Wholesale Overhaul in Philadelphia

In the space of less than one hour, the Philadelphia Flyers completely shook up their roster, trading Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in separate deals.

Carter was sent to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Jakub Voracek along with the eighth and 68th picks in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Shortly thereafter, Richards was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for top prospect Brayden Schenn, talented forward Wayne Simmonds and a 2012 second round pick.

The Carter deal had been rumored for quite some time, with it abundantly clear that the Flyers would need to clear cap space in order to make room for recent trade acquisition Ilya Bryzgalov. Carter has 11 years remaining on a contract that pays him an average of nearly $5.3 million per year, and his solid but unspectacular production (36 goals, 30 assists in 2010-11) made him expendable.

In Voracek, the Flyers get a very talented young forward whose potential wasn’t close to realized with the Blue Jackets. Of course, that holds true for the lion’s share of the team’s draft picks over the years, and it’s a key reason why they’ve participated in only one playoff round through their 10-year existence. Voracek tallied 14 goals and 32 assists in 80 games for the Blue Jackets in 2010-11, production almost identical to his 2009-10 output (16 goals and 34 assists), and it was becoming abundantly clear that a scenery change would probably be needed if he were to realize his immense potential.

It’s somewhat surprising that the Flyers didn’t try to procure Nikita Filatov in the deal, as the supremely talented underachieve – like Voracek – probably has a lot more value anywhere but Columbus. Though he wasn’t included in this particular deal, it will be quite surprising if Filatov is still Blue Jackets’ property when the 2011-12 season begins.

It’s also fair to wonder whether Carter is the right first line center to place alongside marooned star winger Rick Nash. A playmaking center capable of getting the most out of Nash’s goal-scoring ability would have made fine sense, but a goal-scoring center who looks to shoot first isn’t exactly going to help Nash reach his full potential.

Much like the rest of the roster machinations that have taken place in Columbus over the years, this one seems to leave more questions than answers. And by trading three assets for one, the perpetually depleted Blue Jackets have further reduced their margin for error. Unless Carter suddenly transforms into a consistent, selfless player, his albatross of a contract could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for the Blue Jackets where their tenuous relationship with a rightfully disgruntled fan base is concerned.

The Richards deal is a bit harder to evaluate, in that it removes the Flyers’ captain from their lineup and makes it likely that Daniel Briere and Claude Giroux will spend more time at center (unless more moves are forthcoming). Schenn should help immensely in time, but it’s a tremendous amount of pressure to place on a prospect if the Flyers are expecting him to step in and immediately replace Carter’s/Richards’ production for a Cup contender.

That said, Schenn is arguably the finest prospect in all of hockey (including those players available in the 2011 Draft), and over the long haul he projects to offer far more to the Flyers than they ever could have hoped for from Richards. Where Richards is a hard-working grinder who isn’t expected to ever top the 80-point mark, Schenn has the potential to be a consistent 90-100 point forward at the NHL level.

Simmonds should be a solid contributor on the Flyers’ third line, with the potential to possibly move up to the second line at some point. He tallied 30 points (14 goals, 16 assists) in 2010-11, but it’s unlikely that he’ll receive much more ice time in Philadelphia than he did in Los Angeles.

On the Kings’ side of the equation, Richards should provide some much-needed grit and leadership. There’s plenty of talent in Los Angeles, and pairing Richards up with the likes of Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar should give the Kings valuable firepower to help them compete with the likes of Anaheim and San Jose.

However, the price was quite steep, for they’ve taken on the nine remaining years of Richards’ substantial contract ($5.75 million per year) while at the same time giving up Schenn’s terrific potential right at the moment when he’s likely ready to start making a meaningful impact. They appear to have overpaid for Richards, an assertion that will only be proven false if his leadership helps take the Kings to an as-yet-unreached level of team success.

At the end of the day, the Flyers have managed to address their biggest need in goal with the addition of Bryzgalov, while at the same time making their forward corps both younger and cheaper. Trading Carter to make room for Bryzgalov (while adding Voracek and two draft picks) made great sense, and Schenn’s upside far surpasses that of Richards (to say nothing of what Simmonds might bring to the table). They should be able to pick up a terrific player with the eighth overall pick, and they’ve actually got a fair amount of cap space remaining with which to pull off some more deals (either via trade or free agency).

If Schenn can continue his rapid upward trajectory – he was arguably the best player at the 2011 World Junior Championships – then this pair of deals (along with the expected Bryzgalov signing) will enable the Flyers to indefinitely retain their status as legitimate Cup contenders.

Schenn is quite possibly the most talented player to arrive in Philadelphia (as a rookie) since Eric Lindros. If he lives up to his immense potential, this aggressive maneuvering will go down as an unmitigated success for GM Paul Holmgren.

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7 Responses to “Wholesale Overhaul in Philadelphia”

  1. Alfaiyaz Ibrahim
    June 24, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    Umm, I think you’re overvaluing Schenn just a tad. Great prospect, but the consensus is that his ceiling is that of Mike Richards. The Kings now get the real deal w/out the risk. Richards, while a bit over-rated by most, is a proven winner at almost every level. Schenn couldn’t get it done @ the World Juniors, CHL, or AHL levels.

    Richards is a perfect fit for a Kings team that was looking for a winner who can provide strength down the middle to complement Kopitar. They paid a steep price, yes, but it’s at best a wash for Philly if Schenn reaches his ceiling.

  2. Kevin Greenstein
    June 24, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    Schenn’s upside is significantly higher than Richards’. Richards is a solid 70-point forward with an abrasive leadership style. Schenn is a potential top-line center who set a Team Canada point-scoring record and finished the tournament with a badly injured shoulder. Potential of course isn’t always realized, but Schenn is a hard worker and therefore a lower risk to bust. And let’s not dismiss the value Simmonds brings to the table…

  3. Tim
    June 24, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

    Great article, but Kuznetzov was the best player in the WJC, I don’t think there’s much dispute about that.

  4. Jim
    June 24, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

    Gotta agree with Alf on this one……Schenn has somehow morphed from solid second line center prospect into the next Mario or Sid….Maybe it was all that Brian Burke stuff. I’m a Kings fan, and I desperately wanted the hype to be true, but whenever I saw him play, I saw the same things the scouts saw: talented, hardworking, skilled player but without the special offensive skills and instincts of a true number one center……I think he’ll be a fine player, just not a great one.
    Last point: the four players drafted ahead of Schenn have all been NHL regulars for two full seasons….think those guys would look like great prospects if they were still dominating other teenagers ?

  5. Kevin Greenstein
    June 24, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    I’m not sure where you’re concluding that Schenn is “a solid second line center prospect.” Who’s saying that? At this point in time, Schenn is the top prospect in all of hockey, and it’s not just me who’s concluded this, he’s also the top prospect on a lot of other lists (including The Hockey News’).

    Alfaiyaz, Schenn was dominant at the WJC’s, competing against the best under-20 players in the world. He set the Team Canada record for points in that tournament. So let’s not say that he “couldn’t get it done” in the WJC’s. As for Canadian juniors, he consistently scored at a point-per-game pace or better both in the regular season (315 points in 224 games) and playoffs (51 points in 42 games). He got it done there, too. And as for the AHL, he did just fine in necessarily limited duty, scoring 11 points in 12 games.

    No, he hasn’t been dominant at the NHL level yet, but he’s only 19 years old! No need to be irrationally impatient with regard to his development. At this stage, there’s absolutely no reason to believe that he won’t be an excellent NHLer, he’s a high-skill player with heart and character.

    Perhaps more importantly, Schenn doesn’t come with 10 years remaining on a contract that will pay him $5.75 million/year until he’s 36 years old and he doesn’t come with any detrimental baggage. Do you think, based upon the way this went down, that Richards was popular in the Flyers’ locker room?

    And finally, let’s not forget that the Flyers also got Wayne Simmonds (a very good hockey player) in the deal along with another draft pick…

  6. jmiller
    June 25, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    This seems way slanted. I agree Schenn is a great prospect, but to say he is a 90 point guy is a huge stretch, and I mean huge. I understand your excitement, but you have to step back and look at the entire picture, without coming to conclusions about a player that has only 9 games of NHL experience, and 1 world jr. that was lost.
    The only thing that is certain right now, is that Richards is an elite #1 center with a sparkling resume at age 26. Simmonds is a good tough 3rd line wing with a 30-40 point ceiling, and again Schenn will most likely be a very smart 2 way center. With the stars aligned, you are looking at a Richards type player, in 3-4 yrs, but likely you have a decent #2, very good #3 center. He was a #5 pick. How many would pass up a 90 point guy in a draft? Other than a great showing at the WJ, how can you make an assumption like that?

  7. Kevin Greenstein
    June 25, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    Richards is neither an “elite” #1 center nor does he have a sparkling resume. There’s likely some good reasons that he apparently found out about the trade on the Internet. As for Schenn, he is a more highly valued prospect than Richards ever was. That Canada lost the final game of a WJC tournament in which he tied Team Canada’s single-tournament scoring record is hardly a condemnation of Schenn, especially considering the fact that he had an injured shoulder. Schenn’s upside is #1 center. Richards is an overglorified checking line center. As for Simmonds, he’s a solid player whose ceiling will be defined by his role and linemates. On the Flyers, he likely won’t ascend beyond the third line, but there’s no shame in that, is there?