Flyers trade Scott Hartnell for R.J. Umberger, fourth-round draft pick
The Flyers gained speed and shed some long-term salary obligations Monday when they acquired R.J. Umberger and sent Scott Hartnell to Columbus.
The deal of 32-year-old wingers was the first made by new Flyers general manager Ron Hextall, who also acquired a fourth-round draft pick in 2015 from the Blue Jackets.
Umberger, who started his career with the Flyers, had 18 goals and 16 assists last season as the Blue Jackets returned to the playoffs after a four-year absence.
"I feel I have a lot left in the tank," Umberger said.
Hartnell admitted he was "shocked" and angry when he received a call from Hextall five days ago, saying he had a few teams inquiring about him. Hextall wanted to know if the veteran would waive his no-trade clause.
"I loved my time in Philadelphia. I don't think I ever wanted to leave Philadelphia," Hartnell said. "My best buddy in hockey is Kimmo [Timonen], and I played almost 1,000 games with him."
But as the days went by, Hartnell said he felt unwanted by the Flyers. He said they "basically said I was done there."
Hartnell, who spent seven mostly productive seasons with the Flyers, said Hextall had a "different vision of the club" and that he felt wanted by the Blue Jackets.
That, he said, is why he decided to waive his no-trade clause.
"It was pretty clear that a team that wants you is a better place than a team that doesn't want you," said Hartnell, adding he consulted with former Flyer Jody Shelley, now a Columbus broadcaster, before approving the deal.
Umberger said he sensed that the Blue Jackets were going to deal him. "I think I have a lot to give and still consider myself pretty young," he said.
Hartnell played primarily on the top line and was a big part of the Flyers' first power-play unit. He had 20 goals and 32 assists last season.
The Flyers gained some long-term salary flexibility. Hartnell has five years remaining on his contract with a salary-cap hit of $4.75 million per season. Umberger has three years left with a $4.6 million cap hit per season.
"That was one of the things we certainly factored in," said Hextall, who said the Flyers would not pay a portion of Hartnell's salary.
Hartnell will earn $22.5 million over the next five years, while Umberger will be paid $13.5 million over the next three years.
Hextall said the Flyers are comfortable playing Umberger on the top line or the checking unit - or any line in between.
"He can play up or down the lineup, and that's one of the things that attracted us to him," said Hextall, who also was attracted to Umberger because of his penalty-killing ability.
"We wanted to get quicker up front," Hextall added.
Flyers coach Craig Berube called Umberger a "versatile guy who can play all positions. He's a good penalty killer who skates well."
In seven seasons with the Flyers, Hartnell had 157 goals and 326 points in 517 games. He was known for his charitable work in the area with his #HartnellDown Foundation. He said his best memories were the Flyers' surprising run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010 and later playing alongside Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr.
Wayne Simmonds is the favorite to assume Hartnell's role as alternate captain.
Umberger was dealt from the Flyers to Columbus in a 2008 deal for first- and third-round draft picks (Luca Sbisa and Marc-Andre Bourdon). The Flyers also gave the Blue Jackets a fourth-rounder.
In the 2008 playoffs, Umberger had 10 goals and five assists to help the Flyers reach the conference finals.
With Hartnell traded, Hextall may be searching for a left winger on the top line. Free-agent candidates include Matt Moulson, Mike Cammalleri, Benoit Pouliot, and Mason Raymond - provided the Flyers can find enough cap space.
Hextall will be exploring trades during this weekend's draft at the Wells Fargo Center. "We'll keep our ear to the phone and see what's out there," he said in a tone that suggested he wasn't finished.