As we keep digging deep to unearth mistakes made by the Philadelphia Flyers, we turn our attention to failed defenseman Steve Eminger.
I couldn’t even find a decent picture of Steve Eminger in a Philadelphia Flyers uniform. That’s how much of an impact he had on the franchise during his 12-game, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it tenure. I didn’t even realize how short his stint was until I started researching. Holy cow. Still, this merits mentioning because Eminger was exactly the sort of mistake that the Flyers seemed to make all the time but thankfully don’t commit nearly as much anymore.
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Allow me to set the stage.
The Flyers entered the 2008 offseason fresh off a surprise run to the Eastern Conference Finals and looking to build off that success, but there was much work to be done. On the blueline, the aging Derian Hatcher was seemingly on his last legs (and would, in fact, never play in the NHL again), while captain Jason Smith was set to hit the free agent market. Since the Flyers had holes to fill on the blueline, it only made sense that they would go out looking to acquire someone who could play mid-level minutes behind top D-man Kimmo Timonen and the supposedly blossoming Braydon Coburn.
On June 20, the Flyers believed that they got their man in Steve Eminger via trade with Washington. The Flyers must have been impressed with the one goal he had scored against them in the playoffs a few months earlier. The Caps also sent a third-round draft pick to the Flyers, who surrendered their first rounder in return. It’s something that didn’t seem like a huge deal at the time since the Flyers were swimming in young talent and could afford such a price, while they had also offset things by getting an even better first round pick by trading a pre-terrible R.J. Umberger to Columbus.
Eminger’s Flyers tenure began that fall, and though it wasn’t exactly his fault, the team managed to lose its first six games. They rebounded with four straight victories, but then lost another pair, at which point they made a deal with the similarly struggling Tampa Bay Lightning to send Eminger packing and bring in the vastly better Matt Carle to help the blueline.
That was it. Eminger played 12 games as a Flyer, averaging 17:53 per game and putting up two points, both assists. Real first round material there. At least the Flyers quickly realized it wasn’t working and were able to pivot to Carle, who had a nice run with the team, although they had to include former first-rounder Steve Downie in the trade.
All in all, the Flyers have committed worse sins, but I haven’t gotten to the stinger yet. With their first round pick from Columbus (19th overall) the Flyers took Luca Sbisa, who’d go on to play one year in Philly before becoming part of the package that the Flyers sent to Anaheim for Chris Pronger. But with the pick that the Flyers dealt for Eminger, Washington took John Carlson, who has gone on to an excellent 11-year career with them and was the frontrunner for the Norris Trophy before this season was suspended. The Caps got a franchise cornerstone for a Cup-winning team, while the Flyers got 12 games of Steve Eminger, though they parlayed that into other assets.
In case you’re wondering (you’re not), Eminger kicked around the league for another four years, and he was out of the NHL before he turned 30. He made just a tad over $10 million in his career. Nice work if you can get it. The Flyers, meanwhile, probably wish they had just held on to that draft pick, especially if it would have netted them John Carlson.