Flyers shock with Carter, Richards deals
To Philadelphia: Jake Voracek, first-round pick, third-round pick
To Columbus: Jeff Carter
My, how time flies when you’re underachieving. It wasn’t long ago that the rest of the NHL was looking enviously at the Philadelphia Flyers and their future prospects with young superstars Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in the lineup.
That all changed in two fell swoops Thursday when Richards and Carter were dealt away in two separate transactions on the eve of the NHL draft. To say the Flyers executed an extreme makeover one year removed from the Stanley Cup Final would be a gross understatement. They lifted the house from its foundation with these moves.
Part of the reason for the moves obviously stem from the need to clear salary to make room for the $5.6 million cap hit it took to sign goalie Ilya Bryzgalov for the next nine years. At that amount for that long it’s clear they see him as the cure to their longstanding goaltending woes. And if that’s the case, they should watch tapes of this year’s playoffs and still be very, very nervous.
That puts the Flyers at almost $57 million in payroll next season and that $7 million remaining will help pay for new contracts to both Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek, plus cover the $3.1 million cap for Schenn to start next season. The Flyers moved out a total of $110 million and 20 years worth of remaining contracts in Richards and Carter, which would have given them precious breathing room if not for the head-scratching Bryzgalov transaction.
So, the Flyers essentially have traded two front-line players — one a Selke contender and the other a potentially perennial 40-goal scorer — for a guy who could be a front-line goaltender and three players who can play on the second and third lines. (It should be noted that Schenn was rated the No. 1 prospect outside the NHL by THN in this year’s edition of Future Watch, but is seen as a second- or third-line center as an NHLer.) Simmonds is a player who has a lot of game and is coming off a sub-par year, while Voracek is a project.
Makes you think there’s more to this from Philadelphia’s standpoint, doesn’t it? Are the Flyers clearing the decks for a run at Brad Richards when free agent season opens July 1? Perhaps, but if they do, they’ll be putting themselves back in the same salary cap mess they had with Carter and Richards — only this time they’ll be devoting the long-term deals to Brad Richards and Bryzgalov.
The Kings, meanwhile, get a player who can inject some grittiness into the lineup and give some relief down the middle to Anze Kopitar. The feeling was that while Kopitar is developing nicely as a player, his offense was suffering too much because he had to focus too heavily on defensive duties. That will no longer be a problem with Richards there to take care of them.
The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, make gains if for no other reason than they traded away their first-round pick. In case you haven’t noticed, the draft table has been something of a minefield for the Jackets. But they also get a guy who can either move back to center and play with Rick Nash or give them some offensive depth on the second line. Since both Carter and Nash are more shooters than playmakers, it might not make sense to put them together at even strength.
Through their history, the Flyers have never been shy about going against the grain and making very bold, almost shocking, moves. It hasn’t resulted in a Stanley Cup in 36 years and it may not result in one for another 36. But you have to like that they don’t seem intent on giving up until they get it right.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his column.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.