Photo credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)
RJ Umberger has faced a lot of criticism since coming to the Flyers in a trade for fan favorite Scott Hartnell. This is partially because, Hartnell is by far, a much better player than Umberger and the cap savings doesn’t make up the difference.
That said, this isn’t about reviewing the trade, but rather, finding a way to use Umberger in a way that hides his weaknesses to make him movable next summer to clear the last year of his contract.
The first and easiest to defend part is his scoring. Umberger scores at a third line raw total value for a right wing. As his HERO chart shows above, his production rate is high end fourth line value as is his effect on possession. Umberger is, when healthy, a fourth line player. Thankfully, due to the Rinaldo trade, and acquisition of Sam Gagner, there is a spot open on the fourth line for RJ Umberger. Use Umberger on the fourth line with Chris VandeVelde and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and the Flyers should be able to have him look passable. Ryan White would be the 13th forward, Vinny Lecavalier would join him in the pressbox in this scenario.
With two years remaining on his deal, the Flyers should be doing everything possible to make Umberger “look” good just long enough to pawn his contract on a cap floor team in the summer of 2016. A fourth line role with occasional third line forays would do just that.
Umberger’s not the top six option he used to be, and the fact he was traded for a true top line forward in Scott Hartnell doesn’t help either, but since the past cannot be undone, it’s better to take the little remaining talent he has and put it to use in a way that could possibly redeem some trade value in time for next season. Hopefully in a year, Hextall’s wizardry is a trade for a Sam Gagner type return from a team in need of the salary floor. Until then, Umberger’s one expensive fourth line forward, and that’s okay.