Flyers trade Carter & Richards in 'tough' decision

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Flyers trade Carter & Richards in 'tough' decision

Thursday, June 23, 2011
Posted: 2:26 p.m. Updated: 10:29 p.m.
By Tim Panaccio and Sarah Baicker
CSNPhilly.com

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- Paul Holmgren choked up. Not once. Not twice. But three times.

The man who scouted the Flyers two, young franchise faces Mike Richards and Jeff Carter -- then signed them to what amounted to lifetime deals, had done the unthinkable.

Within a one-hour span, Holmgren shocked the city of Philadelphia, and the NHL on the eve of the leagues draft, by trading both players, who were 2003 first-round draft picks.

It was extremely tough, Holmgren said, swallowing hard. Those were two, hard phone calls to makeI think the world of both of them.

Carter, the pure 40-goal scorer long rumored to be headed to Columbus, was dealt to the Blue Jackets for intriguing right wing Jakub Voracek, 21, plus a first- and third-round pick in this years draft, which begins Friday. The first-round pick is eighth overall.

Thirty minutes later, Richards, the heart and soul captain of the Flyers who once drew comparison to Bob Clarke, was sent to Los Angeles for diamond in the rough prospect Brayden Schenn, 19, tough winger Wayne Simmonds, 22, and a second-round pick in next years draft.

Both Jeff and Mike have been good players in our organization for the last six years and theyre both good kids, Holmgren said.

They played very well for usThey were extremely upset. Its a callIt was tough for me to make and tough for them to receive. Youre around this business long enough to know its a business.

As soon as they were dealt, the Flyers, who began the week with less than 450,000 in cap space, then had 13 million in space and signed goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, 51 million contract.

Just like that, the Flyers have 7.5 million in space, according to CapGeek.com, for next years 64.3 million salary cap, which was also announced on Thursday. This should make re-signing Ville Leino a bit easier now.

Holmgren admitted he had to move significant salary to sign Bryzgalov.

We spent a lot of time talking internally since the end of the season, he said. When you make a commitment to go out and acquire a goalie that you view as an upper-echelon goalie, you know youre going to have to pay him.

So I think things at least internally here, what can we do to make this work financially, cap-wisewe started talking about some things, and some of the phone calls we received inquiring about what are you going to do if you do reach an agreement with Ilya, and things went on from that.

Carter's agent, Rick Curran, told the Associated Press that he was stunned by the news that his client had been traded, saying that had been told repeatedly by Flyers officials that organization was not discussing a Carter-to-Columbus deal.

Since becoming general manager in 2006, Holmgren has not been afraid to make bold moves. These two moves rank among the boldest ever, given Richards and Carter were established players.

Are the Flyers a better team? Thats hard to answer. They most certainly are a different team. Younger and bigger on the wings, much like the reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

We kinda changed the direction of our organization with these two moves, Holmgren said. Today, I like our team, but were just a different team.

Simmonds is 6-foot-2, 189 pounds. Voracek is 6-2, 213.

I said a lot during the year that we needed to get a little bigger up front, especially, on the wings, Holmgren said. With the addition of addition of Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds, I think we got two guys who can play in our top nine forward mix that are bigger guys.

Brayden Schenn is a little bit of a diamond in the rough. He is probably the best, young player outside the NHL who is not playing regularly. Do we take a step back with him? I dont know. Hes a tremendous young player.

And the Flyers gave up two, young players, one of whom Richards most felt would never be traded. You dont often trade your captain in hockey.

Club chairman Ed Snider had to approve the deals, too, Holmgren said.

Im sad to see some friends leave, but Im excited for the future, Danny Briere said in a text.

Holmgren denied Richards scraps with the media played any role in the decision to move him.

We think the world of both of these young men, Holmgren said, adding that his conversation with Richards became very emotional.

One source said that the club sat down with Richards weeks ago and talked about a lot of things. Holmgren has said many times that Richards was a tough guy to get to open up.

The Flyers seemed pleased with Richards responses, but the impression remained that there was a wall there that was never going to be hurdled, but could be tolerated if need be.

At the same time, you can make a strong case that Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi needed to make a bold move to get a proven player who can lead younger players to get his Kings over the hump in the postseason. Richards provides that.

The same argument applies in Columbus, where GM Scott Howson needed a more rounded, proven scorer who plays both ends to help Rick Nash and the Blue Jackets.

Coach Peter Laviolette said he was feeling all kind of emotions when told of the trades.

The day you trade Mike and Jeff and where they have been the focus point for a few years now, it stuns everyone a bit, Laviolette said. You look at it both ways: the part that is stunning and the pieces that comes back. Two different emotions here.

Its a big change. Mike and Jeff were elite players in this league for three, four, five years. When you make a change like this, it is always difficult.

Its hard to talk about what is coming in because you compare this and you shift. That is not the case here. They were good players and remain good players. The Flyers? Its a good team but its a different team now.

Its a team that is losing a 70-point guy in Richards and a 40-goal guy in Carter. Obviously, the Flyers expect that Claude Giroux, who was the clubs best pivot with a team-high 51 assists and 76 points last season, is expected to grow in his game, as will James van Riemsdyk, who grew leaps and bounds with 21 goals.

Claude has sorta emerged over the last couple of years, Holmgren said. He was tremendous last year. And James? I cant say enough about how James played in the playoffs. We hope that ascension to becoming an even better player continues.

Holmgren said it was a huge day for the organization and it changes a lot of things.

Well see, he said. I like our team right now. Different, but I like the makeup. I liked it before but this is a change for us. A lot of things could happen between now and the start of training camp and well see where that leads.

E-mail Tim Panaccio at tpanotch@comcast.net. Follow him on Twitter at @TPanotchCSN.

E-mail Sarah Baicker at sbaicker@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow her on Twitter @SBaickerCSN.

Related: Flyers sign Bryzgalov to 9-year, 51 million deal A look at the three players acquired by the Flyers

Wayne Gretzky defends Connor McDavid's outburst over Brandon Manning

Wayne Gretzky defends Connor McDavid's outburst over Brandon Manning

PALM BEACH, Fla. — As the primary target of opponents over his Hall of Fame career, Wayne Gretzky can certainly empathize with the frustration of Oilers star Connor McDavid.

McDavid and Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning jostled all evening long in a 6-5 Edmonton loss. McDavid denounced the tactics of his opponent after the game, claiming Manning intentionally injured him last season; McDavid missed 37 games with a broken collarbone.

"I guess we can put the whole 'if he did it' thing to rest because what he said out there kind of confirmed that," said McDavid, who taunted Manning after scoring the second goal in the Oilers' loss.

"I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here, knows that I am not that kind of player," Manning said, according to a statement released by the Flyers. "I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I'm a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that."

Gretzky didn't mind seeing that fire in McDavid, saying competitiveness is part of what makes the great ones great. And he said the targeting comes with the territory of being a superstar. It was something he and Mario Lemieux dealt with, too.

"And Connor, he's going to get tested every night, but this is not new for him," Gretzky said Friday at the NHL board of governors meetings. "He's been tested since he was a kid and then playing junior hockey and now in the NHL and he's always responded and done his part."

Michael Raffl's power moves impressing Flyers, adding another element to top line

Michael Raffl's power moves impressing Flyers, adding another element to top line

He did it last Sunday in Nashville.

And he did it again Thursday night against Edmonton.

Michael Raffl displayed power and speed to send the Flyers to their seventh straight victory and longest winning streak since 2011 Thursday with a 6-5 win over the Oilers.

"Raf has this stutter step that's undercover speedy," goalie Steve Mason said. "He used it in Nashville to get a big goal and then here tonight.

"It looks like he's going to stop fully up, but he finds another gear and he really adds another element to that line that brings physical play.

"He has that sneaky talent, too, that can make you pay."

Raffl received a bank pass off the wall from Jakub Voracek, stutter stepped and then blew by Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom, protecting the puck along the way before flipping it over goalie Jonas Gustavsson for the game-winning marker with 1:29 left in the game.

It was his sixth goal of the season and his second game-winner in three games.

"Jakey has been hard on me for three years now," Raffl said, referring to Voracek's pass, "and it's actually the first time it worked out.

"He wants me to make that play all the time. He's been hard on me. I threw a little fake in there, got around their D-man and chipped it up high."

Voracek, who tied a career high with four points (one goal, three assists) said after the game his pass was not as perfect as it appeared on tape, as it didn't hit Raffl in stride.

"I think we should use it a little bit more to be honest," Voracek said, "because if their D wants to have a gap on that, you know you put it off the boards, it's tough to handle for the defenseman. [Raffl] had to slow down a little bit, so next time I've got to put it better."

Juggling his lines in an attempt to find chemistry, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol moved Raffl up from the third line to the top line with Voracek and captain Claude Giroux on Nov. 27. Coincidentally, that was the start of this seven-game winning streak.

On Thursday night, Raffl showcased the reasoning behind the move to the top line, a spot he's familiar with, having played with Giroux and Voracek in seasons' past.

"He's good from coming off either way as he enters the zone," Hakstol said. "He's got the ability to take it to the net. 

"Obviously at a critical time of the hockey game. But, that's Raffl when he's at his best. He's a power forward that can do those type of things offensively."

In his fourth season with the Flyers, the 28-year-old doesn't possess jaw-dropping skill. He's better suited for a third-line role, but drives play at 5-on-5 and is strong on the puck to move up into the top six. His style complements Giroux and Voracek's game well.

"[Raffl] complains a lot on the bench," Giroux quipped. "Nah, he was fired up there in the third. He is so strong on the puck. That's a big goal for us. He's been playing some great hockey right now for us. I think me and Jake are lucky to play with him right now."

"He does every little thing right," Voracek said. "He wins the battles. He wins so many puck battles in the corners and on the boards and gives me and G a lot of space to work with. He knows what to do to have success with us and he's been doing that."

Against the Oilers, Raffl was one of two European free agents the Flyers found to contribute to their win, with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare slowing down Connor McDavid.

It's been an avenue the Flyers have found some success in recent years. Raffl was a Paul Holmgren signing, while general manager Ron Hextall plucked Bellemare from the SHL.

"Since we signed him, I think he surprised everyone," Voracek said of Raffl. "He's got a lot of talent. He's a strong guy on the puck. He's skating well. He's got a great shot.

"I think he's one of the good players."

The Flyers described Raffl as a sneaky talent, someone who may not demand the respect from defensemen but has the ability to surprise and make them pay for playing lax against him.

But it's really simpler than that, according to Raffl.

"Just puck possession," he said. "Just focus on being the first on forecheck, digging out pucks. It's not a fun job to do, but somebody has to do it.

"They're two great players with the puck, I try to dig it out and get it to them and get in an open area and they'll find me eventually."

And they found him Thursday night when it mattered most.