Philly needed goalie help ASAP

Updated: February 10, 2004, 10:42 PM ET
Associated Press

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Philadelphia Flyers acquired three-time All-Star goalie Sean Burke and two forwards from the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday for promising young center Mike Comrie.

Mike Comrie

Sean Burke

The deal, concluded at the NHL general managers meeting in Henderson, Nev., capped a busy day for Flyers general manager Bobby Clarke, who earlier traded defenseman Eric Weinrich to St. Louis for a fifth-round pick in the 2004 draft.

In addition to Burke, the Flyers acquired right wing Branko Radivojevic and the rights to left wing Ben Eager, an unsigned minor leaguer selected 23rd overall in the 2002 draft.

The Flyers were anxious to land Burke because they were down to rookie Antero Niittymaki in goal. Jeff Hackett retired Monday because of vertigo, and Robert Esche, once Burke's backup in Phoenix, is sidelined by a sprained knee.

Tue., Feb. 10
The fact that Sean Burke has been a candidate for the Hart and Vezina Trophies in three of the last four years has Philadelphia thinking he can be a help there.

Don't make too much of Burke's lack of recent playoff success. He is a different goalie now than earlier in his career, and this is the perfect situation to test his much-improved regular-season game in the playoffs. And don't assume past results automatically dictate what happens in the future.

A perfect example is what happened to Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche last postseason. Roy came into Game 7 against the Minnesota Wild with all the big-game experience in the world yet still lost to the Wild and Dwayne Roloson, who didn't exactly have a lot of big games to his credit.

And don't discount Burke's close friendship with current Flyers goalie Robert Esche. I'm sure Esche is delighted at this deal because there will be an understanding between the two. If Esche comes back from a knee injury to reclaim the No. 1 spot for the playoff Burke will understand, just as Esche will take things in stride if Burke remains the top guy.

And there is no doubt this trade also helps the Flyers in the dressing room. Sitting around wondering, waiting and guessing what might happen is tough on the players and creates and uneasy feeling. GM Bobby Clarke knows what it's like to sit in the locker room in situations like that, wondering if management is going to help out, and he can see that from the front office. Whether or not you agree with the recent moves he has made, you have to give Clarke credit for identifying needs and filling them. He wants to send his players the right message and this trade does that.

"We obviously needed a goaltender," said Clarke, adding that Burke's friendship with Esche figured in his reasoning.

"We're extremely high on Esche. We wanted to make sure we got somebody who fits in."

The Coyotes also answered a need. They are 0-4-1-1 in their last six games, and sorely in need of offense. Comrie had 133 points in 2 years with Edmonton.

"He has enjoyed success at a very young age in the NHL, and we look forward to watching how far his skills will take him," Coyotes GM Mike Barnett said.

Burke, 37, is 10-15-5 this season with one shutout and a 2.81 goals-against average. He had a short stint with the Flyers late in the 1997-98 season, and also has played for New Jersey, Hartford-Carolina, Florida and Vancouver.

"Once you realize you've been traded, you get excited about going to another team and helping that team however you can," Burke said. "These last couple of days have been a little difficult, but now that it's officially happened, I'm ready to get there and start contributing."

Comrie, 23, had only four goals and five assists in 21 games for the Flyers this season, but scored 33 and 20 goals in consecutive seasons for Edmonton before running into contract problems with the Oilers last summer.

He sat out the first two months of the season before the Oilers traded him to Philadelphia on Dec. 16. He signed a $1.5 million, one-year contract with the Flyers.

A first- or second-line player with Edmonton, Comrie wound up on the Flyers' fourth line and had just two assists in his last 12 games with the team.

It was thought the 5-foot-9, 185-pound forward did better in the up-tempo style of the Western Conference, but Comrie said he had no preference.

"The West is a little more exciting," he told KDUS radio. "More chances are developed on the rush, whereas in the Eastern Conference the key is to stop the puck and work from behind the net. It's a bit of a different game, but you're on the ice, you're playing hockey, and it's not as big of a difference as everybody says."

The New York Rangers appeared to be close to landing Burke last week, but Phoenix did not want any players with big contracts, and the Rangers didn't want to move forward Jamie Lundmark.

The Flyers emerged as the front-runner over the weekend, and Barnett and Clarke worked out the details Monday, including Hackett's retirement to make room for Burke's $4.25 million 2004-05 salary.

Burke spent the All-Star weekend with his family at a Flagstaff, Ariz., ski resort, preparing daughter Andie and son Brendan for the idea of moving during the school year.

"It's going to be difficult," he said. "We're going to be apart quite a while here and hopefully a long way into the playoffs, but they understand that's part of the game."

Weinrich, a 16-year veteran, has two goals and seven assists in 54 games this season.

"I'm a little bit shocked, but I had a great time here," Weinrich said.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press