It’s never uncommon to see teams trade players prior to the NHL Entry Draft, which happens to be tomorrow night. What is rare is for a team, specifically a contending team, to deal not one, but two of its best players. The Philadelphia Flyers traded both Mike Richards and Jeff Carter within an hour, scratching some heads across the hockey world. The New York Rangers and their fans should be loving what’s going on in Philly right now.
Carter and Richards were considered centerpieces to a team that was to contend for the next decade. Carter has 11 years left on his contract that provides a $5.3M cap hit while Richards, the team captain, has 9 years remaining that has a cap hit of $5.75M. So why in the world are both players out of town?
Carter was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for forward Jacob Voracek, the 8th overall pick, and a 3rd round selection. Richards was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings for top prospect Brayden Schenn, gritty forward Wayne Simmonds, and a 2nd round choice. These moves look like they are cap-clearing deals, but the Flyers GM, Paul Holmgren, is denying that.
Both centers gave the Rangers fits during their time with the Flyers. Richards was a big, physical player that can outmuscle defensemen and play well both ways, while Carter had world-class skill with the puck. They were huge reasons why Philadelphia defeated New York four times during the regular season last year. Now, they’ll only have to face them twice a year at the most (because the Rangers aren’t making the Stanley Cup Finals).
With these moves, does that make the Blueshirts a division favorite alongside the Pittsburgh Penguins? Logic dictating a team getting rid of its top two forwards for players with potential down the road may eliminate the Flyers from a tough division title, but I’m sure they’ll get a taste of the playoffs once more. The Rangers are on the road back and played well despite playing almost every rookie in their system. Richards being gone gives Brandon Dubinsky one less person to bark at, resulting in a penalty because he has a gripe with an opposing player.
Now, what the Flyers are getting back are two very skillful players and a grinder that will drive people nuts. Schenn is the younger brother of Luke Schenn (Toronto), but plays forward. His playmaking ability will eventually make him a force for years to come. Voracek has underachieved during his time in the NHL, but like former Ranger and current Flyer Nikolai Zherdev, has all the potential in the world. It’s not if these guys will develop into stars, but when. Simmonds isn’t an offensive threat, but he scores big goals, plays physical, and brings a positive energy to the bench. I’m not so sure Philly lost that deal with LA.
For the other teams involved, the Kings and Jackets get quality players, both 26 years old, but if they fall off talent-wise, they are locked in for a long time. With Los Angeles getting Richards and his big contract, does that leave enough room to sign defenseman Drew Doughty to a long-term deal? Does Columbus make the playoffs for only the second time because they now have a star alongside Rick Nash?
That’s what’s so great about hockey, especially during the offseason. There are always trades like this right before the draft and the July 1st free agency period, so there’s going to be something going on, even if no games are played. The deals create a domino effect that pulls in almost every team and they’ll be plenty of trades during the draft as well. There’s no doubt the Rangers benefit from these two trades, but will they find a way to avoid disappointing their fans yet again?