The Flyers traded forward

Ben Eager,

a healthy scratch in four of the last seven games, to the Chicago Blackhawks tonight for a familiar face: defenseman

Jim Vandermeer


The trade was announced after the 3-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. Vandermeer, dealt from the Flyers to the Windy City for Alexei Zhamnov in February 2004, brings some snarl and experience to the team's blue liners.

"Any time you have a chance to get a veteran defenseman who can play in a lot of situations, you have to take advantage of it," general manager Paul Holmgren said. "We've had some injury issues. We can't bury our head in the sand that we're going to be healthy all year. Jimmy will come in and give us a boost."

Eager, 23, had 62 penalty minutes this season but no points in 23 games. Vandermeer, 27, has two goals and seven assists this season. He likely will move Rory Fitzpatrick off the roster.

"Nobody likes the direction we're going right now, and we need to play better as a team," Holmgren said. ". . . If we had won the last six, I'm not sure we'd be looking to trade. That did play a part in it. It's a good deal for both teams."

Eager was disappointed.

"I want to get into Chicago and work on my game," he said. "It's part of the game; both sides move on. This is a great place to play hockey. They treat you very well. I have nothing but good things to say about this organization."

The diplomatic one

"The Great One" did a great impersonation of a politician when

Wayne Gretzky

was asked what he thought of the 12-year deal

Mike Richards

received from the Flyers and its potential ramifications.

Is this good for the game?

"That's up to the Flyers," the Phoenix Coyotes coach said. "Paul Holmgren knows what he is doing. Mr. [Ed] Snider knows what he's doing. If they think that's what they need to do, then good for them. As a fan watching the game, he's a young man who works hard every shift. I don't think it's going to change the way he plays, his mind-set or attitude.

"I've seen guys in years with long-term contracts who weren't quite as hungry as they used to be. This guy, from his track record of the way he's played since being a kid, he works hard every shift, every game. If they believe it's the right thing to do, good for them."

Tocchet's return

Gretzky was tight-lipped about Rick Tocchet's return in February and vague as to what his duties will be with the Coyotes. Phoenix has the smallest coaching staff in the league - three people.

In May, the assistant coach pleaded guilty to conspiracy in connection with a New Jersey gambling ring. The former Flyer was sentenced to two years of probation and banned from the NHL until February.

"He's coming back Feb. 7, and there is nothing more to report," Gretzky said. "We need some help."