Brayden Schenn, 20, was "genuinely excited" for the Staal family. He wondered if he would ever get the same chance to play with his older brother in the NHL.
Less than 24 hours later, the Flyers and Maple Leafs took a big step in making that dream become a reality, as they completed a straight-up swap of winger James van Riemsdyk for defenseman Luke Schenn.
"Since I joined the NHL, I've always been asked the question about what it's like playing against your brother. Now I'll get to see what it feels like to play with him," Brayden Schenn told the Daily News. "I was real surprised when I found out. He told me we were going to be teammates. I'm excited and stunned.
“It's been a dream since we were kids. We always wondered if we would get the chance. We're just lucky enough to do it so early in our careers."
For the Flyers, the swap ends van Riemsdyk's tumultuous journey in Philadelphia, one that started with high expectations as the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2007 and never fully materialized. Instead, the 23-year-old offered just enough brief flashes of brilliance and glory to warrant a gaudy, 6-year, $25.5 million extension last summer. It was based purely on potential and not actually demonstrated consistency.
The Flyers get a player in Luke Schenn, 22, who also needed a fresh start after being harshly criticized all season in hockey's most scrutinized market. Schenn never really could seem to find his way out of Ron Wilson's doghouse before Randy Carlyle took over. He saw his time drop an average of 6 minutes, 20 seconds per game in just one season, down from a career high of 22:22.
Luke Schenn is 6 months younger than van Riemsdyk but has 114 more regular-season games under his belt, since Schenn joined the league as an 18-year-old and was an alternate captain by the time he was 20.
The trade opens salary-cap space for the Flyers. Schenn has 4 years left on his deal and his cap hit is $650,000 less than van Riemsdyk's next season.
Ultimately, general manager Paul Holmgren needed to make a decision about whether he wanted to take a gamble on van Riemsdyk possibly not living up to his contract, or make a gutsy deal while JVR was still considered a valuable commodity.
Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke pulled no punches on Saturday, admitting that there is risk on both sides. Burke also acknowledged van Riemsdyk's "soft" reputation around the NHL. Van Riemsdyk's unwillingness to use his full 6-3 frame and constant injuries sometimes gave you the sense the Flyers wanted him to push through. That undoubtedly contributed to the trade.
"I don't want to create any illusion or delusion that we're acquiring James van Riemsdyk as a physical presence," Burke told reporters. "This is not a big banger. This is not a guy who's going to put people through the glass. Sometimes, people look at a big player and say, ‘Oh, he's big so he should play tough.' This is not a plough horse. This is a thoroughbred."
There were reports circulating last week that van Riemsdyk put off having surgery on a cam impingement in his hip to avoid being traded, something van Riemsdyk called "a joke." Even though a deal had been rumored for months, van Riemsdyk said he was still surprised to hear the news.
"It's not like I was completely blindsided," van Riemsdyk said. "Ideally, I think anytime anyone gets drafted, they want to picture things perfectly. Obviously, there's some mixed emotions because the Philadelphia organization has treated me so well.
“But, at the same time, going to play in Toronto is really exciting for me. The tradition they have there, the city, the fans, it's all unbelievable. Growing up a big-time Yankees fan, it's kind of like playing for the New York Yankees of the NHL."
Aside from Luke Schenn filling a huge void on defense, Holmgren was asked about the impact he will have on Brayden's blossoming career. The answer is a no-brainer.
"It's just surreal right now," Luke Schenn told reporters in Toronto. "It's going to be exciting to play with my brother, that's for sure. I can't describe how cool this is."
The two Schenn brothers train together each summer in Kamloops, British Columbia. They vacationed together in the Caribbean during the All-Star break last January. They talk to each other almost every day during the season, even at different ends of the continent at times.
At long last, they are together.
"Luke is my best friend," Brayden Schenn said. "We are very tight, we talk every day. Toronto was really good to him, but he didn't have the greatest season. He needed a fresh start. I think this will have a huge impact on my career. We push each other, and he knows just what to say to get me going." n
Contact Frank Seravalli at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @DNFlyers.