There’s another new brother act in the NHL, and this one will see Luke Schenn playing for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke pulled the trigger on the trade – which sees Schenn exchanged for winger James Van Riemsdyk – hours after the final day of the entry draft ended here in Pittsburgh on Saturday, moving out the young defenceman who was Toronto’s fifth overall pick in 2008 for a forward who was picked second overall in 2007.
Just as Jordan Staal joined his brother, Eric, in a draft day deal between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes on Friday, Schenn will now have a chance to play with younger brother, Brayden, in Philadelphia.
“It’s just surreal right now,” Schenn said. “It’s going to be exciting to play with my brother, that’s for sure. I can’t describe how cool this is.”
“We are really excited by the parts of the game that James will bring to the Leafs,” Burke said in a statement. “He will provide speed, size, and finesse to our top two lines and we know that he fits those needs that we have wanted to address for some time. We thank Luke for his tremendous on and off ice contributions to our organization. He’s a true professional and we wish him the very best in Philadelphia.”
The deal is really an exchange of two struggling young players, as neither Schenn or Van Riemsdyk had a very good season in 2011-12. It also fills a positional need, as the Leafs hoped to improve up front and the Flyers have a hole on the back end with Chris Pronger still out indefinitely due to postconcussion issues.
This past season, Schenn struggled to play more than a third pairing role on the Leafs back end in his first year under a five-year contract that pays him $3.6-million a season.
Van Riemsdyk, meanwhile, had plenty of injury issues and managed only 24 points in 43 games with the Flyers. He begins playing on a six-year deal that pays him $4.25-million a season this fall.
Schenn vs Van Riemsdyk career averages
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said the two teams had been discussing the trade since “the wintertime.”
“It came up again [Friday] and we talked about it,” he said. “I believe it’s a good trade for both teams. It certainly fills a need for us and I think it fills a need for Brian’s team as well in terms of what they’re looking to do.”
Who wins the deal ultimately comes down to which player fulfills their potential and can live up to their considerable contract.
Even after four NHL seasons, Schenn is still just 22 years old and has had some solid campaigns in the past. He likely needed a change of scenery to continue to improve, however, and there were rumours he was unhappy playing under former coach Ron Wilson.
Van Riemsdyk, 23, has yet to produce more than 40 points after three NHL seasons but at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds brings the size Burke has said multiple times he’s looking for this offseason.
"I think it’s a trade that will benefit both teams," Burke said. "I think both these players have their best hockey in front of them."
“I’ve told you enough about how strongly I feel about James becoming a good player, and I believe he will become a very good player in our league,” Holmgren said. “Unfortunately for us, I think it’s going to be for Toronto now. The guy we got coming back is going to fill needs on our team and is going to be a good young player on our team. So I think it’s a win-win.”
There's also the possibility that Schenn's game improves now that he'll be on the same team as his brother, who is coming off a solid rookie season with the Flyers after being traded a year ago from the Los Angeles Kings
“Luke is my best friend,” Brayden Schenn told the Philadelphia Daily News. “We are very tight, we talk every day. Toronto was really good to him, but he didn’t have the greatest season. He needed a fresh start. I think this will have a huge impact on my career. We push each other, and he knows just what to say to get me going.”
The deal goes down only hours after Burke expressed disappointment at missing out on Staal, who the Pittsburgh Penguins shipped to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night for Brandon Sutter, a first-round pick and a prospect.
The sticking point for Toronto not getting that trade done was likely the Leafs reluctance to trade their top pick (which they used to draft defenceman Morgan Rielly fifth overall on Friday) and their lack of a centre comparable to Sutter to send the Penguins way.
“We were in on that trade,” Burke said. “Obviously the price they fetched was higher than the price that this team was willing to pay. Good for both teams.
“We didn’t have a brother named Staal, that was part of the problem. It was the same thing when we got Scott Niedermayer in Anaheim. We had a brother named Robbie and that was a deciding factor. I’m sure that was a deciding factor here.”
Earlier in the day, the Leafs pulled off a minor deal in sending netminder Jonas Gustavsson to the Winnipeg Jets for a conditional seventh round pick. Gustavsson will become an unrestricted free agent and wasn’t in Toronto’s plans.
With Van Riemsdyk penciled in at left wing, the Leafs lineup currently projects like so (with restricted free agents included):
Lupul - Bozak - Kessel
MacArthur - Grabovski - Van Riemsdyk
Kulemin - Connolly - Frattin
Brown - Steckel - Armstrong
ex. Lombardi, Kadri, Komarov
Gunnarsson - Phaneuf
Gardiner - Franson
Liles - Komisarek
Including Van Riemsdyk, Toronto has $57.4-million committed under the salary cap at the moment, and that’s without Nikolai Kulemin, Matt Frattin, Cody Franson or Ben Scrivens signed.
The NHL’s cap currently sits at $70.3-million, but it could fall depending on how the league’s new CBA functions.