Mike Richards and Jeff Carter wanted to make a splash with the Philadelphia Flyers, perhaps leave an indelible mark everyone will remember.
They did Thursday.
However, this did not involve records accomplished or the coveted Stanley Cup presentation; it came in the way of two trades that rocked the hockey franchise. Not since the team sent away draft picks, money and players like Ron Hextall and Peter Forsberg to the Quebec Nordiques (now Colorado Avalanche) for the highly touted Eric Lindros on June 30, 1992, has there been an off-season buzz quite like this.
Fans will stir, praise and question it all for weeks, maybe months on what the fallout may be from the trades involving Richards, the now-former captain, to the Los Angeles Kings and Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Adding to that, the grand prize for the Flyers is newly signed 31-year-old goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, formerly of the Phoenix Coyotes. As the free-agent acquisition that upper management sought after the 2011 playoff catastrophe of Brian Boucher, Sergei Bobrovsky and Michael Leighton, fans vocalized their animosity. And it was heard. Repeatedly.
The question that seems to underscore the entirety of both landmark moves made on Thursday may be: Is Bryzgalov the next Lindros?
Much like the Lindros trade, this one will become the definitive transition for the remainder of the decade. Flyers diehards of all breeds will debate endlessly just how the Lindros trade was good or bad for the franchise. Clearly, zero Stanley Cups to Colorado’s respectable two may not look good, but the Flyers did retain a dominant force with Lindros and others like John LeClair and Mikael Renberg in what was known as The Legion of Doom in the mid-1990s.
From here on out, what does Ed Snider have in store for the Flyers? He’s not getting any younger, so Mr. Snider must be plotting his next move—and fast—as the 2011 NHL Draft starts Friday.
Look for Snider to move the eighth overall pick he received from the Blue Jackets or dabble with some other scenario to land a key veteran. This may be one of the final pieces to secure for another Stanley Cup run. The current core of Danny Briere, Claude Giroux, James Van Riemsdyk, Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen is set. Now there is salary-cap room to squeeze for another viable body on offense or defense, perhaps ($7.56 million, to be exact).
There’s also the looming issue of holding back young Bobrovsky’s progress. How will the 22-year-old Russian blossom while Bryzgalov is now slotted as the full-time starter? It may or may not fare well with both Russians sharing the spotlight, but even so, there leaves another trade possibility if it comes down to it.
As long as the Flyers stick to their guns and actually improve their team chemistry, expect at least another playoff berth. The jury’s out, like it always was before each season with Lindros, on the Stanley Cup.
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