By Allan Muir
This is how dire the situation is in Philadelphia: Simon Gagne is regarded as a viable improvement over NHL players they're currently dressing.
Needing some help on the wings, the Flyers went the retreat-to-move-forward route on Tuesday, re-acquiring the once-useful winger from the Los Angeles Kings for a 2013 fourth-round draft pick that originally belonged to Phoenix.
Just to be clear on this (because I'm not sure Philly GM Paul Holmgren is), the Flyers did not acquire the 2008-09 Simon Gagne who scored 34 goals and 74 points in 79 games for them. They got a 32-year-old who hasn't played anything close to a complete season since then, who looked hopelessly slow after returning from injury to skate in the Stanley Cup Final, and who has spent six of the Kings' first 17 games in the press box because his work ethic didn't match coach Darryl Sutter's expectations.
That'll fire up the fans, right?
To be fair, it's a relatively low-risk move. It's not like fourth rounders ride a direct pipeline to the NHL. Maybe the Flyers catch lightning in a bottle, and pulling on the orange sweater Gagne wore so well for 10 seasons will up the amperage in his aging legs and dust off the hands that haven't scored in 36 games. But unless he can provide 18-22 minutes of solid work the blueline, where Philly really needs help, I'm not sure this is the trade the Flyers needed most right now. This couldn't have been a tough swap to make from the Kings' perspective. They clear what's left of Gagne's prorated $3.5 million hit from their cap, pick up another at-bat for the draft, and create space for guys like Dwight King and Dustin Penner to prove that they belong in the lineup night after night. Seems like no downside from L.A.'s perspective.