The Philadelphia Flyers, and GM Paul Holmgren shook the hockey world last week when they traded away arguably their two best players. Holmgren sent Jeff Carter to Columbus in exchange for winger Jakub Voracek and the eighth overall pick which was used to draft Sean Couturier. Shortly after that trade, Philly struck again by sending captain Mike Richards to the L.A. Kings for Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and a future draft pick. This cleared the way for the signing of Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year $51 million deal.
This was the most significant and gutsy day of deals in Flyers' history since they traded for Eric Lindros in 1992. This time next summer, the fans will either be praising Paul Holmgren for making the necessary decision to move on from franchise players, or they will be calling for his head. I think all the deals so far this offseason have made Philadelphia a better, more well-rounded team.
Holmgren kicked off this year's free-agent signings by picking up 39-year-old Jaromir Jagr to a one-year deal. Jagr was a perennial Art Ross candidate throughout the 90s and spent the last three seasons in the KHL. Jagr brings size to the wing position which was a weakness of last year's team. Jagr's playmaking abilities can certainly help emerging superstar James Van Riemsdyk.
After signing Jagr, Holmgren went after defensive specialist Maxime Talbot. The former Penguin was a great pick-up. The Flyers signed him to a five-year, $9 million contract. He doesn't set the world on fire with his scoring ability, but he adds much-needed defense to the current group of forwards. With the departure of Richards, Talbot is now the teams best option on penalty kills. I think he'll be paired with Blair Betts, and possibly Ian Laperriere, on the fourth line to shut down the Sydney Crosbys and the Alex Ovechkins of the league.
Holmgren also decided to cut ties with forwards Kris Versteeg and Ville Leino. The Flyers shipped Versteeg to Florida for a pair of picks. Leino was signed to a six-year, $27 million deal with Buffalo. Although Leino's puck-handling abilities and beard-growing abilities will be missed come playoff time, his departure is for the best. Leino was a turnover machine last year and just didn't put up enough numbers to get a big-time contract with Philly. Versteeg never really meshed with his other linemates while in Philly which contributed to his departure.
The most important thing about this offseason was the Flyers improved themselves while keeping their excellent defense in tact. They added key role players like Talbot and Simmonds who can complement stars like JVR and Claude Giroux. They now have the championship-caliber goaltender in Bryzgalov that Philadelphia has lacked since the days of Ron Hextall. When all is said and done, Ilya Bryzgalov will be added to the Holy Trinity that is the Philadelphia goaltenders (Bernie Parent, Pelle Lindbergh, and Ron Hextall). He has the potential to bring multiple Cups to the Flyers.
Saying goodbye to faces of the franchise is tough, but these moves were necessary, and in the long run, the Flyers will be better team.