It was reported a month ago (and mentioned here) that Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren spoke with Ville Leino prior to trading for Kris Versteeg. The gist is that acquiring Versteeg and his $3.083 million contract, which has one more year on it, would prevent the Flyers from extending Leino until the offseason.
Leino approved of the trade, believing it will help boost the team’s chance of winning the Stanley Cup this season. The question that remains now is whether Versteeg will factor into the Flyers plans beyond this season.
Having given up both a first round and a third round draft pick in the 2011 NHL draft, one would think that the team is looking at him beyond a rental.
His cap hit is a bit high, but the salary cap is anticipated to increase by $2 to $3 million next season with the strengthening of the NHL market in the U.S. over the past year (excluding Phoenix, Atlanta, Miami and St. Louis). That may mean that cheaper additions like Eric Wellwood and Erik Gustafsson will make the big club sooner than they’re ready, but it is manageable.
Where Versteeg’s intangible value lies for this team is his role as Mike Richards’s right winger for the future. Over the course of the last two seasons, Richards has been skating with the likes of James Van Riemsdyk, Andreas Nodl, Nikolai Zherdev, Dan Carcillo, and Simon Gagne. There’s talent in that mix, but there hasn’t been much top-six consistency.
Versteeg was placed in the position of third line center on Tuesday, but his 1 for 11 face-off winning record suggests that he should stick to the winger position.
There have been times when Richards and Versteeg appeared to be clicking, notably the most recent games against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He had a terrible third period on Saturday, though, which is likely why he was placed on a separate line from Richards.
A Nodl-Richards-Versteeg line, though, has the potential to be a very potent third line for the foreseeable future.
It remains to be seen how the Flyers will fill the 2011-12 roster under the new salary cap, but Holmgren has managed to push the envelope year after year to moderate success. Versteeg mat very well have a position with the Flyers for some time.