The Flyers made some huge moves on Thursday, with two prominent player trades and a free-agent signing. In the process, they have performed a major renovation on the team’s roster.
It had been rumored that they were trying to trade top scorer Jeff Carter in an attempt to gain some room under the salary cap. So it wasn’t a huge surprise when he was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
It was also unsurprising when the team used that newly acquired cap space on a contract for free agent goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. They had acquired Bryzgalov’s exclusive negotiating rights in a trade and had reportedly been close to agreeing to a deal.
The surprising move came when they traded team captain Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings.
Considering how the team had been operating recently, the moves are somewhat confusing.
For the past few seasons, Richards and Carter have been the faces of the franchise. Richards had been regarded as one of the top leaders in the NHL, and Carter had developed into a dangerous offensive weapon.
And while this year’s second-round loss to the eventual champion Boston Bruins was disappointing, the team was one year removed from an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals. It wasn’t like the team hadn’t experienced any success with Richards and Carter, so it seems a bit strange to get rid of them now.
The Flyers have been in ”win now” mode for the past couple of seasons. All of their recent moves had been geared towards winning the Stanley Cup in the near future. They have traded away many draft picks in exchange for veteran players (Chris Pronger, Andrej Meszaros, Kris Versteeg) who would help them immediately.
The acquisition of Bryzgalov seemed to be in step with that “win now” mentality. The team had made it clear that they blamed their goaltending situation for this year’s defeat. In response, they traded for the rights to Bryzgalov who they regarded as the top available goalie. He would hopefully be the missing piece that they needed in order to finally win it all.
So why then turn around and trade two of the team’s core players in exchange for prospects and draft picks? Wouldn’t Richards and Carter have helped them more in the next few seasons than any of the players or draft picks they received?
Trading Carter is somewhat defensible. Bryzgalov’s new contract did not give the team much flexibility under the salary cap, so getting rid of Carter allowed them some financial breathing room. They also had a plethora of centers with Richards, Carter, Danny Briere and Claude Giroux, so Carter could have also been seen as expendable. Plus, despite his regular season scoring prowess, Carter has struggled in the playoffs.
Less explainable is the trade of Richards. While there was some talk that the team was unhappy with his play and demeanor in the locker room, he was still highly regarded throughout the league. And once again, he was only one season removed from captaining the team to the cup finals. With Carter gone, they didn’t seem to need to clear any more salary, so why did they make the move?
The trades did make the team considerably younger, and it’s not like they didn’t receive anything substantial in return. Wayne Simmonds looks like a solid third-line wing, and Jakub Voracek appears to be emerging as a scorer.
In addition, Brayden Schenn, the prospect they received in exchange for Richards, is very highly regarded. But once again, are these players going to help the team as much as Carter and Richards would have in the next few seasons? It is difficult to say that.
There’s the possibility that this is not the last big move the Flyers make this offseason. Will the extra financial flexibility they gained be used to acquire another big name player?
In the meantime, I’ll take a look at the winners and losers from all the moves as they stand now.
Loser: Jeff Carter
He had just signed a 11-year contract extension with the Flyers, and players don’t sign long-term extensions with a team unless they want to stay there. His mistake was that the no-trade clause in his contract didn’t begin until next season. He goes from a cup contender to a franchise that has never even won a playoff game.
Supposedly, Carter was also a big fan of the Philly nightlife. I’m guessing that he won’t find Columbus to be nearly that exciting.
Not only do they get a good player, this move also served to remind people that yes, Columbus, Ohio actually has a major league sports team. With uniforms and everything!
Winner: Mike Richards
While I’m sure it’s a blow to his ego to be shipped out, this move might be the best thing for him. He didn’t have a great relationship with the Philadelphia media, and he might be better served in Los Angeles, where the locals aren’t quite as passionate about hockey.
Winner: Ilya Bryzgalov
He received a huge contract, and seems happy that he’ll have a chance to play on a contender. He may not quite realize the amount of angst that Flyers fans have about the goalie position though. If he flames out in the playoffs, he will probably receive Donovan McNabb levels of scorn from the fans.
Loser: Sergei Bobrovski
It is never a good sign for the team’s “goalie of the future” when the team acquires another goalie and signs him to an expensive contract. If Bobrovski is going to be a starter in the NHL, it certainly doesn’t appear as if it will be with the Flyers.
Winner: Chris Pronger
Some of the negative rumors about Richards involved him being at odds with Pronger, who many outsiders felt was the real leader of the team and should have been the captain. Pronger almost certainly will receive the captainship now, and will be the undisputed leader of the team.
Loser: Fans with Richards or Carter jerseys
Everyone knows that when you buy a player’s jersey, you’re taking a risk that the player might leave the team. But after Richards and Carter signed their long-term deals, their jerseys seemed like a pretty safe bet. Looks like there will be a lot of Flyers fans buying new jerseys this year.
Winner: Flyers merchandise sellers
Winner: Claude Giroux
The team seems to feel that he has superstar potential, and that with Richards and Carter gone, he will have an opportunity to show it. Will he be able to succeed where they did not and lead the team to a championship? We shall see.
Originally published on my blog: Stranger in a Strange Land