On June 23, 2011, the Flyers shook up the NHL world by dealing Jeff Carter—their one-time leading goal scorer and the previous November's 11-year deal signee—to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jakub Voracek, a 2011 first-round pick and a 2011 third-round pick.
The deal was a long time coming. In September of 2006, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, there was a deal on that table that would've sent Jeff Carter and Robert Esche to the Florida Panthers for goaltender Roberto Luongo. The deal was scrapped at the last minute. Rumor had it it was because the top management of the Flyers—having seen Justin Williams go on to win a Stanley Cup the previous spring—did not want to give up a young blue chipper like Carter.
The team wanted to build a solid, long-time core; Carter was a central piece of that plan.
Luongo was traded to Vancouver, and in the 2006-07 season he recorded 47 wins, a 2.29 Goals Against Average and a .921 Save Percentage. Carter scored 14 goals for the Flyers that season.
Esche won a whopping FIVE games for the Flyers that season before finishing the year in press box, third on the Flyers goalie depth chart behind the newly acquired Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki. Esche never played in the NHL again, failing to even find a job as a back-up goaltender the next offseason.
In the summer of 2010, after the Flyers had made a run to the Finals against all odds after qualifying for the playoffs as the result of a shootout on the last game of the regular season, the Boston Bruins offered goaltender Tim Thomas in a straight up deal for Carter.
The Flyers turned it down.
The next season, 2010-11, Thomas set the all-time league record for save percentage with a .938. He had a 2.00 GAA and won the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goalie. He won the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy as the NHL Playoffs MVP.
Carter managed to score 36 goals, but all of the flaws in his game were becoming more and more apparent: Poor in the faceoff circle, prone to coast along the ice, trouble getting back to play defense, unwilling to go into the corners. His failure time and again to take the puck to the net caused him to usually skate wide and fire poorly angled shots at the net. More often than not, his shots would go high and wide, often setting up easy breakout plays for the opposition. His shooting percentage was abysmal.
If there is anything Carter will be remembered for in Philadelphia, it would be in a tied Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs with a wide open net yawning at him, Carter—alone in the slot—failed to get any elevation on the puck and hit the prone Antti Neimi in the shoulder.
It was a microcosm of Carter's playoff failures.
Despite good-to-great offensive numbers in the regular season, his playoff numbers were downright offensive. Over 47 playoff games, he managed just 13 goals, a terrible number for a player viewed as an elite scorer in the NHL.
After an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins in the 2011 playoffs—a playoffs that the man Carter should have been traded for, Tim Thomas, excelled—management decided a move needed to be made.
With the signing of Ilya Bryzgalov, the Flyers were faced with salary cap problems. Carter had just signed a gigantic 11-year, $58 million contract. He had one season left before his no-trade clause kicked in. Logically, he would be the one to go.
The Flyers twice passed on getting elite NHL goaltenders in order to keep Carter, only to see those goalies go on to have tremendous seasons/careers.
The goalie who faced Tim Thomas in the 2011 Finals which went the full seven-game limit? Roberto Luongo. Meaning two goaltenders the Flyers could've had at one point or another on their roster were facing one another for the Stanley Cup, a prize that has eluded the Flyers for 36 years.
They couldn't pass on an elite goaltender this time, even though they knew Carter would have to go to make room.
When the Columbus Blue Jackets arrived in Philadelphia this Saturday night, Carter was a scratch. He broke his foot early in the season. (The third broken foot of his career. Normally he's waited until the playoffs to break his feet.)
The Flyers gave up Carter to make room for Bryzgalov. They received Jakub Voracek in return and used that first-round pick in the 2011 draft they received from Columbus to select Sean Couturier.
One month in to the 2011 season, with the Blue Jackets' arrival, let's look who has gotten the better of the deal:
Ilya Bryzgalov* started out great for the Flyers, recording a shutout just his second game with the team, something the tandem of Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky failed to do during the entire 2010-11 season.
He struggled in back-to-back games in late October, going so far as to say he felt lost in the woods and had zero confidence in himself after he played his part in a 9-8 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
He has since seemed to right the ship for now, and is once again showing signs of why the Flyers decided to put their Stanley Cup hopes in his hands. With a healthy lineup in front of him, and the return of Chris Pronger, Bryzgalov should be more than worth his price.
Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier have both been key parts in the Flyers' early success.
Couturier made the team coming out of training camp as an 18-year-old and has been one of the team's best defensive forwards. His offensive production (five goals in 13 games) this season has been a pleasant surprise.
Voracek has added depth to the Flyers' offense, which right now is being lead by the Giroux-Jagr-Hartnell line, one of the best, if not the best in the game. His performance Saturday night against his former team was stellar.
He said going into Saturday night's game he had something to prove and he wanted to make Columbus regret trading him. He backed those words up with a tremendous three-point performance, including a beautiful assist on Max Talbot's goal in the first period.
Voracek and Couturier had to be making Columbus regret the deal, as they were the No. 2 and 3 stars of the game, respectively. Voracek may have had a chip on his shoulder, but after watching the Flyers demolish the Blue Jackets tonight, he'd be better off thanking Columbus for dealing him to Philadelphia.
Jeff Carter has failed to record a goal yet for his new team. Granted, he only played five games before once again breaking a bone in one of his feet. He sat in a club box Saturday night to watch his former team destroy his new one.
Apparently, he didn't have credentials to sit in the team/press box like most every other injured/scratched player does. He seemed to be enjoying the company in that club box, if not the game itself.
His .108 career shooting percentage remains embarrassingly bad for a man making $58 million to score goals in the NHL.
*Bryzgalov was not traded directly for Carter, but his signing undoubtedly was the first domino to fall leading to the departure of both Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. Any discussion about the Carter and Richards trades needs to have Bryzgalov included.