Yzerman rolls dice on Gagne

Simon Gagne is leaving Philadelphia after an unsuccessful Stanley Cup run this season with the...

Simon Gagne is leaving Philadelphia after an unsuccessful Stanley Cup run this season with the Flyers. (QMI Agency/Alex Urosevic)

DAVE POLLARD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

One man's salary dump is another man's gamble.

But when Steve Yzerman weighed the risk of adding Simon Gagne against the winger's potential upside and short-term contract, he figured it was a no-brainer.

Yzerman continued his retooling of the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday, acquiring the oft-injured but highly skilled forward from the salary cap-strapped Philadelphia Flyers for defenceman Matt Walker and a fourth-round draft pick in 2011. Gagne, a 10-year veteran who will make $5.25 million in the final year of his contract this season, has missed significant chunks of time because of injury during his career but twice scored 40 goals for the Flyers.

"We were looking to add one more player that would fit into our top six (forwards) and I think we were able to do that," said Yzerman, the Lightning's first-year general manager. "I like his all-round game. He's a good fit to our team. I just think it was worth doing. I'm comfortable he's healthy now and will start the season healthy. (Philly GM) Paul Holmgren was willing to co-operate and allowed me to look at Simon's medical records.

"We did as much homework as we could. Eventually everyone who has played in this league is going to miss time."

Gagne has a history of concussions -- he sat out parts of the 2002-03 and 2007-08 seasons because of them -- and missed the first 24 games of last season after having hernia surgery in the off-season.

Still, when Holmgren offered up Gagne in a deal that would help the Flyers get under the salary cap, Yzerman felt it he could roll the dice.

"If this was a multi-year contract, I would have to seriously re-evaluate this deal," Yzerman said. "Obviously (Gagne's record of injuries) is a concern. If it was a multi-year contract it would be more of a concern. But it's a one-year contract so I'm prepared to do that."

Gagne finished with 17 goals and 23 assists in 58 games last season.

It was a deal the Flyers needed to make as much for financial considerations as anything. Walker has three years left on a deal that averages out to less than a $2 million cap hit, a big reduction over what Gagne's number, and gives Philly another veteran presence on the blueline.

“This was a move to solidify our defense,” said Holmgren. “Matt Walker is a right shot defenseman that we like; he brings size, grit and toughness to our backend. Simon Gagne played 10 seasons for the Flyers and was not only a good player for us, but also handled himself in a first class manner on and off the ice.”

Yzerman admitted the only way he could take on Gagne's contract, even for one year, was by making some earlier moves. He dealt Andrej Meszaros to Philly for a draft pick on July 1 then signed defenceman Pavel Kubina and goaltender Dan Ellis to reasonable two-year contracts. The biggest transaction, though, involved re-signing Martin St. Louis to a long-term deal that reduced his salary for the next two seasons, when rookie deals for Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman expire.

Having gotten to know Gagne during his playing days -- they were teammates on the gold medal-winning Canadian team during the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City -- Yzerman think he has a handle on the 30-year-old on and off the ice. Gagne and Yzerman also crossed paths at the Canadian Olympic summer camp last year.

"I think I know Simon a little bit as a person, Yzerman said. "In completing this trade, or any move you make, the more information you have the more comfortable you are. I'm trying to bring players with good character into the organization."

Yzerman admitted he might not be done with his off-season tinkering.

"Right now we're actually debating what we want to do," he said. "Do we want to commit to more one-way contracts? I want to let everyone in my group digest this trade. I still think we need to add NHL forwards on short-term deals. We're kind of kicking around the idea."


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