"You just have to understand trades are part of the business."
The move leaves the Flyers top-heavy on defensemen - Walker is the eighth blue-liner signed for next season - and short on quality wingers.
"This was a move to solidify our defense," general manager Paul Holmgren said, adding that the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Walker brings size and toughness to the lineup.
Still, there's no hiding that the deal was made for salary-cap reasons. It enables the Flyers to go from about $1.4 million over the $59.4 million cap to nearly $1.1 million under it.
"It's exciting to be back in a hockey town, for sure, and to play for a team that's always had a certain reputation and a certain style of play," Walker said. "It's a style I've always thought I could contribute to."
Despite losing Gagne, Holmgren said he didn't feel the Flyers needed to upgrade their offense. He is hoping Scott Hartnell bounces back from a subpar season, that newcomer Nik Zherdev is a consistent scorer, and that young players like Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk, and Ville Leino continue to blossom and offset Gagne's departure.
"I think we're OK up front," Holmgren said.
Walker, 30, who is signed for the next three seasons at $1.7 million per year, appeared in 66 games for Tampa in 2009-10 and had two goals, three assists, and 90 penalty minutes while registering a minus-11 rating. He sometimes was paired with beefy defenseman Andrej Meszaros, whom the Flyers recently acquired from the Lightning for a second-round pick in 2012.
"Matt Walker is a right-shot defenseman that we like," Holmgren said. "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."
Gagne netted 17 goals in an injury-plagued 2009-10 season, but he scored nine goals in 19 playoff games and helped lead the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals. He scored in overtime to give the Flyers a 5-4 win over Boston in Game 4 of the conference semifinals. Gagne had the game-winner in the epic 5-4 Game 7 win over Boston, enabling the Flyers to come all the way back from a three-games-to-none series deficit.
"I have some great memories here. The fans were unbelievable, even in tough times," Gagne said. "They've been with me since I was 19, and I'll never forget them wearing all the No. 12 jerseys [his number]."
Drafted in the first round by the Flyers in 1998, Gagne said the franchise "will always be in my heart."
About a month ago, the Flyers, realizing they needed cap room, asked Gagne to waive his no-trade clause.
Gagne, whose 259 goals rank ninth in Flyers history, politely declined.
He had roots in the area. He and his wife have an infant son, Matthew, and they did not want to start all over in another city.
"They caught me by surprise," Gagne said of the team's request. "And about a week later, they called again and said they had to cut salary. I was not ready to go and said no [again]."
But the second trade request left him feeling uneasy. The more he thought about it, the more he felt unwanted.
"It came to the point where it would be hard for me to play in that situation," he admitted. ". . ..They were sending a message. They forced me to do it."
A few days later, Gagne and his agent asked for permission to contact teams for a possible trade.
The Flyers agreed.
Tampa Bay was at the top of the list. Gagne would not name the other teams that were involved, but Los Angeles was also in the mix, sources said.
Gagne phoned Lightning star center Vincent Lecavalier and became comfortable with Tampa's situation.
"It was perfect for me," Gagne said, mindful he will get the chance to play with some talented forwards.
Gagne will earn $5.25 million this season and can become an unrestricted free agent after the year.
Before the Flyers asked him to waive his no-trade clause, Gagne figured he would play one more season with the Flyers and then test the free-agent market.
With Jeff Carter and Giroux becoming restricted free agents and expected to get big raises after this season, Gagne said he felt there was "no way they'd be able to sign me" after the 2010-11 campaign.
Gagne has spent his entire NHL career with the Flyers, and produced 259 goals and 265 assists for 524 points in 664 regular-season games.
In Flyers history, he ranks 10th in points (524) and games played (664), while placing fourth in both goals and points among left wingers.
Holmgren said having eight defensemen "is a luxury, but we certainly feel comfortable right now and moving forward with the team, whether something else comes up over the course of the summer we'll see. If something comes up that makes sense, obviously we'll look at that, but I think we were very fortunate last year. Our top four defensemen, over the course of the 105 games we played, I think they missed three games among the four of them. I'm not sure we can count on being that fortunate again, so we certainly believe we've upgraded our defense."
The Flyers last season were eighth in the NHL in goals scored per game (2.83) and 15th in goals allowed per game (2.71).
Holmgren said the Flyers' main objectives in the off-season were to improve the defense and to "get a little bigger."
They've done that, but if they are going to withstand the loss of Gagne - one of their best two-way players - they need some of their young forwards to continue emerging and Carter to return to his 2008-09 form.
"If this were our team in training camp," Holmgren said, "I'd be completely comfortable with it."
Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BroadStBull.