Flyers trade Brendl and St. Jacques to Carolina for Kapanen and Bast

By Bill Meltzer

TSN Canada reports that the rumored Philadelphia-Carolina trade that would send veteran Sami Kapanen to the Flyers and rookie Pavel Brendl to the Hurricanes has come to fruition. The deal also sends NHL-ready Philadelphia Phantoms defenseman Bruno St. Jacques to Carolina and career minor league defenseman Ryan Bast to Philadelphia.

No trade such as this can ever be judged in the short term. The knee jerk reaction is that Brendl-Kapanen part of the deal comes out decidedly in the Flyers favor, although Kapanen is suffering through a terrible season. Flyers GM Bob Clarke was clearly not enamored by Brendl, who has yet to turn junior level stardom into pro level production. I thought Brendl had made progress in his work habits and could yet turn into a scorer at the NHL level.

You need only look at players such as Olli Jokinen (who finally clicked offensively in his third organization), Markus Näslund (remember when all the experts came to “realize” that Forsberg and Lemieux had actually “carried” Näslund and fooled people into thinking he could be an impact player in the NHL), and Jason Allison (like Brendl, written off as slow and poor without the puck) to find other first round picks who were given up on too early. Then again, you need only look at the careers of Alexandre Daigle and Pat Falloon to be justifiably concerned about Brendl– at least both those players had 20 goal NHL seasons.

Kapanen, meanwhile, is a proven commodity with good speed, two way play, the versatility to play either wing and soft hands. He’s never been a prolific scorer and he’s come up small in the playoffs and the Olympics but he is a good offensive player nevertheless. Alone, he can’t solve the Flyers offensive consistency and powerplay problems but he’s a nice supporting cast member who will blend in well with Ken Hitchcock’s system. I’m more concerned about his health than his stats– he’s been battling groin problems for the better part of two months and has always seemed to take a lot of heavy bodychecks that wear him down; at least when he’s played against the Flyers.

As for the other part of the deal, St. Jacques deserves a chance to play in the NHL and I hope the Canes give him an immediate shot. Bruno has been repeatedly set back by shoulder problems and with the rise of Dennis Seidenberg, Jim Vandermeer and influx of system depth through the draft, St. Jacques was in a tough spot in the organization. He’s a hard worker, a fearless bodychecker and a real class guy off the ice. I think he’ll do well with the Canes, so long as the Carolina organizations realizes they are getting a 5-6 NHL defenseman and don’t expect him to do things he’s not capable of doing.

Obviously, it was the combination of Brendl and St. Jacques that got the deal done for Philly and Bast is just an additional body in return. However, I still have no idea why the Flyers would want or need Ryan Bast back in the organization. It sure couldn’t be the nostalgia value of his first go-around in Philly.

Other than the one big year with St. John’s that he parlayed into an inexplicable million dollar contract with the Flyers, Bast has always been an average minor league defenseman. An American League foot soldier. No more, no less. For the equivalent value that Philly got out of Bast the first time around– ordinary AHL play and an NHL cup of coffee- the organization might as well have lit the money on fire on a cold January morning.

When the Flyers initially signed Bast, they thought they had themselves a late blooming mean-and-nasty defensive stalwart who could clear the crease at the NHL level. They thought wrong, which became immediately evident as early as the 1998 Calder Cup Finals, when Mike Maneluk beat Bast one-on-one time and time again. So why dredge up old mistakes from the past again?

To me, the short-term implication of reacquiring Bast is that it shows beyond doubt the organization has absolutely no faith in Ian Forbes taking a full time AHL role, even with a poor Phantoms club. The long term impact is nil. Bast is just filling a roster spot for awhile.

Today’s deal will ultimately be judged not on whether St. Jacques stakes a regular job in Carolina but on whether Brendl ever lives up to his potential in the long run and whether Kapanen, who is still in his prime, can give the Flyers a few seasons worth of healthy, steady play.