Fresh off the presses! Hot off the wire! The Philadelphia Flyers traded their top two forwards, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Los Angeles Kings, respectively. In the deals, the Flyers recieved Jakub Voracek and the number 8 and 68 picks from Columbus, and Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds from LA. Although Philly got a ton of young talent from this these moves, the timing seems to be an issue. Why did the Flyers decide to unload now?
Last year, the Flyers finished with 106 points and a two-seed going into the playoffs. Although they lost to the Bruins in the second round, the Flyers looked geared going into next season for a deep playoff run. They had some free agent goalies to chase, James van Riemsdyk was moving towards elite status, and Danny Briere enjoyed a late-career resurgence. Not to mention they had come within a couple games of the Stanley Cup the year before that. This Philly team was compared to the Broad Street Bullies of yore, the tough and intimidating Flyers that were so easily hated and yet so hard to beat. Verizon Wireless even predicted an 82-0 year for Philly in a parallel universe where every Flyer is Dusty Hill.
It seemed like a better time than ever to ship away their top two forwards. Huh? The Flyers apparently were strapped for cash after their potential deal with Ilya Bryzgalov pressed them up over the salary cap. Instead of some savvy string-pulling by GM Paul Holmgren, he simply dealt the big contracts of Carter and Richards for some cash. It leaves me and many hockey fans scratching our collective heads.
A Jeff Carter trade might have been unavoidable, since his contract might have been the biggest barrier between Bryzgalov and Philadelphia. However, the Richards trade was totally out of the blue. He was the captain of the team for three seasons, a consistent 60-point scorer, and perhaps just entering his prime at 26 years old. He embodied the tough, Philly attitude on the ice. Say what you will about his hit on David Booth, Richards is good.
The whole situation harkens back to the mess of trades the Chicago Blackhawks pulled off last year. Except they didn’t trade Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. With them, Chicago finished last year eighth in the Western Conference and lost in the first round of the playoffs to Vancouver. Philly is heading into awkward territory now: what happens to a team after they trade talent on the top line for peace between the pipes?
We’ll see next year, but the Kings and Blue Jackets of the world are as happy as kids at Christmas. In Columbus, Jeff Carter could easily center the top line, flanked by Rick Nash, and score in bunches. The Blue Jackets are now powers in the West. And if rumors are correct, the Blue Jackets aren’t done dealing yet. In the City of Angels, a huge sigh of relief can be heard from the person of Anze Kopitar, the incredibly talented but perpetually overworked center for the Kings. A second elite forward could spread the offensive load from his shoulders onto Richards’.
Finally, what does this mean for the Panthers? It might mean that the Kings and Blue Jackets are out of the running for uber-free agent Brad Richards, since both teams have their center position pretty well filled. They might not have been front-runners for his services, but they were speculating, and now Dale Tallon has fewer teams to work against in the sweepstakes. Also, expect less heated games against the Flyers. Since Mike Richards is out of town, vigilante justice is no longer a reason for the Hordichuks of the world to throw punches at every stoppage in play.
Also, expect a weaker Flyers team: Richards and Carter certainly won’t be easy to replace.