The New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia Flyers do not like each other. Not on the ice, and not off the ice either. Even the suits up in the front offices know better than to extend a hand across the Delaware River—in fact, its only happened twice in the nearly 40 years since the Devils were born, both much prior to the true start of the rivalry in 1995. Every other player who’s crossed the rivalry has done so as a free agent or been traded from a third team in between.
The Rivalry Trades:
The famous Chico Resch was traded to the Colorado Rockies in 1981, becoming a Devil when the team moved in 1982. He played for the Devils for the next four years (or rather, as the Devils team looked back then, he suffered for them). Then in 1986 he was traded to the Flyers for a third round pick. He backed up Ron Hextall for a season before retiring in 1987. Chico later returned to the Devils as our color commentator in 1996.
Sam St. Laurent
The much less famous St. Laurent was a Flyers minor league goalie when they traded him to the Devils in 1984. The Devils first used him in an NHL game in January of 1986, where he and Chico Resch combined to allow 9 goals to the Washington Capitals. He returned to the Devils minor league team another two months before returning to earn his first shutout, a 1-0 win against the St. Louis Blues. He played only 4 games in the NHL that season— his main accomplishments were in the minors as he won awards for lowest GAA and best AHL goaltender. The following off-season he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings.
The Third Party Trade
Zelepukin spent his first 7 years in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils. Drafted in the 11th round in 1990, he started his NHL career in the 1991-92 season and took off strong. He banked 31 points in 44 games that first season, followed by 64p in 78gp and 57p in 82gp the following two. His fourth season with the Devils was cut drastically short due to an eye injury he suffered in practice only 4 games into the season. He returned the following season to help the team win their first Stanley Cup. In January 1998 he was sent to Edmonton in a multi-player trade that brought Jason Arnott to New Jersey. That same year in October he was traded to Philadelphia, where he played out the remaining two years of his contract. He signed with Chicago as a free agent for a final year before retiring in 2001.
The Free Agents
Asham, a “pesky winger”/enforcer danced his way around pretty much the entire division of rivals, playing for the Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Penguins, and Flyers in ten years. He spent four years with the Islanders before signing a one year deal with the Devils in 2007-08. He then signed on for two years in Philadelphia, where he went all the way to the finals in 2010 before losing to the Blackhawks. After Philly he spent two years each with the Penguins and the Rangers.
Philadelphia drafted Zubrus 15th overall in 1996. He played his first two seasons with them in 1996-97 and 1997-98, notching 62 points in 200 games, before being traded to Montreal. He then bounced around to Washington and Buffalo before eventually signing as a free agent in New Jersey in 2007. He remained in New Jersey for 8 years, putting up 224 points and playing in 554 games including the 2012 Stanley Cup finals against the LA Kings. When his contract expired in 2015 he left New Jersey for a season with the San Jose Sharks.
The man, the myth, the mullet-headed journeyman himself. Jaromír Jágr has played for Pittsburgh, Washington, the New York Rangers, Philly, Dallas, Boston, New Jersey, Florida, and Calgary. Between his NHL career he also played for stints in the Czech Republic and Russia in 2004-05 and the KHL from 2008-2011 before returning to the NHL in the 2011-12 season. On his return in 2011, he signed a one year deal with the Flyers where he put up 54 points in 73 games. He then signed with Dallas, but played only 34 games, signed with Kladno of the Czech Republic again, played 34 games with them, then was traded to Boston and returned to play 11 games at the end of the season and join them in the playoffs, where they would lose in the finals to the Blackhawks. One month later Jágr signed with New Jersey. Here he’d score 96 points in 139 games before being traded to Florida in February of 2015. He didn’t win a cup with either the Devils or the Flyers, but both teams are forever blessed for having been graced by his epic albeit eccentric presence for even a season or two.
In 2018 Kurtis Gabriel signed a one year deal as a free agent with the Devils. A brief but impactful tenure, Gabriel’s time in NJ left him and the team with a lasting record. In February of 2019 Gabriel scored his first NHL goal at the Devils’ Pride Night, and since then became the first NHL player to use Pride tape outside of Pride Night games— he has pledged to continue using it in every game for the remainder of his professional hockey career. Since signing as a free agent with the Flyers/Phantoms for the 2019-20 season, Gabriel became the team’s You Can Play ambassador and was awarded the AHL Man of the Year award for his work in the community, both as part of the You Can Play project and in other areas such as helping coach the Phantoms Charities Youth Sled Hockey team.
The most recent and possibly most surprising name of the Devils/Flyers player exchange has to be Wayne Simmonds. A fan favorite throughout his 8 year career with the Flyers, Simmonds was said to embody the spirit of Philadelphia as a famously tough and notoriously reliable team player. In 584 games with Philly, Simmonds put up 378 points and an even more impressive 784 penalty minutes. He was sent to the All-Star Game in 2017 and received the 2018-19 Mark Messier Leadership Award for his work in the Philly community. In 2019, the Flyers traded pending UFA Simmonds to Nashville as a playoff rental in exchange for Ryan Hartman. Following Nashville’s elimination and the expiration of his contract, Simmonds signed a one year deal with New Jersey. Despite the struggles of the team Simmonds managed 24 points in 61 games before being shipped to Buffalo at the trade deadline.