"We're going back to our roots. We're not going to go and trade draft picks anymore or trade our kids ever again for veterans. . . . We got carried away wanting to win [Stanley] Cups."

So what happened in three years to make the Flyers change Ed Snider's philosophy and mortgage the future for soon-to-be-35-year-old Chris Pronger?

Was it the fact that Pronger, likely a future Hall of Famer, is still one of the game's most respected defensemen despite his advanced age?

Was it because the Flyers' defense disintegrated as the team blew a 3-0 lead at home in Game 6 of its first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins last season?

Or was it because watching the hated Penguins - a team the Flyers outplayed for much of that series - win the Stanley Cup was too much to take and pushed all of Snider's "Win Now" buttons?

Perhaps all of the above.

"If it was just a normal veteran, we would not have given up youth for that," Snider said the other night. "But it was Pronger."

Snider, 76, said it with the reverence usually saved for a Sinatra, a Streep, or a Springsteen.

"He's not a typical veteran," Snider added. "He's one of the greatest players of all time, and we could not turn it down because we needed him desperately."

A week ago, the Flyers acquired Pronger - whose physicality and leadership are just the type of qualities the Flyers need to make them legitimate Cup contenders - and a minor-league forward for 25-year-old forward Joffrey Lupul, up-and-coming 19-year-old defenseman Luca Sbisa, two first-round draft picks, and a conditional third-round pick.

Three years ago, in an Inquirer interview, Snider said that developing younger players was the only way the club would succeed.

"And if it takes us longer and we can't win the Cup, so be it," he said in 2006, after the Flyers were eliminated by Buffalo in the opening round of the playoffs. "We are not going to be chasing the . . . Cup and giving away our future."

The success of the Flyers' intrastate rivals seem to have played a role in shifting the organization's strategy.

"We definitely think we're close to the Penguins, and in order to win the Cup, you have to go through the Penguins," Snider said. "They're very young, and they're going to get better, and we can't just sit back. We have to make the kind of moves Paul [Holmgren] has made."

He was referring to the deal for Pronger and the signing of controversial goalie Ray Emery.

Since 1996, the Flyers have added past-their-prime veterans such as Dale Hawerchuk, Paul Coffey, Tony Amonte, Adam Oates, Alexei Zhamnov, and Peter Forsberg in an attempt to bring home their first Stanley Cup since 1975. Most didn't supply much help.

Pronger will be different, Snider said.

"He's in great shape, and we think he can play great defense into his 40s," Snider said. "It's a different world today. The players have good eating habits and work out all year long."

Some of the older players the Flyers have acquired in recent years "depended on certain skills . . . and they deteriorated. It's not similar to what Pronger brings to the table," Snider said.

"He's what you call the perfect defenseman. He's big, strong and can do it all. He sees the ice well and passes beautifully. He's not slow, but he's not like some of [our] guys in the past that relied on speed to compete . . . and that deteriorated.

"Those guys took up space."

Snider said that the Flyers have a terrific young nucleus - not many teams have three centers who can match the promise of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Claude Giroux - and that Pronger will provide intangibles to go with his talent.

Toronto general manager Brian Burke said the hard-hitting Pronger was "born to wear orange."

That, of course, was in reference to the organization's pugnacious reputation since the Broad Street Bullies days in the 1970s.

Snider, whose team led the NHL in penalty minutes last season and continues to add feisty players (see Dan Carcillo and Ian Laperriere), has mixed feelings about Burke's comment.

"I don't know if it's flattering or not," Snider said with a chuckle. "We're trying to hide from that label to a degree because we feel the carryover has hurt us in penalties. So while I'm proud of it, I worry about it, too. I don't want to get back to those days. It's a different era now."

Giving up so much young talent for Pronger, Snider conceded, will be a mistake if the Flyers can't sign him to an extension. This is the final year of his contract, and both sides say they are going to work on a longer deal.

"Obviously, if we can't sign him, we gave up way too much," Snider said.

And if Pronger doesn't lead them to a Cup, will the trade be considered a bust?

"You can't lay something like that on one guy," Snider said. "He may play fantastic, and there could be something else - an injury or someone doesn't live up to their potential - that" prevents the team from winning the title.

"Everything else has to work. I would never lay something like that on one player."

Breakaways. Hockey Canada announced that four Flyers - Pronger, Richards, Carter, and left winger Simon Gagne - have been invited to attend Canada's 2010 Olympic men's hockey team orientation camp that is scheduled to run Aug. 24-27 in Calgary, Alberta. . . . The Flyers will open their summer prospect camp at the Skate Zone in Voorhees on Tuesday. Among the 34 players scheduled to attend are 2007 first-round pick James van Riemsdyk, newly acquired Ryan Dingle and all six of the Flyers' 2009 draft picks.