Maybe having five brothers while growing up in Red Deer, Alberta, helped Jim Vandermeer understand teamwork, stand up for others, and develop intensity.

"Because of that, he has natural inbred team tendencies," Flyers coach John Stevens said, adding that "he's turned himself into a well-rounded defenseman."

The 6-foot-1, 208-pound Vandermeer, who began his Flyers career as a free agent in 2000, rejoined the club yesterday after being traded for forward Ben Eager late Tuesday night.

Vandermeer was dealt to Chicago nearly four years ago for center Alexei Zhamnov at a time the Blackhawks weren't good. He has left as they appear to have turned the corner toward respectability.

"I'm not saying I'm disappointed," Vandermeer said. "When you play on a team that is losing, losing, and starting to turn things around, you want to be part of that. But to be back here is good."

The trade appeared to be lopsided in the Flyers' favor. Despite being 6-3 and 225 pounds, Eager, 23, was unable to use his size or skating ability in a positive manner. Although he had offensive skills, Eager took numerous bad penalties that hurt the Flyers this season. He was a poor fighter, too.

Those are the reasons Eager averaged six minutes of ice time a game on a fourth line. It was no surprise he had no points in 23 games, with 62 penalty minutes.

Vandermeer, 27, is tough as nails, brings positive energy, and plays above his size. He is averaging 20 minutes a game, and that means he's going to provide more valuable time on the back end than Eager delivered on the front.

And yet Vandermeer was benched for six games this season by Chicago coach Denis Savard, who, Vandermeer said, wanted Vandermeer to be "consistently aggressive."

"He must have felt the way I was playing wasn't it," Vandermeer said. "We had a lot of extra bodies, too."

Vandermeer did not agree with Savard's assessment.

Jason Smith is the Flyers' most vicious hitter on defense, and Vandermeer is capable of being No. 2 in that department.

"That is the way I always played," Vandermeer said. "I won't change that. I'll keep the game simple and real physical. . . . That is something I expect from myself. I will do the same things as before but with more experience, more poise and confidence."

Vandermeer signed with the Flyers in December 2000 as a free agent. In February 2004, the Flyers were desperate for a center and paid a hefty price in giving up Vandermeer because Zhamnov refused to re-sign after the season.

Jeremy Roenick and Keith Primeau were hurt, and "it was too bad this team did not go further than it did" that season, Vandermeer said. "That's the chance general managers make and take."

Stevens was uncertain what role Vandermeer would fill or whom he would play with. He was paired with Smith yesterday at practice.

Alexandre Picard was sent back to the Phantoms, so Vandermeer will likely cut into Lasse Kukkonen's playing time. Rory Fitzpatrick will likely be waived down to the Phantoms.

The Flyers were worried about defenseman Derian Hatcher's right knee, which needs to be drained weekly.

"They drained it [Tuesday] night and didn't get nearly as much fluid," Hatcher said. "Sure, I'm concerned about it, but I could end up being fine."

"I will face it as it comes," he said.

Hatcher said he did not plan to be "in and out" of the lineup. His knee and the sore backs of Smith and Kimmo Timonen were red flags, general manager Paul Holmgren said, and were factored into the trade.

Loose pucks. Vandermeer arrives with two goals, seven assists, and 44 penalty minutes - the second-most among the Blackhawks - in 26 games. The Flyers are inheriting $720,573 worth of his nearly $1.23 million salary. That brings the Flyers' cap number to about $48.5 million. The ceiling is $50.3 million. . . . Forward Simon Gagne skated and took light contact yesterday for the first time since suffering a concussion. He is seeing a chiropractor because he has continued soreness and headaches that may be related to the concussion. Gagne said he felt "pretty good." But because he still had mild symptoms, he was nowhere near ready to return to the lineup.

Contact staff writer Tim Panaccio at 215-854-2847 or tpanaccio@phillynews.com.