Revisiting Mike Richards and Jeff Carter Trades for Philadelphia Flyers

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IMarch 27, 2014

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 24:  Jeff Carter #77 talks with teammate Mike Richards #10 of the Los Angeles Kings in the second period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on March 24, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

It seems surreal that the Philadelphia Flyers traded Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in the summer of 2011 and that we are now approaching the summer of 2014.

At the time, the Flyers were completely overhauling their roster and leadership by getting rid of their captain and their highest goal scorer on the same day.

General manager Paul Holmgren came under a lot of scrutiny for the deals, and rightfully so. He was mortgaging the present for the future and desired to bring in some young talent and also shake up the locker room.

People were pretty divided about the deals, and there was a good case to be made both ways at the time. Then Richards and Carter won the Stanley Cup as members of the Los Angeles Kings during the 2011-12 season, and the consensus swung against Philadelphia.

This was a very flawed analysis of the trades. Holmgren traded Carter to Columbus, who was then ripped off in a deal with Los Angeles just prior to the 2011-12 NHL trade deadline. 

And just because those two helped the Kings win a Stanley Cup did not affect the outcome of the trade for the Flyers. The Kings won the Cup because Richards and Carter were the third and fourth options on the team, and they rode a hot goaltender in Jonathan Quick to the title.

Nearly three years later, a few days after the Kings defeated the Flyers 3-2 in Carter's first game back in Philadelphia since the deals, we can look at the trades in a completely new light.

And this light is one that shows how good the trades ended up being for Holmgren and the Flyers. 

Let's first look at the Carter deal, which was more expected at the time. He was sent to Columbus for Jakub Voracek, who was coming off his third NHL season when he saw his numbers plateau, a first-round pick and a third-round pick in the 2011 draft.

The former seventh overall pick was seen as a talented offensive weapon who just wasn't tough enough and couldn't put it all together over the course of a season.

But Voracek has found his stride in Philadelphia and has been a solid first-line winger alongside Claude Giroux. He averaged nearly a point per game in 2013 and is on pace for almost 60 points this season.

The other key piece in that trade was Columbus' eighth overall pick in the upcoming draft. That pick turned into Sean Couturier, who has blossomed into an exceptional player.

At just 21 years of age, Couturier is a phenomenal two-way forward who is on pace to score roughly 40 points this season.

I made the case last month that Couturier has become the Flyers' second-most valuable player because of his incredible two-way talent.

Carter has 46 points this season. Voracek has 53 and Couturier has 36. In last year's shortened season, Carter had 33 points. Voracek had 46 and Couturier had 15. 

The Richards trade was much more out of nowhere than the Carter one, as it is relatively unprecedented for a team to trade its captain during his prime.

But that is exactly what happened, and the reward was hefty. Philadelphia received Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds in return for Richards, as well as a second-round pick in the 2012 draft.

Paul Sancya/Associated Press/Associated Press

Schenn, at the time just two years removed from being a top prospect and the fifth overall selection in the 2009 draft, was the big piece of the deal.

He got off to a really slow start in Philadelphia, however, dealing with injuries and scoring only 18 points in 54 games in his first year in orange and black.

But last season, he started to get more comfortable, and for the 2013-14 season, he's really stepped up. Despite battling for time with Sean Couturier and seeing a lot of action out of position on the wing, Schenn has been very productive both offensively and defensively.

Simmonds was considered merely a solid role player who would was a nice complement to Schenn in the trade. But he really surpassed expectations right away, and Philadelphia immediately took to the scrappy winger.

Now 25 years old, some would even say that a Simmonds-for-Richards straight-up deal would have been relatively even for both sides. Sound crazy? Check out the stat sheet.

Simmonds had 28 goals and 21 assists for 49 total points in 2011-12, while Richards had 18 goals and 26 assists for 44 total points. In 2013, both players had exactly 32 points.

This season, Simmonds has 24 goals and 30 assists for a career-high 54 points, while Richards has seen some time on the fourth line and has 40 points, which is also just one more than Schenn's 39.

While it's misguided to consider the trade a "loss" for the Kings, who were very happy to have Richards help lead them to a Stanley Cup, it should now be seen as an emphatic win for Philadelphia.

The Carter trade is more difficult to rate because of his brief stay in Columbus before being shipped to L.A. But anyone who isn't satisfied with Voracek and Couturier has their head in the clouds.

The biggest day of trades in Flyers history has ultimately been a major success for Philadelphia. They moved two big contracts out of situations that were souring quickly and ended up with four exceptional talents who are still under 26 years of age.

The future (and present) is bright in Philadelphia, and a big part of that has to do Holmgren having the courage and savvy to pull off those two major trades.

He deservedly gets some criticism for his overzealous dealings, but give credit where credit is due.