The Philadelphia Flyers had a blockbuster day Thursday, signing recently acquired goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million deal and trading away their two cornerstone centers, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
Richards is taking his talents to the Los Angeles Kings while Carter heads to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but according to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the Toronto Maple Leafs were also in serious discussions for both Richards and Carter.
While Jeff Carter has long been the subject of trade rumours to Toronto, the fact that the Flyers were even making their gritty captain Richards available came as a complete surprise.
Dreger reports that the Flyers were considering trading Richards to the Leafs for 20-year-old center Nazem Kadri and 30-goal scorer Nikolai Kulemin, but the Kings outbid them by adding proven grinder Wayne Simmonds to blue-chip prospect Brayden Schenn and a 2nd round pick.
With the trade, the Kings suddenly become a fearsome team with extraordinary depth down the middle in Richards, Anze Kopitar and Jarret Stoll.
In contrast, while the wings are now loaded with young talent, without Richards and Carter, Philadelphia looks positively woeful at center for the upcoming year.
Though it may all go as planned, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren will definitely be on the hot seat next year--if not the chopping block.
Unfortunately, Toronto’s center situation is not much more impressive than Philadelphia’s.
That longstanding quandary would have been a non-issue had the Leafs landed Richards. The fact is, it does not take much convincing to believe that Richards would have been an ideal No. 1 center for Toronto. The 26-year-old puts points on the board, plays with heart and was a huge reason the Flyers made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010.
You simply can’t ask for much more in this market.
Sure, Kulemin is a quality all-round player and during the second half of last season Kadri seemed to be much more comfortable playing at the NHL level, but in the almost unanimous opinion of Leafs fans, what the team desperately needs is a proven relatively young star center.
While a few observers will be glad the trade didn't go through, it's likely that Burke is wishing the Kings hadn’t sweetened the pot as invitingly as they did.
However, if there are any positives to take away from missing out on Mike Richards, the fact that Burke was in the thick of these surprising sweepstakes is at least encouraging.
While signing the other Richards—31-year-old former Dallas Star Brad—would be the most obvious way to plug the gaping hole at center, Burke’s shadowy efforts at least give hope that Leaf fans might be justified in looking beyond the obvious.
Who knows? We just might wake up one day soon with another delightful Burkian surprise, much as we did with the Dion Phaneuf trade.