Flyers ship prospect Lefebvre, draft picks to Phoenix for Amonte

By Al Alven

The Philadelphia Flyers took a step toward upgrading their offense today with the acquisition of a big name sniper. Most impressive, however, is the fact that general manager Bob Clarke did not have to give up Simon Gagne, Justin Williams, Dennis Seidenberg, Jim Vandermeer, Joni Pitkanen, Jeff Woywitka or either of the team’s two first round selections in the upcoming entry draft to do so.

On the eve of the NHL’s trade deadline, the Flyers obtained right wing Tony Amonte from the Phoenix Coyotes for the rather modest package of forward prospect Guillaume Lefebvre, a third round draft pick in 2003 and a second round selection in 2004. The move was strictly a salary dump for the Coyotes, who signed Amonte away from the Chicago Blackhawks with a four-year, $24 million free agent contract last summer.

Lefebvre — who was ranked #9 on the Flyers prospect list by Hockey’s Future at the time of the trade — was scoreless in 14 games with the big club this season. He spent the majority of the campaign with the AHL’s Phantoms, tallying only 13 points (7 goals, 6 assists) in 47 games. After a fine rookie season with the Phantoms in 2001-02, Lefebvre seemed to take a step back this year. He has remained a strong defensive presence (leading the team with a plus-8 rating), but was simply a non-factor on most nights throughout the season.

Though he is not projected to be a steady point-producer in the NHL, Lefebvre’s lack of an offensive game this season is indicative of the diminished quality of his overall game. Still, the 21-year-old Amos, Quebec native is a fundamentally sound player who could eventually stick as a third or fourth line forward in the NHL. He was a bubble player this season with the Flyers, but should be able to earn a regular roster spot on a young, inexperienced Phoenix team.

Amonte, 32, is no longer an elite goal scorer in the NHL, at least not by the numbers (see below). However, he is still a player who brings a considerable amount of talent, offensive presence and speed (not to mention experience) to the table. He will also be surrounded by a much better group of forwards in Philadelphia than he was in Phoenix and Chicago over the past few seasons. Most notably, Amonte will be reunited with center Jeremy Roenick, a former high school, NHL and Olympic teammate, and fellow Boston-area native.

Amonte has been a scoring threat and a fine playmaker throughout his 13-year NHL career. In 920 games, he has registered 365 goals and 395 assists for 760 points, and has topped the 40-goal plateau on four occasions. However, Amonte’s best offensive days appear to be behind him. He has been an offensive disappointment for Phoenix this year, and has actually seen his goal and point production drop rather significantly over the past four seasons. Here is the breakdown:

1999-00 (w/Chicago): GP 82, 43 goals, 41 assists, 84 points, 48 PIMs
2000-01 (w/Chicago): GP 82, 35 goals, 29 assists, 64 points, 54 PIMs
2001-02 (w/Chicago): GP 82, 27 goals, 39 assists, 66 points, 67 PIMs
2002-03 (w/Phoenix): GP 59, 13 goals, 23 assists, 36 points, 26 PIMs

Obviously, the Flyers will be counting on Amonte to rediscover his offensive touch as the team continues to prepare for a likely first round playoff meeting with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He will be expected to contribute immediately, both at even strength and on the powerplay (which is still ranked 26th in the league).

Amonte will undoubtedly be paired with Roenick on the Flyers’ top line when he makes his debut with the team against Carolina at the First Union Center on Thursday night. Strong indications are that John LeClair, once he returns from injury, will join that unit as well. This would give the team a fantastic scoring line on paper, comprised of three of the best American-born players in NHL history.


Beyond the trade:

• This trade could have a significant impact on the Flyers’ placement in the upcoming entry draft. The team owns the Coyotes’ first round selection, which would be the 12th overall pick if the regular season ended today. It’s difficult to image Phoenix (27-28-8-4) getting any better after dealing Amonte. Additionally, Daniel Briere (46 points in 68 games) and starting goaltender Sean Burke are possibilities to be moved at the deadline as well. Thus, it is not a stretch to imagine the Coyotes falling in the overall standings over the final few weeks of the season.

• Clarke has indicated that he is unlikely to make any more deals before tomorrow’s 3 p.m. deadline. However, you can’t rule out the possibility of something happening. There are still plenty of teams looking to dump salary (primarily Chicago and Pittsburgh), and the Flyers are sure to get a number of courtesy calls. Either way, look for an active deadline day, league-wide.

• The Amonte deal was the Flyers’ ninth trade this season, and third in the last 10 days.