Philadelphia Flyers: Mike Richards, Jeff Carter Traded and What It Means

C KSenior Analyst IJune 23, 2011

Multiple sources have confirmed that the Philadelphia Flyers have traded two of their core players in separate deals, sending shock waves through the National Hockey League.

Mike Richards, captain of the team since 2008, and Jeff Carter, a three-time 30-goal scorer, have been traded to the Los Angeles Kings and the Columbus Blue Jackets, respectively.

According to reports, Richards has been sent to the Kings for top prospect Brayden Schenn, 22-year old winger Wayne Simmonds, and an undisclosed pick that is expected to be a second-round choice in this year's draft.

Carter, on the other hand, has reportedly been dealt to the Blue Jackets for Jakub Voracek, and the eighth overall pick along with a third-round pick in tomorrow's entry draft.

A Carter deal has been long expected, as he has seemingly been the talk to trade rumors his entire career. A week ago, the Flyers and Blue Jackets were rumored to be talking about making this deal, yet nothing came of it until now.

It is the Richards deal, which broke less than an hour after the Carter news, that has sent Flyers and NHL fans alike into disbelief and, mostly, devastation.

Flyers nation has come out screaming at their team's brass, wondering what the need was to make such a deal. Some have even made the demand to fire GM Paul Holmgren immediately.

Everybody breathe.

Before making rash statements and irrational demands, let's take a step back and evaluate what we can about what just happened before our eyes.

First, the Carter deal has been accepted among fans for weeks as a must, yet when paired with the Richards deal has seemed to create more trouble.

Sending away two of your top players is certainly a risky move, but there is always a rationale behind it. Here's what to keep in mind before you run out and make a fool of yourself.


1. Mike Richards never lived up to the hype.

For his sake, it was almost impossible for him to do so after being dubbed the next Bobby Clarke. But he didn't get close. For six seasons, he lived off the reputation he was immediately given, especially after being donned captain in 2008.

But looking beyond the hype he was attached to, Richards never delivered as a captain with consistent play or a championship.

Constant run-ins with the media and rumored discord among teammates can't come from your captain and most prized player. He was looked at as a captain through his play rather than his voice, yet disappeared on the ice at times and failed to take over games (this year's playoffs, most noticeably) when it mattered most.

His claim to being captain was the ability to lead on the ice, yet that simply didn't happen enough. Add to that the off-ice shenanigans, and it's too much. A team cannot survive if the captain is rumored to be the main problem in the locker room.

By no means is Mike Richards a bad player. But the fact of the matter is he was a bad captain for this team and obviously did not fit in.


2. Trust Paul Holmgren.

Ever since being named general manager during the worst season in franchise history, Homer has retooled the team and led them back to the top of the Eastern Conference. He and owner Ed Snider take pride in this team's success and realize what it takes to win.

Trading Richards is not a decision they would make without justified reasoning. They are the one's responsible for creating the hype around him in the first place and they likely still see some of that in him.

The front office would not let go of the face of the franchise and captain without knowing what they were doing.

Whether the rumors are true that the there was too much trouble in the locker room that Richards did not police, there is something else going on that we as outsiders don't know about.


3. More moves are to be made... would think. Sending Carter away freed up salary room to sign Ilya Bryzgalov, but the Richards trade leaves even more money left to be spent. Adding to that, the salary cap was raised to $64.3 million today.

The team is left with a surplus of spending money that will likely be used to re-sign Ville Leino and add big-name free agent. Or possibly a third trade, this time with the Flyers receiving the big name, could even be in the works with the draft looming tomorrow.

Patience is necessary with this process. Fans are looking at the Flyers now as losing two top-six forwards and fail to realize there is obviously more to be done. Relax and wait, everybody.


4. We don't really know the players coming to Philly.

I couldn't tell you the top prospect in hockey right now, nor could I project who's going to go first overall tomorrow (and I watch and follow hockey daily). Neither can a vast amount of hockey fans, due to the fact that it simply doesn't get the national attention that allows for younger players to be spotlighted.

So when you can't point out Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn from Manny and Moe, it may seem like not enough for Richards.

But looking into it, Schenn was the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft and Simmonds, a former second-round pick, is only 22 years old and a fan favorite in L.A. Schenn is a center who is the top prospect of the Kings' organization.

Add to that a valuable second round pick and it's a good return. In the Carter deal, you get the eighth pick and the sixth-overall pick in the 2007 draft (Voracek), as well as a third round pick.

Voracek and Simmonds can come in as third-line role players who add depth and energy. Voracek is a possible 20-30 goal scorer in the right situation around him.

In three years, if their eighth pick pans out, the Flyers will be set with three young studs (with the others being Claude Giroux and James Van Riemsdyk).

Simply take a step back and do research on who these players are and you'll see the Flyers got more than you'd expect in a deal like this. Remember, Carter and Richards are inked up for 11 and 9 more seasons, respectively, at cap hits over $5 million. Those are hard contracts to move.

The city of Philadelphia should take a moment to collect themselves and wait these next few weeks out. Whether it be in tomorrow's draft or free agency, the Flyers will be making more moves.

Richards and Carter are two very good players and they will need to bring on something notable to keep at the same offensive pace next season.

And yes, the team has just lost two very good players. But these are very good players who simply did not fit in with the media and teammates around them.

Carter, while productive on the stat sheet, took an unneeded surplus of shots and failed to use his size to his advantage. He lacked a physical game and played poor defense. Thirty goals a season isn't worthless, but his stats are a bit empty when it comes to any meaning. He has missed a number of games due to injury and fails to show up when it matters most.

Richards was never expected to be a scoring machine, but he failed to lead his team as expected. The Flyers became a locker room filled with turmoil and rumor has it that he was in the center of it.

Whether he disliked some players or was disliked by them, it is the captain's job to make sure it stays off the ice and doesn't affect the team. He failed at that.

Fans in the city and across the country fail to realize the lack of desire in both of these players' games. His first few seasons in the league were productive, yet Richards was never given time to create his own hype.

He simply lived in the fact that he didn't play poorly so that hype kept him going among fans. The fact of the matter is he did not lead this team, or perform, as a captain should.

In conversation minutes ago with friends of mine (all outraged over the moving of Richards), they wouldn't back off that Richards was more valuable than any other player on the team until they proved my point for me. When addressing his play this season, including the playoffs, he said, "He didn't make a difference, but he wasn't bad."

Exactly. Nobody will tell you Mike Richards is a poor player, because he isn't by any means. But when your captain fails to make a difference on a team, something is wrong. Either that player should not be captain or that player needs to go.

In this case, he went.


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