In a trade that we were told had no chance of happening just hours ago, the Philadelphia Flyers have sent James Van Riemsdyk to Toronto for Luke Schenn.

The trade isn’t a strict win-lose for either team, and much like the Jordan Staal to Carolina trade, the move both serves a need for the teams and offers additional flexibility.

The Flyers face many tough decisions on their blueline as they look for stability going forward. They were hit hard by injuries in 2011-12 and while they appear ready to let go of Matt Carle and deadline acquisition gone wrong, Pavel Kubina, they will need to figure out what to do with Kimmo Timonen in one year’s time.

There’s also the small matter of the infinite timetable facing Chris Pronger and his concussion recovery.

There are certainly plenty of jokes to be made regarding Schenn’s inability to stabilize any defense (har har har) but the move is a win for Philadelphia nonetheless. They have roughly $11 million in cap space heading into the offseason — more than they had after dispatching the slightly more expensive JVR — and will be counting on one or both of Erik Gustafsson and Oliver Lauridsen to make the jump, given that they are both now in their early-20s and among the top prospects in Philly’s system.

A change of scenery will be good for Schenn who had become equal parts whipping boy and blueline hope. While Philadelphia won’t be any less of a pressure cooker, he’ll have veteran teammates who are more adept at easing the heat off of him when he makes things difficult on himself, and the presence of his brother ought to be a nice perk. Given the way last season wrapped up in Toronto he should be much, much happier and that alone should yield better on-ice results.

Moving JVR also frees up the Flyers to pursue Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks who expressed his desire to play in Philadelphia and get out of Anaheim. While the Flyers may have just dealt their main bargaining chip, they do possess other assets of value with NHL experience, such as Matt Read, and could conceivably pull off a trade depending on how desperate the Ducks are to move Ryan.

By acquiring JVR, the Leafs accomplish a couple of useful goals in the short and long term.

By moving Schenn the Leafs allow Korbinian Holzer, a big, defensive minded prospect, to see take a shot at holding down a role in the show. He’s not a flashy, big name prospect, but he was consistently a rock for the Calder Cup finalist Toronto Marlies and had several good showings on the world stage as a member of Team Germany. The Leafs also free up a roster spot to potentially offer to blue chip free agent prospect, Justin Schultz. Schultz was a pick of Burke in Anaheim and is considered one of the top prospects in all of hockey. When he hits the open market it makes sense for Burke and the Leafs to make a big charge after him as the overall talent level of the team is lacking.

The final part of this puzzle is two-fold for Burke’s long term plans in Toronto.

First and foremost, he adds the power forward he has coveted for so long. JVR is one of the top power forward prospects in hockey, even after his injury struggles, and projects to be a solid goal scorer for many years down the road. Many NHL defensemen, including Flyers captain Chris Pronger, believe that the big New Jersey native can rank among the NHL’s best in scoring. He is currently a top six calibre forward.

The second, and perhaps more talked about piece, gives the Leafs more flexibility to pursue Roberto Luongo. JVR pushes every Leafs winger — except for Phil Kessel, of course — down one rung on the depth chart and leaves them more open to trades. Chief among these players is Nazem Kadri, who is believed to be highly thought of by Vancouver GM Mike Gillis. As a team that was victimized for its lack of secondary scoring in the 2011-12 playoffs, Kadri would be a piece that serves as a keystone piece in a trade and would provide offensive value that the Canucks need.

Obviously it would take more than that to pry a goaltender of Luongo’s caliber from Vancouver, but it would be a start for Toronto.

Now, this isn’t to suggest that these things will happen and that these are the direct factors which prompted the deal. They’re simply very convenient byproducts. To proclaim a winner of this deal would simply be too simple of an assessment. It’s a win-win trade that serves different purposes for squads in different stages of contention. In a strict talent/production comparison, van Riemsdyk is the better player in that he is more impactful from an offensive standpoint than Schenn is from a defensive one. Again, how that translates in their new homes remains to be seen.

We’ll find out who really won the deal when it all plays out on the ice.