Vandermeer, Fraser dealt to Chicago for Zhamnov

By Al Alven

The Philadelphia Flyers announced this evening that the team has acquired
veteran center Alexei Zhamnov from the Chicago Blackhawks for promising
young defenseman Jim Vandermeer and unsigned junior forward Colin

The two teams will also swap 2004 draft picks, with the Flyers getting
a fourth round selection and Chicago receiving a second rounder.

With centers Jeremy Roenick (shattered jaw, concussion) and Keith
Primeau (concussion) out indefinitely, this was a trade born of necessity
for the Flyers. In Zhamnov, 33, the team gets immediate help for the stretch
drive in the form of a competitive, two-way pivot with elite playmaking

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks get two players, one former and one current
Red Deer Rebel (WHL), who they feel will help them in what is becoming
a massive organizational rebuilding effort.

Vandermeer, 23 (he turns 24 on Saturday), is a rugged stay-at-home rearguard
who plays the game hard and with tremendous passion. He is still fairly
raw by pro standards, but has come a long way in his development since
being signed as an undrafted free agent by Philadelphia in December, 2000.

The former Red Deer captain burst onto the NHL scene last year, providing
the Flyers with a surprising level of poise, solid, positional defense
and an element of toughness on the blueline in 24 appearances.

He has struggled this season, however, as injuries, inconsistency and
a general numbers crunch prevented him from establishing himself as a regular
with the Flyers. Punctuating his roller coaster season is the fact that
he has endured seven separate stints in the AHL to this point.

Still, Vandermeer, who recently attained “graduated” status as per
Hockey’s Future criteria, has  potential and a terrific,
positive attitude toward improvement. He will report the Blackhawks immediately
and may find that a change of scenery is the best thing for his career.

In 47 total games with the Flyers over two seasons, Vandermeer registered
8 points (5 goals, 3 assists) and 52 PIMs. He also posted 33 points (6
goals, 27 assists) and 330 PIMs in 148 contests with the AHL’s Philadelphia
Phantoms, with whom he made his pro debut during the 2001-02 season.

At the press conference announcing the trade, general manager Bob
Clarke was asked about the gamble involved when giving up young players,
and parting with Vandermeer specifically.

“I think you worry about what you are giving up, but I don’t think you
get a player like Zhamnov without giving up something,” he said. “As much
as we liked Jimmy Vandermeer we think he will be a good player for them.
We’re going to have [Dennis] Seidenberg back and we are going to
have [Eric] Desjardins back in three weeks, so hopefully we’ve got
kids coming [up].

[Joni] Pitkanen obviously is going to be here a long time and
so is [Kim] Johnsson. We’ve got enough young defensemen, we think
that we can compensate for the loss of Jimmy.”

Fraser, 19, was a third round selection (69th overall) of the Flyers at
the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Scouted extensively over the past two seasons
in Red Deer, he had been a real favorite within the organization. However,
when Chicago insisted that he be included in this trade, Clarke essentially
had no choice but to comply.

The only other option would have been to give up one of the team’s more
highly-regarded junior prospects (centers Jeff Carter and Mike
, right wing Stefan Ruzicka, defensemen Rosario Ruggeri
and Nikita Korovkin) or youthful NHLers (center Patrick Sharp
and goaltender Antero Niittymaki), but that simply wasn’t going
to happen.

Like Vandermeer, Fraser is a true character player who wears his heart
on his sleeve every shift. He is as feisty and fearless as they come, hits
everything in sight and never hesitates to drop the gloves. A growing number
of WHL observers seem to believe that he is the best agitator in the circuit.

But, there is more to Fraser’s game than grit and spunk. He is also
an offensively skilled player, a steady faceoff man and a prime penalty
killer. He has led the Rebels in scoring since the start of the season,
currently boasting 46 points (24 goals, 22 assists) in 60 games. He also
ranks second on the team in PIMs with 154.

Fraser was ranked as the Flyers’ 11th best prospect by Hockey’s Future at
the time of the trade.

“We have acquired two players who we feel fit the direction we are going,”
said Blackhawks general manager Bob Pulford, in a statement released
by the team. “Jim Vandermeer is a hard-nosed defenseman who is a character
player and a fierce competitor. He has size and fills a need we had back
on our defense.

“Colin Fraser is currently playing for Brent Sutter at Red Deer
in the Western League and is their leading scorer. He has offensive skills
and is leading their team in scoring.”

As for Zhamnov, the author of 691 points in 763 NHL games with Chicago
and the Winnipeg Jets, the  opportunity to move from an also-ran
to a legitimate Stanley Cup contender is a refreshing one. The Flyers will
have their new center in the lineup for the first time when the team hosts
the Atlanta Thrashers at the Wachovia Center on Saturday afternoon.

“Zhamnov is a complete player, said Clarke. “He’s extremely talented,
offensively and defensively. He can kill penalties and he can play the
point on the power play. He’s a very top-level center ice man. He makes
the people who play with him better. Tony Amonte played with him when they
traded Roenick for him and Amonte scored like crazy.

“Whether [Ken] Hitchcock puts him back together or not, I don’t
know. Zhamnov is going to make this team better and he’s going to make
the people he plays with better. We’re pretty excited about the prospects
of having all our centermen back, provided we get them back. We’ll have
five awfully good centerman.”

Added Pulford: “Alex Zhamnov is a real pro and a player who has given
his heart and soul to the Blackhawks over the past eight seasons. He has
been an outstanding player in this league for a long time and we wish Alex
nothing but the best.”


Rankings modifications

• With Fraser now gone from the organization, everyone below him in
the previous top 20 ranking (slots 12-20) moves up one spot.

• Colgate University defenseman Joey Mormina re-enters the list
to assume the No. 20 spot.

• The departure of Vandermeer leaves the organization with only two
players, defensemen Joni Pitkanen and Dennis Seidenberg, who qualify
for graduated status.


Updated rankings

Top 20

1.  Jeff Carter, C  (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL)

2.  Mike Richards, C  (Kitchener Rangers, OHL)

3.  Antero Niittymaki, G  (Philadelphia Flyers, NHL)

4.  Patrick Sharp, C  (Philadelphia Flyers, NHL)

5.  Stefan Ruzicka, RW  (Owen Sound Attack, OHL)

6.  Alexander Drozdetsky, RW  (Ak Bars Kazan, RSL)

7.  Rosario Ruggeri, D  (Chicoutimi Sagueneens, QMJHL)

8.  Ben Eager, LW  (Oshawa Generals, OHL)

9.  Nikita Korovkin, D  (Tri-City Americans, WHL)

10.  Bernd Bruckler, G  (University of Wisconsin,

11.  Alexandre Picard, D  (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles,

12.  Mathieu Brunelle, LW  (Trenton Titans, ECHL)

13.  David Tremblay, G  (Gatineau Olympiques, QMJHL)

14.  Rejean Beauchemin, G  (Prince Albert Raiders,

15.  Randy Jones, D  (Philadelphia Phantoms, AHL)

16.  Colin Shields, RW  (University of Maine, Hockey

17.  Konstantin Rudenko, LW  (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl,

18.  Dov Grumet-Morris, G  (Harvard University, ECAC)

19.  Ryan Potulny, C  (University of Minnesota, WCHA)

20.  Joey Mormina, D  (Colgate University, ECAC)

Other notables

B.J. Abel, C  (Philadelphia Phantoms, AHL)

Konstantin Baranov, RW  (Avangard Omsk, RSL)

John Eichelberger, C  (University of Wisconsin, WCHA)

Ville Hostikka, G  (SaiPa Lappeenranta, Fin-Jr.)

Chris Houle, G  (Trenton Titans, ECHL)

Marko Kauppinen, D  (TPS Turku, SM-Liiga)

Milan Kopecky, LW  (Slavia Prague, Czech Extraliga)

Rick Kozak, C  (Kamloops Blazers, WHL)

James Laux, D  (Philadelphia Phantoms, AHL)

Freddy Meyer, D  (Philadelphia Phantoms, AHL)

David Nystrom, RW  (Halmstad Hammers, Allsvenskan)

David Printz, D  (AIK, SuperAllsvenskan)

Kevin Romy, C  (HC Genève-Servette, Swiss Nationalliga

Wade Skolney, D  (Philadelphia Phantoms, AHL)

Jeff Smith, LW  (Philadelphia Phantoms, AHL)

Jussi Timonen, D  (Jukurit Mikkeli, Mestis)


Joni Pitkanen, D  (Philadelphia Flyers)

Dennis Seidenberg, D  (Philadelphia Flyers)