Mar 3, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Columbus Blue Jackets forward RJ Umberger (18) and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nikolai Kulemin (41) battle for position at the Air Canada Centre. Columbus defeated Toronto 2-1. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Pros and Cons of R.J. Umberger

R.J. Umberger is coming back to Philadelphia. Monday afternoon, GM Ron Hextall received Umberger and a 2015

fourth-round pick in exchange for left wing Scott Hartnell. Fans have debated whether or not this was a good or bad trade by Hextall, so let us take a look at what the Flyers lost and gained.

So what did the Flyers lose?

Scott Hartnell was a fan favorite in Philadelphia. His fun personality earned him the adoration of the fans, and his charity work made him a staple in the community. While he was a streaky player when it came to production, he could be depended on to score at least 20 goals put up 40 to 50 points each season. In addition, he provided grit along the boards and in the corners where games are won and lost.

Hartnell was a good offensive player, but his discipline was one of his downfalls. His crash-and-bang style would often result in numerous penalties. While he could be depended on to agitate the other team, he seemed to take penalties during the most crucial points of the game. Only once during his seven seasons with the Flyers did he not eclipse more than 100 penalty minutes. The lockout-shortened season was the lone exception.

The 2013-14 season was a bounce back year for Hartnell. After a disappointing 2012-13 season where he scored 11 points in just 32 games, Hartnell scored 20 goals and totaled 52 points. R.J. Umberger has not enjoyed the same kind of offensive success as Hartnell. Last season, he scored 18 goals and finished the season with 34 points. During the last four seasons, Umberger eclipsed the 40-point mark once. Production wise, it appears that the Flyers lost this deal.

So what did the Flyers gain with Umberger?

The best teams in the NHL are built on speed and skill. Umberger has lost a step in his speed, but he is a much better skater than Hartnell and brings more quickness to the top six. Here is a scouting report from The Hockey News on Umberger’s skill set:

Is a sound offensive player with excellent size and strength. Complements star forwards well. A good skater, he has a good wrister and is also capable of playing all three forward positions. He’s an asset on special teams.

Umberger’s skating could help the second line’s production. A permanent left wing allows Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds to develop chemistry with Umberger. This could lead to greater production from the second line and takes some pressure off Claude Giroux. This, of course, is all dependent on what happens with Vincent Lecavalier during the offseason.

Although Umberger has declined in production, a fresh start could spark him. Umberger was scratched four times during a crucial seven-game stretch last season, but he did play a crucial role during Game 4 of the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

This is not the first time Umberger has showed up to play in big games.

One of the more notable benefits with Umberger is his ability to stay out of the penalty box. Umberger has never totaled more than 55 penalty minutes in a season. That means the Flyers should be spending less time killing penalties and more time on even strength. Fewer penalties also means Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Claude Giroux will spend more time attacking the opposing net.

Looking further down the road, another benefit of the Umberger-Hartnell deal are the contracts. Aside from gaining speed, the Ron Hextall also gained future salary cap flexibility. Both men are 32 years old, but Hartnell’s contract has five years remaining on it while Umberger’s only has three years remaining with a cheaper cap hit. Gritty and physical players like Hartnell begin to slow down once they hit their mid-30s. Injuries also begin to pile up. Three years down the road, Flyers fans will be happy when Umberger comes off the books.

The Umberger-Hartnell trade was the first big move of the Ron Hextall era. Leading up to the draft, more moves should be expected from Hextall as he attempts to better this team for the future. Losing a fan favorite like Hartnell is never easy to do but down the road, this could be one of the many deals that help the Flyers win the Cup.


Tags: Brayden Schenn Matt Read Philadelphia Flyers R.J. Umberger Sean Couturier Vincent Lecavalier Wayne Simmonds

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