Flyers send Hartnell to Columbus

Posted: June 25, 2014

FOR WHATEVER reasons, the Flyers apparently like to make trades on June 23. It was the day in 2011 when Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were dealt. A year later, it became the day James van Riemsdyk was shipped to Toronto.

Perhaps fittingly, it's now the day Ron Hextall made his first trade as Flyers general manager.

First-line left winger and alternate captain Scott Hartnell, a Philadelphia mainstay of seven seasons, was dealt yesterday to the Columbus Blue Jackets for R.J. Umberger and a fourth-round pick in next summer's draft. Umberger, a versatile winger who hails from Pittsburgh, played his first three NHL seasons with the Flyers.

"The No. 1 thing was wanting to get quicker up front," said Hextall, in the seventh week of his tenure as GM. "Whenever you make a deal, there's a lot of considerations that come into the mix, but I guess the one driving the bus was quickness.

"I think if you look at R.J., he's a versatile player. He's a good skater. He's a good two-way player, and he plays all three positions. He can kill penalties. So he was an attractive guy for us moving forward."

Salary-cap flexibility also factored in. Hartnell, slated to make $5 million during the 2014-15 season, is entering only the second of the 6-year, $28.5 million contract extension he signed in August 2012. Umberger has 3 years left on a contract that owes him $4.5 million annually. Both players are 32 years old; their birthdays are separated by 15 days.

In 74 games last season, Umberger scored 18 goals and recorded 16 assists. During his six seasons with Columbus, he compiled four seasons of 20 goals or more and two of 55 points or more. His ice time declined last season from 18:29 minutes per game to 16:11.

Umberger, 6-2 and 220 pounds, has the ability to play center or wing, but has spent most of the last five seasons on the wing. The Flyers view him as a winger, Hextall said, and Umberger said that's the position he prefers, regardless of whether on the left or right side.

"I do think I have a lot to give," Umberger said on a conference call with reporters. "I think I've always kept myself in great shape. I consider myself still pretty young. I think I still skate well, my testing times and all my skating tests this year were the fastest of my career. So to me I've still got a lot left in the tank."

Hartnell tallied 326 points (157 goals, 169 assists) in seven seasons with the Flyers. Last season, two removed from his 37-goal, All-Star campaign of 2011-12, he scored 20 goals and recorded 32 assists. He was goal-less with three assists in the Flyers' seven-game, first-round playoff series loss to the Rangers.

Hartnell said on a conference call with reporters that Hextall called him within the last week and said several teams had inquired about him, and Hextall "decided it was best for me to move on from the Flyers."

"I was shocked at first, upset and angry and didn't know what to think of it,'' Hartnell said. "I took a few days to look at the situation. It was hard and it wasn't easy and I decided Columbus was an up-and-coming team and it was the right decision to go to a team that was happy to have me and I was happy going forward.

"I don't think I ever wanted to leave Philly, that's why I signed that extension a few years ago. Took me a few days to comprehend things, and, looking at Columbus and what they've done with their organization in the last few years, it was the right decision."

The Flyers acquired Hartnell in the 2007 trade with Nashville that also brought them Kimmo Timonen. Hartnell, who waived his no-trade clause to make yesterday's deal possible, appeared in 517 games with Philadelphia.

"When I got traded from Nashville, when I was starting fresh and going to a new team and meeting everyone, we had a lot of great times," Hartnell said. "The 2010 playoff run that led to the finals was great, that was some of the best hockey of my career. You kind of ask yourself what you could have done differently.

"Everyone was nothing short of perfect, I have nothing bad to say about Philly at all, I loved my time there and I guess it's time to move on and try something new."

Umberger spent 2005 to 2008 with the Flyers before he was traded with fourth-round draft choice Drew Olson for the picks that resulted in Luca Sbisa and Marc-Andre Bourdon. Only Braydon Coburn, Claude Giroux and Timonen remain from the last Philadelphia team Umberger played for. Although it's almost like he's coming to a new team, Umberger, who is good friends with Flyers goaltender Steve Mason from their days together in Columbus, described his return to Philly as comfortable.

"The way I always thought of Philly is always a team that you consider they're going to be in the running every year. It's one of the top organizations in the league," Umberger said. "Honestly, it's a team that I think is just waiting to win another Stanley Cup and I want to be a part of that."

Hextall thanked Hartnell for his contributions to the Flyers.

"He played well for the Philadelphia Flyers and he's going to play well in Columbus," Hextall said. "He's still got hockey left in him. But again, I think the versatility, the length of the contract and the speed are some of the main points that we thought about here and why we made the move. Columbus is probably looking for some leadership and a veteran player who can score goals and they got what they wanted there, too. So I think it's a hockey trade and I think it's a good trade for both teams."

More deals could come this weekend, when Philadelphia hosts the NHL draft at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers own five picks, including the 17th overall selection. The first round is Friday with the latter six rounds Saturday.

"It's been fairly quiet," Hextall said. "I think we all know leading up to the draft things heat up, so we'll keep our ear to the phone and see what's out there."

Daily News sports writer Tyler Tynes contributed to this report.

On Twitter: @jakemkaplan

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