On February 6, 2010, The Flyers acquired Finnish left wing Ville Leino, 26, from the Detroit Red Wings. At the time, Detroit had players – star forward Johan Franzen, for one – ready to return to the lineup and the team needed to open a roster spot and clear some space under the salary cap.
In my eyes, this was a trade of opportunity for Flyers’ GM Paul Holmgren. The Flyers had a full complement of forwards and had just learned that goaltender Ray Emery would miss the rest of the season with a degenerative hip condition that could threaten his career, and while there wasn’t a clear place for Leino to play, Holmgren made the deal with what I believe to be an eye on the future.
Even head coach Peter Laviolette didn’t know where Leino would fit in. “…I wouldn’t take someone out of my lineup”, he said at the time of the trade.
Leino played in 13 of the Flyers’ remaining 26 regular season games, scoring 2 goals and adding 2 assists while putting 23 shots on goal. While these numbers are by no means staggering, to see his potential you only have to look back two years to his ’07-’08 season with Jokerit of the Finnish SM-Liiga, where he scored 28 goals and 49 assists for 77 points and was awarded the League’s Lasse Oksanen Trophy as the “Best Player in the Regular Season”.
With those stats in mind, I’m looking at the ’10-’11 season as Leino’s chance to be a full-time Flyer. He’ll be in the final year of his current contract (an $800,000 cap hit), and the team has four forwards eligible for free agency on July 1st: Dan Carcillo ($893,750 cap hit this year, restricted/arbitration eligible), Arron Asham ($640,000, unrestricted), Darrol Powe ($520,000, restricted), and Mike Pyorala ($500,000, unrestricted). Carcillo will probably be re-signed and Powe might be tendered an offer by the Flyers (with the required minimum 10% increase), but Asham and Pyorala will probably walk.
Fans of the Flyers have been calling for forward Scott Hartnell to be given some time in the press box since early in the season (myself included). Having Leino in the lineup gave Laviolette a replacement, since he plays with some grit and a lot of energy, but Hartnell was never pulled from the lineup. Holmgren should be looking to move a high salary player in the off season and Hartnell, with his head seemingly not in the game for most of this year, seems a likely choice (hopefully for a cheaper, solid defenseman and a pick). Another spot opens up if this happens.
Yes, Ville, your time is coming, and I can’t wait to see what you do with it.