The great purge of Philadelphia has begun.
Well maybe not the great purge, but it was a pretty big trade of two very important players for the Flyers June 23. Flyers’ captain Mike Richards and one-time 40-goal scorer Jeff Carter were both drafted in the first round of the 2003 draft by General Manager Paul Holmgren and were once thought of as the ticket to the Flyers’ bright future. Richards was compared to Flyer great Bobby Clarke, and during his time as captain of the team, he was regarded as the Flyers heart and soul.
The trade came just days before the NHL Entry Draft. Carter was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Columbus’ first-round pick in this year’s draft (eighth overall); Columbus’s third-round pick; and 21-year-old winger Jakub Voracek. Richards was traded to the Los Angeles Kings for prospect center Brayden Schenn; 22-year-old winger Wayne Simmonds; and a second-round pick in next year’s draft.
Voracek already has three years under his belt at the tender age of 21, only missing two games in three full seasons. His highest point total came in his second year when he netted 16 goals and 36 assists. The Flyers were in dire need of a winger; with Voracek, they have plenty of years to work with him if they desire.
Simmonds is a tough winger that doesn’t mind mixing it up and getting into tough areas to make a play. His stock was lowered after this season when he was expected to have a breakout year but didn’t deliver. He’s still very young and has a lot of room to grow, but that’s only a good thing. Schenn has been described as a “diamond in the rough.” He played most of his games in the WHL last year after being drafted in the first round by the Kings. The Flyers brass are very impressed with his potential and think he can compete for a position on the big club this year.
With the pick the Flyers acquired from Columbus, they selected center Sean Couturier, an 18-year-old who played for the Drummondvillie Voltigeurs in the Québec Major Junior Hockey League. Couturier had mononucleosis last summer and missed the majority of the season with the illness. The Flyers were still impressed enough to select him eighth overall. Couturier admitted that he needs to work on his skating, but he is a big man at center, which the Flyers desperately needed.
Over the past few years, the media has questioned Richards’ leadership ability, most notably once the Flyers acquired Chris Pronger. Pronger is known for his ability to lead teams to the next level — he served as captain of the St. Louis Blues from 1997-03 and the Anaheim Ducks from 2007-09, winning the cup with the Ducks in 2007. There were reports of a divided locker room in 2009 with teammates either taking Richards’ or Pronger’s side. In the process, then-coach John Stevens was fired and current coach Peter Laviolette was hired to bring the locker room together. It is rumored that Pronger will take over the captaincy next year but no announcement has officially been made.
The bottom line is the Flyers needed money for goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who they signed to a nine-year $51 million contract a few hours after the trades went through. By doing so, the Flyers have solved their goaltending problems.
Bryzgalov has established himself as one of the top goaltenders in the league and it has surely paid off for him. The Flyers have other problems though; they need to replace the 59 goals they lost by trading Richards and Carter.