Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Engaged in backpage war with Stanley Cup Finals, Flyers acquire Streit from Islanders

If you're an organization looking to upstage the first game of the Stanley Cup Final, in a city whose fans are hanging on every word and waiting impatiently for the return of the same, this is the way to do it.

The Flyers announced on Wednesday afternoon -- hours before the championship round was to kick off in Chicago -- the acquisition of the rights to pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Mark Streit from the New York Islanders, in exchange for forward Shane Harper and a fourth-round draft pick in 2014.

“Mark is a player we would have had interest in on July 5th," said Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren. "We now have exclusive negotiating rights and we are hopeful that we can get an agreement in place prior to him becoming an unrestricted free agent.”

According to the Daily News, who quoted Streit's agent, negotiations are to begin immediately. He pocketed just over $4 million in the just-completed 2013 season, and rejected a $14.25 million deal over three years from the Islanders offered in April.

"I’m pretty confident. I think that maybe they need a few days or weeks, but I’m pretty positive. It’d be awesome to play for the Flyers. The future is bright," Streit said to a Flyers insider this afternoon. "There is so much skill and a great mix between veteran players and young players, so I’m pretty confident and I truly hope it’s going to get done soon.”

If, for some unforeseeen reason no deal is forthcoming, Streit goes back into the free-agent pool and is eligible to be acquired by any other team -- a scenario which reared its head in the Summer of 2010 when Holmgren snagged the rights to Dan Hamhuis from Vancouver but neither he nor the Penguins could come to terms, and he wound up signing with the Canucks.

Even if Streit doesn't end up coming to terms with Philadelphia -- which may seem unlikely since the Flyers can be very persuasive -- Streit will be going elsewhere, as Newsday's Arthur Staple reported last week, quoting multiple sources which indicated the veteran will seek his fortunes away from Nassau County going forward.

Say what you will, but the organization is nothing, if not consistent, when it comes to baiting their hooks for the biggest fish in the pond.

Streit, 35-years-old and having served as Islanders captain for the last two seasons, is a left-handed shot with offensive capabilities who quarterbacked the youthful New York power play. Though closest in skill set to a Matt Carle, he's still in body a high-end "replacement" for Chris Pronger in the short term. That is a potential recipe for disaster given the disdain Flyers fans have for the former and esteem they hold for the latter.

Though he has only logged eight years of NHL experience in Montreal and Uniondale, Streit is also an eight-year veteran of his native Swiss Elite League, having suited up for Davos and Zurich, and then for Bern while the league endured its third lockout in the Fall.

He totaled six goals and 27 points in all 48 regular-season games, then added two goals and three assists in a six-game, first-round loss to the Penguins, but was a minus-14 only one season removed from a career-worst minus-27.

For his eight-year NHL career, Streit has totaled 65 goals and 223 assists for 288 points, while playing in 491 games with Montreal and New York.

Harper, 24, spent last season split between Trenton in the ECHL and Adirondack of the AHL, picking up 19 goals and 37 points over 63 combined games. After a late-season demotion to the Titans, he ripped through the remainder of the schedule, totaling 27 points (14G, 13A) in only 15 games.

The buzz is there, and that is what's most important. For the next period of time, from tonight until 23 days from now when free agency actually begins or if Streit signs within that period, the front office has the collective ears and eyes trained back on them, which is key to the psychological edge it holds over thousands of loyal fans and others who love to jump in and analyze every move.

Forget the high-caliber level of hockey to be found at United Center and TD Garden over the next two weeks, let's get 'em hooked on something which actually hasn't happened yet but is much closer to home.

And that was borne out in the stats, as Philadelphia was not in the top 10 markets for viewings of Wednesday's thrilling triple-OT win by the Blackhawks over the Bruins in Game 1. 

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