The Philadelphia Flyers had better be pretty sure that Ilya
Bryzgalov is the superstar goalie the franchise has been lacking for 15 years,
because GM Paul Holmgren just gutted the team to carve out enough money to sign
First the Flyers dealt Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue
Jackets for the eighth pick in tomorrow’s draft, 21-year-old right winger Jakub
Voracek and a third-round pick. Then, minutes
dealt captain Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings for uber-prospect Brayden Schenn,
Wayne Simmonds and a second-round pick.
The deal with the Blue Jackets had been rumored since the
Flyers acquired the rights to Bryzgalov as Philadelphia needed to clear enough salary cap space
to accommodate Bryzgalov’s hefty contract demands. Carter, 26, had scored 33+ goals in three
straight seasons but was signed through 2021 at an unmanageable $5.27 million
cap hit. The performance of James Van
Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux in the playoffs made Carter expendable, so the
Flyers pulled the trigger.
The Richards deal, on the other hand, shook the hockey
world. Richards’ relations with the Philadelphia media had
long been tense, but the Flyers' captain was still an integral part of the
team. With enough salary cap space
already free to sign Bryzgalov, the Flyers could have hung onto Richards and
been fine financially. However, Philadelphia was
obviously enticed by the chance to acquire Schenn, considered by many to be the
best prospect in hockey.
In making the deals, the Flyers shed two of hockey’s enormous
contracts – amounting to $110 million in total – in an afternoon and once again
got younger and deeper, but not necessarily better.
Voracek has yet to fully break out, but he’s a good bet to
be a second-line player. Schenn has yet
to play in the NHL, but he could easily become the Flyers’ top center in short
order. Simmonds will also be a nice
addition on the Flyers’ third line.
The trades on their own are significant moves, but their
consequences reach even farther.
Philadelphia now has plenty
of money to sign Bryzgalov and may even be able to retain UFA left winger Ville Leino.
If the actual return for moving Richards and Carter is a
first, second, and third-round pick plus Schenn, Simmonds, Voracek, Bryzgalov
and Leino, then the Flyers come out as clear winners of this deal.
But once again the big question for the Flyers is in
net. If Bryzgalov – already 31-years-old – plays at an All-Star level for the next few seasons, Philadelphia – already set along the blue
line and deep up front – could win a Stanley Cup or two. But if Bryzgalov is anything less than
spectacular, Flyers fans may rue this day when two superstars were traded for