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Hamhuis sent to Pittsburgh. Why?

My thoughts on the Flyers' puzzling trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins for defenseman Dan Hamhuis.

LOS ANGELES – There are two ways to look at the Flyers' crazy trade after the first round of the NHL Entry Draft at the Staples Center.

The Flyers sent the rights to Dan Hamhuis, whom they acquired from Nashville last Saturday in exchange for Ryan Parent, to their arch-rival Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a third round pick in next year's draft.

The pessimist would say the Flyers just made the Penguins, a team that has been a roadblock almost since Sidney Crosby arrived after the lockout in 2005, an even tougher team to play against.

The optimist would say Paul Holmgren has another move up his sleeve.

With the rights to Hamhuis now, the Penguins hold the rights to two of the most sought after free agent defensemen in the NHL. Penguins power play expert Sergei Gonchar, too, is also due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

On the surface, it doesn't seem like Holmgren made a very bright move – picking up just a third round pick in next year's draft when he could have taken less to send him to someone other than an Atlantic division rival.

Anything beyond a second rounder, a third round pick can be just as much of a crapshoot as a fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh rounder.

Holmgren said "three or four" other teams inquired about picking up Hamhuis' rights, since negotiations clearly stalled. Holmgren and Hamhuis' agent, Wade Arnott, had been talking since Monday.

When Holmgren acquired pending free agents Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen from Nashville in 2007, it took just two days for him to reach a deal with both players.

Hamhuis reportedly asked for a bigger role with the Flyers than being a fourth of fifth defenseman, which he could have been behind Timonen, Matt Carle and maybe even Braydon Coburn. He made it clear to Holmgren that he would rather hold out for four more days to test the free agent waters.

Getting something for what potentially could have been nothing, Holmgren sent him to Pittsburgh for a third round pick in 2011.

Why Pittsburgh?

Maybe Holmgren thinks the Penguins, who are one of the most cap-pressed teams in the NHL, could have a tough time signing him.

Maybe Hamhuis expressed an interest in staying in the Western Conference. He could wait to become a free agent and possibly explore options with the Vancouver Canucks, who would be the Smithers, British Columbia, native's hometown team.

Maybe Holmgren knew he couldn't possibly sign Hamhuis without also losing Coburn, and further limiting his ability to pay a free agent goaltender.

It does look like the Flyers are going to acquire the rights to pending free agent Evgeni Nabokov from San Jose on Saturday. Holmgren was close to a deal with San Jose GM Doug Wilson Friday night, not long before he traded Hamhuis away.

Wilson told the Daily News the Sharks made an executive decision to part ways with Nabokov, probably picking up something for him on Saturday before he becomes a free agent on July 1.

Nabokov, who turns 35 next month, earned $6 million this season but will likely need to take a big pay-cut and possibly an incentive-laden contract.

Before trading Hamhuis and negotiating heavily with Wilson, one source told the Daily News that Holmgren left the draft floor to speak with Nabokov's agent, Don Meehan, in a suite at the Staples Center. There was no word on what that conversation was about but Holmgren and Meehan have negotiated many deals in the past, including Chris Pronger's innovative deal last summer that keeps him in Philly for another seven years at a low cap number.

But why Pittsburgh?

One thing to keep in mind is that Hamhuis and Penguins GM Ray Shero have an existing relationship. Shero was the assistant general manager in Nashville when Hamhuis was drafted and the two know each other well.

If Hamhuis does hit the market, the Flyers could always make another run at him – along with 29 other teams.

For now, we will all have to sit and wait and see how Saturday plays out when Rounds 2-7 continue here in Los Angeles. Until then, we'll all scratch our heads.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter at Pick up a copy of Saturday's Daily News for an in-depth story about the Hamhuis deal and the possible trade for Nabokov.