PHILADELPHIA — Steve Eminger got it right.
Discussing the Friday night trade that sent him to the Lightning from the Flyers in exchange for defenseman Matt Carle, Eminger said, "It's a business."
That is the bottom line in a deal that even Tampa Bay general manager Brian Lawton said involved players who are "very comparable in a lot of ways."
But Eminger's salary cap number on his one-year deal is $1.2-million. Carle's, because of a four-year, $13.75-million contract, is $3.438-million, making the trade a savings of $2.238-million.
"Cap space is a commodity, and it definitely gives us quite a bit of breathing room," Lawton said.
And though he said no other deals are imminent, he added, "If we want to do something down the line bigger, that would afford us more flexibility."
There was more to the trade.
Tampa Bay got fiery right wing Steve Downie, who Lawton said will be assigned to AHL Norfolk, and a 2009 fourth-round draft choice. The Flyers got a 2009 third-round choice.
But the spotlight is on the Eminger-Carle swap, not only because of the financial consequences or the timing — the pair will swap locker rooms tonight when the Lightning faces the Flyers at the Wachovia Center — but because Carle was part of the tide-shifting July 4 trade that sent Dan Boyle to the Sharks.
Asked if that trade, done in large part to shed Boyle's six-year, $40-million contract, should be considered a failure, Lawton said, "I think it's a continuation of the process in evaluating what we have and being comfortable we've got the right chemistry and the right balance and enough youth in the organization.
"It's one younger player for two younger players. … When we went through it, we felt it was something that made sense."
Carle, 24, never really found his feet with Tampa Bay. He had a goal, two points and was plus-1 in 12 games and averaged 21:57 of ice time. He showed offensive instincts but too often was a defensive liability.
Eminger, 25, a first-round pick (12th overall) of the Capitals in 2002, had two assists and was even in 12 games and averaged 17:52 of ice time playing on Philadelphia's third defensive unit.
He is a right-handed shot, coveted because so few seem to be among blue-liners. He plays power play and penalty kill, and at 6 feet 2, 212 pounds, is bigger than Carle and has, it seems, the ability to be more physical.
In his past six games, Eminger was plus-5 and Thursday played a season-high 22:08 vs. Ottawa.
"I think Steve had played a lot better lately," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said on a conference call. "In comparing the two, Matt brings us more efficiency in moving the puck and an offensive upside."
With just six defensemen on the roster, the Lightning needs Eminger to provide any upside. He already helped lower Tampa Bay's cashout for salaries to about $48-million and its cap number to about $52-million.
"At first, I'm not going to lie to you, it was a surprise, almost nonbelief," Eminger said of the trade. "But it's reality. It's a business. I'm just glad to be part of Tampa Bay's organization."