Sometimes lightning does strike twice, but in the case of the Philadelphia Flyers, that second bolt is typically much weaker than the original. For much of their history, the Flyers were very active in the trade and free agent markets, never afraid to make moves to make the team better. They take a gamble when deploying that style and sometimes miss out on big names the first time around, yet manage to land those once-big names years later, though they’re much less effective. Which players were the biggest examples of the Flyers acquiring a star too late?
Number 5: John Vanbiesbrouck
As the 1993 NHL expansion draft loomed on the horizon, the Rangers had to figure out a way to deal with their two superstar goalies they had on their roster, Mike Richter and John Vanbiesbrouck. They ultimately decided to keep Richter and put Vanbiesbrouck on the trade market so the didn’t lose him for nothing to the Panthers. He was dealt to Vancouver for longtime defenseman Doug Lidster. The Flyers avoided making the deal because they had two young goalies on their roster in Tommy Soderstrom and Dominic Roussel, but neither developed into NHL regulars. Soderstrom was dealt to the Islanders in the summer of 1994 and Roussel went back and fourth from the NHL to AHL until 1997. Vanbiesbrouck carried the Panthers to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996 but his play started to diminish soon after and later was signed by the Flyers in the summer of 1998, passing up on signing free agent goalie Curtis Joseph. He played two seasons in Philly with average results before he was traded to the Islanders at the 2000 expansion draft.
Number 4: Dale Hawerchuk
In today’s NHL, there have been certain players that have been linked to the Flyers in trade rumors for seemingly years. Keith Yandle and Johnny Gaudreau come to mind. But back in the 80’s, that player in the constant rumor mill was then-Jets star forward Dale Hawerchuk. After posting six 100-point seasons in his first nine years playing for the lackluster Jets, he was made available at the 1990 entry draft. The Flyers were in the running, but Hawerchuk was ultimately traded the the Sabres for star defenseman Phil Housley, forward Scott Arniel, prospect Jeff Parker and a first round pick which ended up being used to select Keith Tkachuk. Hawerchuk experienced a few more similarly underwhelming season with the Sabres followed by a 66-game stint in St. Louis before he was flipped to the Flyers in 1996 where he played 66 games before retiring at 34 years old.
Number 3: Paul Coffey
Paul Coffey suited up for 94 games from 1996-98 in Philadelphia towards the tail end of his legendary 1,409-game career, but the Flyers were legitimate contenders to swoop him up at the peak of his dominance. Coffey, who was the Oilers’ top defenseman during their dynasty years in the late 1980’s, ended up getting in a contract dispute with the club in 1987 which ultimately ended up in the Oilers traded their star defenseman. Meanwhile in Philadelphia, the Flyers started the 1987-88 season with a 6-13-3 record and GM Bobby Clarke was desperate for a serious shakeup and had Coffey in his sights. The story goes that the Oilers wanted Rick Tocchet, who was an up-and-coming prospect at that point, and Clarke declined the deal. The Oilers ended up dealing Coffey to the Penguins where he won one more Cup in 1991.
Number 2: Peter Forsberg
Forsberg was drafted by the Flyers sixth overall in 1991, but was dealt the following summer as part of the Eric Lindros trade before he ever played a game in Philly. He went on to win two Stanley Cups with the Avalanche and became one of the greatest players in NHL history. 14 years after his draft, He signed a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers after the Avalanche could no longer afford him thanks to the lockout and implementation of the salary cap. He returned to Philly for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons but only played 100 games due to multiple injuries, though still managed to rack up 30 goals and and 115 points during that time.
Number 1: Jaromir Jagr
One of the biggest draft flubs in Flyers’ history was when they selected Mike Ricci fourth overall in 1990, one spot before the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted Jaromir Jagr. He went on to become one of the best players in NHL history, regularly torturing the Flyers from their cross-state rivals for the next decade. He later had runs with the Capitals and Rangers before heading to Russia for three seasons from 2008 to 2011. He signed as a free agent in Philadelphia for the 2011-12 season and was a huge sparkplug for that roster, carrying Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell to career years while he himself racked up 19 goals and 54 points. The Flyers had too many irons in the fire during the summer of 2012, from offer sheeting Shea Weber to throwing big money at Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, they kind of forgot about Jagr, who left the club to sign with the Dallas Stars. It was a short reign Jagr had in Philly, but he played a huge role in the 73 games he had. Just imagine if he was here from the get-go, potentially riding shotgun with Eric Lindros.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
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