Philadelphia Flyers: Freddy Meyer is the gift that keeps on giving

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

With Travis Konecny set to appear in his first NHL all-star game this weekend, the Philadelphia Flyers should give thanks for the chain of events that all started with Freddy Meyer.

Even if you’re a big fan of the Philadelphia Flyers, you probably don’t have many fond memories of Freddy Meyer.



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But go back to 2003 and you’ll be grateful that the team signed the undrafted and undersized defenseman.

Freddy Meyer is, in fact, still paying dividends today for the Orange and Black. And as you probably could have guessed, it’s because of the string of trades that has flowed from ol’ Freddy.

Meyer was fine for the Flyers, registering 32 points in 83 career games with the team. But during the team’s historically bad 2006-07 season, they started trading anyone with a pulse. And so they packaged Meyer with a third-round pick (which didn’t turn into anything good) and shipped him off to the New York Islanders. Coming the other way was 34-year old veteran defenseman Alexei Zhitnik.

Maybe it was some misguided, last gasp to salvage a forsaken season by bringing in a player who clearly wasn’t going to be part of the future for a Flyers team that was in the process of bottoming out. But upon closer inspection, it appears that Zhitnik was merely meant to be a showpiece in Philadelphia as the Flyers tried to entice a playoff-bound team into trading for him.

The Flyers would get their wish courtesy of the Atlanta Thrashers (R.I.P.), who happened to be heading toward the first, last and only playoff appearance of their brief history. In a classic “pay for it later” move, the Thrashers gave the Flyers Braydon Coburn in exchange for a few weeks of Zhitnik.

Coburn had been the eighth overall pick in the loaded 2003 NHL Draft and was just about to turn 22 years old. He still had “future star” written all over him, but Atlanta couldn’t afford to wait around.

For what it’s worth, Zhitnik was pretty good during his brief stint there, but he disappeared along with the rest of the team as they flamed out in a first-round sweep. He’d play one more season in Atlanta before retiring.

Coburn, however, developed just as the Flyers thought he would. At least until he topped out and became the infuriating version of Coburn that we all got used to for several years. He’s personally one of my favorite targets to this day, even as I will begrudgingly admit that he was a useful (and sometimes even good) player. Still, he could have and should have been better.

Coburn would go on to play parts of nine seasons for the Flyers, which is a tremendous eventual return when we draw the line back to Freddy Meyer.

But wait, it doesn’t end there.

As the Flyers were putting the finishing touches on a lousy 2014-15 season, the Tampa Bay Lightning thought enough of Coburn that they gave the Flyers Radko Gudas for him, as well as their first- and third-round picks that year.

The first-rounder was especially important.

The Lightning would lose the Stanley Cup Final that year, which meant that their pick was the 29th overall. But on draft day, the Flyers swung a deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Flyers would give up that 29th overall pick plus a second-rounder that they happened to have laying around from when they had traded Kimmo Timonen to the Blackhawks. Incidentally, it was Kimmo and the ‘Hawks that had beaten Tampa to capture the Cup just a few weeks before this draft.

By virtue of trading the two draft picks, the Flyers were able to move up a few spots to Toronto’s former slot at #24 overall, where they selected…future NHL all-star Travis Konecny.

Thank you Coburn; thank you Zhitnik; and thank you above all, Freddy Meyer.

And not only this, but the Flyers got several useful seasons out of Radko Gudas before trading him last year to Washington for Matt Niskanen, who has taken up an important leadership role on the club.

So we can draw the line from Freddy Meyer to Travis Konecny and Matt Niskanen.

And in one final footnote, Meyer would play in the NHL until 2011, his career ending with those same Atlanta Thrashers who played such a key role in this saga before moving to Winnipeg at the end of that season.

I have no doubt that there are other cases like this in the history of sports where one relatively anonymous player ultimately “begets” something much greater through a series of trades. It’s a topic worth exploring on a rainy day.

Next. Flyers: Brian Elliott has saved the day. dark

But in this specific case, as Konecny fully realizes his potential, the Flyers will be more and more grateful that they signed the unassuming Freddy Meyer all those years ago. He’s basically their giving tree.