As a quick notation; I’ve never met Keith Primeau, he’s never snubbed me or my child and, as a person, I only know what I’ve seen on TV, read in print and heard on the radio. As far as I’m concerned he may be the most wonderful husband, father, brother, son or in-law on the face of this earth and I have no ground to comment on any of that. This is my view of his career in the NHL. I’ve taken the time to try and research every quote and statement that I make in this blog. If for some reason you find something that you find to be false or misleading it certainly wasn’t my intention. This is not a blog to persuade you, it’s a blog to explain my position as a minority Keith Primeau detractor.
My early connection
In 1990 the Flyers missed the playoffs for the first time in years, this opened up my mind to a whole new realm of hockey insanity, the NHL draft. The Flyers would pick 4th that year and according to the Hockey News there was a Big 4 in that draft: Nolan, Nedved, Primeau and Ricci. Next year was going to be my first year as a season ticket holder so I invested myself in that draft. Nolan was the sniper, Nedved was a slick playmaker, Primeau was the power forward and Ricci was the reincarnation of Bobby Clarke. I decided Primeau was the pick. After failed negotiations to move to number one and pick Nedved the Flyers settled on Ricci, letting Jagr drop to the Pens. Who knew? That draft changed the course of franchises as Jagr complimented Lemeiux and Brodeur grounded NJ and the Flyers, desperate to get back on track traded away their entire franchise for a shot with Lindros. Jagr and Forsberg would have looked good in orange and black for the next ten or so years had Farwell and Jay Snider not been orchestrating the moves. Instead we watched Pittsburgh, Colorado and New Jersey accumulate Cups.
Pre Flyers History
All the while Primeau played in Detroit. He was my pick, so I watched him. He floundered. They moved him from center to wing and back again. Yzerman and Federov were the number one and two centers and although there was talk of trading Yzerman, nothing ever came of it. Primeau, the Red Wings determined, needed to bulk up to play wing. In 1996 they sent him into the off season with a program, he was to come back with added muscle and play with one of the top two lines. When camp opened in the fall it was apparent he hadn’t followed the program put before him. Not only that but he was ready to move on, frustrated by playing time, in a contract year and demanding to play in a place where he could be a first line center he held out of training camp. The Wings were loathe to reward him with a big contract after scoring just a single goal in 17 playoff games the previous spring. In all his legacy in Detroit seemed to read moderate success in the regular season but just 5 goals in nearly 60 playoff games. Eventually he was moved to Hartford in a deal that also saw Paul Coffey join him and Brendan Shanahan moved to the motor city. Although the move was unpopular with the players and the fans, all was forgotten when the Wings won the cup the following spring at the expense of the Flyers. Keith Primeau moved into the second line center duty behind Ron Francis at the Mall.
After a year in Hartford the Team was sold and moved to Carolina and became the Hurricanes. Their second year in Carolina the team made the playoffs and Primeau reached the 30 goal mark for the second time in his career. Unfortunately, they lost in six games in the first round with Primeau adding just three assists in the series. That summer Keith Primeau became a restricted free agent. Knowing that they were moving to their new stadium and needing to keep their Captain with the team they offered Primeau a contract worth a reported 8.7 million on a two year deal. He countered with a one year contract worth 8.5. They were at a complete impasse. Peter Karamanos refused to pay what he called Joe Sakic or Mats Sudin money to a Prima Donna ( The Hurricanes eventually made a desperate offer to Primeau within negotiating range of what he asked for but by then Karamanos’ public statements had destroyed any chance for the player and team to bargain). Keith Primeau sat and waited. His break came when Eric Lindros went down in Philadelphia. The Flyers upped the ante on the trade proposal and Rod Brind’Amour became a hurricane and Primeau became a Flyer. (Not that it reflects on Keith Primeau in anyway but his arrival was tempered by reports that Carolina management and not the Flyers informed Brind’Amour of the trade as he was getting ready to go to the rink to play the Penguins that night. There was quite a bit of bitterness and he departed quickly for Carolina.)
At this point my feelings about this player were rock bottom, How could the Flyers trade Rod Brind’Amour for this cancer? Clarke declared the coming of the twin towers (his second attempt after failing to develop the same top two centers when they signed Chris Gratton as a RFA.), when Lindros returned we would have the biggest, most unstoppable centers in the league. Primeau would score his legendary 5 OT goal in the second round against the Penguins (his only goal that post season). Lindros would not return until the third round against the Devils. By the following Summer Lindros was persona non grata, exiled to be auctioned off to whom ever would have him. The team fell into the hands of the new first line center, Keith Primeau. After nine years and three teams, he was exactly where he wanted to be and I was perched in the Center watching it all unfold.