition. However, Walker has never played more than 66 games in a season. He ranked second on Tampa’s roster in blocked shots with 116 and averaged just over 16 minutes per game of ice time.
“This was a move to solidify our defense,” Holmgren said. “Matt Walker is a right shot defenseman that we like. He brings size, grit and toughness to our backend.”
The acquisition of Walker gives the Flyers seven capable defensemen, not counting Oskars Bartulis. Walker will either be the seventh rear guard or another move may be brewing to create space on the crowded Philadelphia blue line.
“My initial reaction was pure excitement,” said Walker. “To find out that I was coming to Philly, I don’t know if I would say it was a life-long dream, but I’ve always wanted to play in Philly and I thought I would be a good fit there.”
With the money the Flyers had already spent over the salary cap, the Gagne deal nets them just over a million in space.
Gagne, a four-time 30-goal scorer, played ten seasons in Philadelphia after being drafted 22nd overall by the Flyers in the 1998 NHL draft. He scored 524 points in 664 games played in the Orange and Black. A fan favorite for his ability to produce in the clutch, Gagne, in the final year of a deal that would owe him $5.25 million, was designated by the organization as a cap casualty. But as he had shown always during his career, Gagne treated the potentially abrasive situation with nothing but class. He waived his no-trade clause without fuss, allowing the Flyers to move forward without issue.
“Simon Gagne played 10 seasons for the Flyers and was not only a good player for us, but also handled himself in a first class manner on and off the ice, Holmgren said.”