By Allan Muir
Facing both a dearth of talent on their blueline and an historically weak free agent crop, the Philadelphia Flyers made a preemptive strike Wednesday. They acquired the rights to New York Islanders defenseman Mark Streit in exchange for a fourth round pick in 2014 and Adirondack Phantoms winger Shane Harper.
It's a low-risk/high-reward venture for Philly GM Paul Holmgren, a man with a lot of work ahead of him this summer to rebuild a team that came nowhere close to living up to expectations this season.
He's had luck fishing these waters before, paying for the chance to negotiate exclusively with a player before they hit free agency, picking up Kimmo Timonen from the Predators. He's also come up short, acquiring and then redealing Dan Hamhuis when he could seal a deal before free agency.
But at this point, it sounds like there's a deal to be made with Streit, a 35-year-old with extremely low mileage on his tires after just seven years in the NHL.
But just because it can be made doesn't mean it'll be easy. Streit is looking for something like $5-$5.5 million, and the only way that works is if the Flyers use both of their compliance buyouts on Danny Briere and Ilya Bryzgalov.
And it may not be the cap hit as much as the length of time that makes it tough to swing the deal. If he's looking for four or five years, that might be too big a risk for the Flyers to take, especially considering his injury history. He missed the 2010-11 season after rotator cuff surgery. And again, he's 35.
Still, Streit could be a nice piece to help the Flyers get it turned around. He can eat serious minutes. And while he's not a shutdown guy, he can make a big difference going the other way. He's great in transition and can QB the power play.
Word is the Flyers already have contacted Streit's agent, Pat Brisson. If they can work something out, this is a big win for Philly.
It's a much simpler and more clearly successful deal from the perspective of the Islanders.
A fourth rounder might not look like much of a return for the former All-Star, but they had no intention of re-signing Streit. Picking up an asset rather than letting him skate makes sense. And his departure leaves two significant openings. Filling them properly will be key to moving the franchise forward.
The big one, obviously, is the captaincy. If their brief playoff run proved anything, it's that John Tavares is ready to to take on the role. It's not about talent. It's about his character and professionalism. The kid was born to wear the C. Now he'll get the chance.
The other is on the back end, where the Isles are loaded with young talent. No one will be handed the job, but the opportunity is there for someone like Calvin de Haan, Griffin Reinhart or Matt Donovan to step up and take it. No need to look up Harper's name. The 24-year-old bounced between the AHL and ECHL this season, racking up 10 points in 48 games with Adirondack. Best case scenario, he plays depth minutes for Bridgeport. Still, they don't need him to make this deal a win.