Eleven years ago, the Philadelphia Flyers made a trade that ranks amongst the more questionable moves they’ve made. James van Riemsdyk was a rising young star on the team who had some issues with then head coach Peter Laviolette. He was dealt to Toronto for a young stud defender who had a lot of hype coming up through the juniors. His name was Luke Schenn.
Schenn was seen as an up and coming defender with a high ceiling. He was a star defender with the Kelowna Rockets and was seen as one of the top North American skaters entering the the draft. The Toronto Maple Leafs selected him with the fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft.
He never played in the minors, making the team right off the bat. He was a member of the NHL’s All Rookie team and finished 17th for the Calder Trophy award as a 19 year old. He played four seasons of solid defensive hockey, but not to the level that he was projected to be. He was slowly improving, posting a personal record high of 22 points in the 2011-12 season.
Then the lockout happened. Following the lockout, he was dealt to Philly for JVR. This came after the Flyers losing Chris Pronger to an injury and failing to land Shea Weber. Upon his arrival in Philly, he was excited to play with his brother, Brayden. However, the expectations on Schenn were really high. It wasn’t that he was bad. He just didn’t do anything special. Meanwhile, JVR was lighting the lamp in Toronto.
Because of JVR’s success in Toronto and Schenn’s lack of success in Philly, it was deemed to be a bust of a trade. Schenn was traded to the LA Kings after four seasons. He scored 12 goals with 30 assists. He was dealt with the shell that once was Vincent LeCavalier for Jordan Weal and a third round pick that became Carsen Twarynski. Weal was a third round center who played forgettable bottom six hockey. Twarysnki was the Seattle Kraken’s expansion draft pick.
Fast forward to 2023. Schenn has bounced around to the Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canucks, and the Tampa Bay Lightning. He also made a few trips to the AHL. This past season, after a second stint with the Canucks, he was traded back to the Maple Leafs for a third round pick as Toronto tried to load up for a Stanley Cup run. He recently became the all-time NHL leader in hits delivered by a defender at 3,156 in 15 seasons.
At this past trade deadline, Schenn actually became a hot commodity. Not because he is a stellar defender, but because he is steady. He doesn’t turn the puck over. He is not reckless. He doesn’t do any boneheaded things. In essence, he is what just about every team looks for in a “stay at home defenseman.
He is a free agent this year. Toronto is in a bit of salary cap hell right now. Yes, they have over $9 million, but they also have ten free agents, two restricted free agents, a potential buyout of goaltender Matt Murray, extensions of Austin Matthews and William Nylander looming, and trying to build up for a playoff run in a tough division that could be up for grabs. As a result, Schenn could be an odd man out.
Schenn earned $900,000 this past season. That’s really cheap for an NHL blueliner with 15 years of experience and will be turning 34 next year. You’d think that Toronto would jump all over him as he’d bring some stability to their defensive corps. It seems that they are not close on a contract, though. If he gets to the free agency market when the free agency period begins on July 1, the Flyers should jump all over him.
He isn’t the best defender in the league, but he is stable. He could provide some of the veteran leadership that Justin Braun used to give. That could be a big help to players like Egor Zamula and Ronnie Attard as well as help Cam York to grow into a larger role. A one year $1 million contract should be enough to get it done, though Schenn could be looking for more stability if him and the Leafs are not close to a deal. If the season goes south, he’d probably be a decent trade deadline candidate for the team to stock up on future draft picks.
Getting Schenn back wouldn’t be a bad option for the Flyers. It might not be part of their overall youth movement, but John Tortorella likes hard working players who put it all out there. For a young team, he would be a great role model on how to act and play. If the Leafs fail to retain his services, Schenn would be a cheap addition to a team that could use a veteran presence.