MONTREAL _ Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said he wanted "a hammer."
He got one Friday night in a stunning deal with the Anaheim Ducks.
During the NHL draft here, the Flyers acquired Chris Pronger, a veteran defenseman whom they hope will fill the missing piece to their 35-year Stanley Cup quest.
Pronger, 34, gives the Flyers a much-needed physical presence in front of the net.
Oh, and he also gives the Flyers a blue-line scorer _ something that was missing from a defense that netted a league-low 20 goals last season.
The Flyers sent Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, last night’s No. 1 draft pick (21st overall) and next year’s No. 1 draft selection to the Ducks for Pronger and AHL forward Ryan Dingle.
The Ducks, who later traded the No. 21 overall pick to Columbus, also received a conditional third-round pick in 2010 or 2011.
A five-time all-star, Pronger collected 11 goals and 37 assists last season and averaged 26 minutes, 56 seconds of ice time per game. The 6-foot-6, 220-pounder is known as one of the NHL’s most physical players.
"I'm very excited. It’s obviously a city that’s very passionate for the sport of hockey," Pronger said in a conference call with reporters. "The style of play that the Flyers have been known to play certainly fits my game. They’ve got some great young talent and I hope to help not only develop the team into being regarded as one of the top teams in the league, but winning a Stanley Cup."
The Flyers paid a lot. But no one will care if the move turns the team into Stanley Cup champions for the first time since 1975.
The move was risky, however, because Pronger will be in the final year of his contract (at $6.25 million) and can become a free agent after next season.
General manager Paul Holmgren said he hasn't talked with Pronger's agent yet, but that they will get together in the near future and attempt to work out an extended deal.
"We haven’t had the opportunity to talk to Pat Morris, Chris’s agent," Holmgren said. "I’ve talked to him a few times over the past few days … he represents a couple guys on our team and a couple guys we were looking at in this draft. When we get back to Philadelphia, we’ll sit down and see where we’re at, and see what we can do. He’s certainly a guy we’ve invested a lot in, and we realize we have our work to do to get him tied up for more than one year."
Holmgren called Pronger "one of the top defensemen in the league, and I think he makes everybody around him better on our defense. It puts things in the proper pecking order. First of all, he’s a winner. He’s won a championship. I know Chris from our days together in Hartford. He’s a tremendous character player who works hard and cares. Obviously he’s a great defender. He’s one of those guys who brings a presence in all zones on the ice, and in terms of what he’s been through as a player in our league and his accomplishments, he’ll be a guy who’s looked highly upon by our younger players and a good role model for those guys."
Holmgren was asked if he had been searching for a physical defenseman.
"I made it sort of clear myself, would I like to get a hammer, a guy who makes life miserable for the other team?… This is one of those guys," Holmgren said. "I think we’ve made some strides in terms of revamping our defense over the last few years. You put Chris in our mix, and it makes our defense a good group of defensemen."
Call it The Hammer Era, Part II. The first one ended with consecutive Stanley Cups as Dave "The Hammer" Schultz helped the Flyers finish atop the NHL in 1974 and 1975.
Notes. Holmgren said the deal doesn't mean the Flyers won't make a move when the free-agency period starts Wednesday. By trading Lupul (25 goals last year), re-signing Mike Knuble becomes almost a necessity....It'll be interesting to see if coach John Stevens pairs Pronger with Kimmo Timonen. Or he may reunite Timonen with Braydon Coburn _ they were together the previous season _ and put Pronger with Matt Carle or Ryan Parent....Rounds 2-7 of the draft will be held Saturday starting at 10 a.m. (NHL Network).
There was some good economic news for NHL teams Friday.
The NHL and NHL Players' Association announced that the cap for 2009-10 will be $56.8 million. That's a $100,000 increase from last season. Since it was introduced, the cap has gone up each year, starting from the original $39 million at the end of the NHL lockout.
There had been fears the cap would shrink for the upcoming season..
_ Sam Carchidi