Simon Gagne, foreground, celebrates his go-ahead goal in the third period of Game 7 against the Boston Bruins on Friday, May 14, 2010, in Boston. The Flyers won 4-3. Michael Dwyer/AP

Full disclosure: I own three Simon Gagne jerseys (one of which I got his rookie year), and at least 10 different items autographed by him. He and Brian Dawkins are my two favorite Philadelphia athletes of all time.

OK, now that that's out of the way, let me explain why I would not like the Gagne trade even if he wasn't my favorite player.

It's not that I'm even opposed to getting rid of Gagne. The 30-year-old winger is 10th on the Flyers' all-time scoring list, but for the past few years he has been hampered by injuries and inconsistent when he's been on the ice.

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What troubles me is how little the Flyers accomplished by getting rid of him.

The player and pick they got from Tampa Bay in exchange for Gagne on Monday are so negligible I won't even go into any further detail about them. General manager Paul Holmgren's assertion that this trade was about strengthening the defense is a joke. This was a pure salary dump after taking on the contracts of defenseman Andrej Meszaros and Nikolai Zherdev.

Meszaros, if he lives up to his potential (he hasn't so far), could fill a need as the Flyers' fifth defenseman. Lukas Krajicek, Ryan Parent and Oskars Bartulis were liabilities last season. We've been over that.

And the gifted-but-enigmatic Zherdev likely will replace Gagne's scoring, if not his two-way play (Gagne was great defensively and on the penalty kill, while Zherdev ... is not).

Yes, on paper the Flyers are a better team right now than they were a month ago.

But they could be better.

The Flyers still have some major issues with their lineup. They do not have a legitimate No. 1 goalie after re-signing journeyman Michael Leighton and passing on the many free agents who would have been upgrades. They also have too many centers, none of whom appears to be a viable option to move to wing. They lost a major veteran presence in Gagne, one of the leaders in the locker room and the longest-tenured Philadelphia athlete before the trade. And they have made a potentially nightmarish 2011 offseason look even worse by replacing Gagne, who likely would have re-signed at a discount, with Zherdev, who likely will go to the highest bidder next season.

All those issues could have been resolved by trading Carter to the Los Angeles Kings for a package based around goalie Jonathan Bernier - a deal that all signs indicate the Kings would have done.

They would have a good, young goalie (a cheap one, at that). They would be able to have Mike Richards, Danny Briere and Claude Giroux as their top three centers, rather than figuring out which one will play the wing to make room for Carter. They would retain Gagne's veteran presence and not lose much in Carter, who due to injuries was more a part of the team that slipped into the playoffs as a seventh seed than the team that came within two wins of the Stanley Cup. And they wouldn't have added Zherdev to a list of impending free agents already topped by Carter, Ville Leino and Claude Giroux - all young players who will be looking for big contracts, unlike Gagne.

As I've said before, if the Flyers had Meszaros, Zherdev and new sixth defenseman Sean O'Donnell against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup finals instead of Gagne, that might have been enough to push them over the top.

The problem is they could have made themselves even better.

The one good thing I take out of Monday's trade is that it's finally over. Anyone who follows the NHL had known for weeks that Gagne was going to be dealt, and for a guy who has done so much for the Flyers over the years, it was not fair the way they kept him in limbo for so long. At least now he knows where he'll be next season.

And at least I got to interview him after some of the last games of his 11-year Flyers career.


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