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

Flyers Weekly Observations: Dismal start to critical Western Canada trip

Flyers Weekly Observations: Dismal start to critical Western Canada trip

Another week of Flyers hockey this season is behind us.
 
And it was another week that ended with not many positives to talk about involving the Flyers.
 
There were only two games this week and neither went well. On Wednesday, the Flyers dropped a 3-1 decision to the Flames in Calgary to kick off a crucial Western Canada road trip. Things didn’t get any better the next night in Edmonton, as the Flyers were blown away, 6-3, by the Oilers.
 
Let’s take a look back at what went wrong for the Flyers out in Alberta.
 
• It’s not just that the Flyers dropped the first two games of the road trip this past week. The Western Canada trip is always a tough one, especially for teams from the Eastern Conference that have to make the long trip out there. It’s the manner in which the Flyers lost both games that has to be the most disheartening factor. They were lethargic and you just didn’t see the kind of urgency you should see from a team, that as poor as it has played in recent weeks, is still in the thick of a playoff chase in the jam-packed Eastern Conference. In Calgary, the Flyers actually did come out of the gates hot with a goal by Nick Cousins 1:30 into the game, but it fell apart from there. They had 34 shots in that game, but not many testers on Flames goalie Brian Elliott. The next night in Edmonton, the Flyers were just overwhelmed and steamrolled from the second the puck dropped. It was all Oilers and the Flyers were just standing by. At the end of the day, the Flyers are still alive in this playoff race and you’d like to see the urgency that comes along with that.

• If there was one thing that summed up the Flyers’ lack of apparent urgency this past week, it had to be that ugly five-minute power play that included a two-minute two-man advantage Wednesday night in Calgary. Ugly would actually be quite the compliment. It was downright brutal. First off, the Flyers were handed a gift because Alex Chiasson’s spear on Cousins was not a major penalty. Chiasson shouldn’t be spearing anyone, but that was a love tap compared to some others around the league this season. But the Flyers fumbled that gift away with a power play that was basically a practice drill for the Calgary penalty killers. The Flyers slogged around in the neutral zone or unsuccessfully dumped the puck in or turned it over. It goes back again to urgency. The best power plays feel the urgency to score every time out on the ice. It just wasn’t there Wednesday night with the low-percentage cross-ice passes and inability to track down the puck. The Flames had 11 clears compared to two shots for the Flyers. It was as disappointing as a power play can be. Over the last six games, the Flyers’ power play is just 2 for 19. That is not helping with the scoring woes.
 
• Hopefully this Connor McDavid-Brandon Manning nonsense is now over after Manning answered the bell and fought the much larger Patrick Maroon on Thursday in Edmonton. The whole thing was dumbfounding to begin with. McDavid lost an edge while Manning was defending against him last season when he broke his collarbone. It should have ended right then and there because for someone to even insinuate intent on Manning’s part or anything other than that it was an unfortunate play would be asinine. It continued to be dumbfounding when McDavid stirred the pot during and after December’s meeting between the teams. For it to even reach the point it did Thursday was just stupefying. And Milan Lucic’s low blow on Manning behind the Flyers’ net Thursday was cheap, to say the least. But good for Manning to stand up to Maroon.

• If there was one positive to take from this past week, it had to be the play of Cousins in Calgary on Wednesday. He was all over the ice. He was making plays happen with five shots on net, bringing energy and being a pest. He’s at the top of his game and most effective when he brings that energy and pest behavior. The goal he scored was well-deserved and he should have had another one if not for the great save Elliott made at the end of that long, wretched Flyers power play. If Cousins can play that effective way more consistently, he can be a valuable piece going forward for the Flyers. Most of the good teams in the league have that one player other teams just hate to play against.

• I also like what Cousins had to say in the locker room after the loss Wednesday. “We’ve got to make it harder on them,” he said. “We’ve got to get more traffic. It’s the same excuse here it feels like after every game. We’ve got to score more goals — simple as that.” He didn’t massage his way around anything, He came out and stated bluntly what’s going on right now. The Flyers can talk about playing good hockey and not getting the results. But the results come when you earn them. Can we say that about the Flyers earning results the past few weeks? Against the Sharks last Saturday, sure. But any other games?

• Shame that Jordan Weal was injured in Thursday’s loss to the Oilers. He was doing everything he could to try and provide a spark. He was bringing some of that much-needed energy and, more importantly, trying to make things happen by firing the puck toward the net. He had a team-high six shots on goal Wednesday in Calgary. His combination of speed and skill makes him an intriguing player going forward. The Flyers have to hope he recovers sooner rather than later so they can get an extended look at him with the big club.

• Is the offside challenge working as effectively as it should? It sure looked like the Oilers were offside before the opening goal of Thursday’s contest. But the league still ruled it a good goal. And you may recall the eight-minute delay in the Chicago-Minnesota game a few weeks ago as officials reviewed an offside play before a goal. In essence, offside is a pretty cut-and-dry rule. The play is offside or it isn’t. I’m not crazy to say there shouldn’t be this much grey area on a pretty cut-and-dry rule, right?

Coming up this week: Sunday night at Vancouver (10 p.m./CSN), Wednesday vs. Washington (8 p.m./NBCSN), Saturday’s Stadium Series game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh (8 p.m./NBC10).

Flyers-Canucks 5 things: Claude Giroux’s regression a cause for concern?

Flyers-Canucks 5 things: Claude Giroux’s regression a cause for concern?

Flyers (27-24-7) at Canucks (26-27-6)
10 p.m. on CSN/CSNPhilly.com and NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 9:30

The Flyers’ three-game trip through Western Canada ends tonight in Vancouver against the Canucks, as the orange and black will look to salvage one win on this disastrous road trip.

Vancouver enters the game on the backend of a back-to-back. The Canucks beat Calgary, 2-1, in overtime Saturday at Rogers Arena. The Flyers beat Vancouver, 5-4, in a shootout on Jan. 12.

Let’s take a closer look at game No. 59 for the orange and black.

1. Captain concern
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Since their 10-game winning streak, from Nov. 27 to Dec. 14, the Flyers’ season outlook has undergone a drastic shift toward a higher draft pick.

The Flyers are 8-14-4 in 26 games since the winning streak, and 2-5-1 in their last eight games. They’re 2-10-2 in their last 14 road games, and have lost their last eight games in Western Canada. They remain just two points out of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, but earning a playoff appearance appears to be just a wishful thought.

Not much is going well right now for the Flyers. Neither Michal Neuvirth or Steve Mason has taken grasp of the No. 1 job. Neuvirth has started six of the Flyers’ last seven games and seven of their last nine. Neuvirth will start again tonight.

They can’t score. They’re averaging 1.46 goals in their last 13 games, scoring 19 goals over that span and they’ve been shut out three times. Claude Giroux’s regression continues, as he has just two goals in his past 23 games. Giroux is on pace for 59 points, which would be the fewest he’s had in an 82-game season since 2009-10. (He finished the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season with 48 points in 48 games.)

“For whatever the reason, in the last month, he’s just gone in the wrong direction,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said of Giroux on Saturday. “That’s not just [the] individual. That’s a team item, and we’ve gotta push that in the right direction.”

As the captain has gone, the Flyers have, too.

2. Weal bad luck
Just as when it appears Jordan Weal had finally turned a corner in the NHL — albeit it in a very small sample size — an injury strikes. Weal will miss tonight’s game with an upper-body injury. The Flyers said Saturday the forward will be reevaluated Monday.

Dale Weise draws back into the lineup against Vancouver, and will take Weal’s place on the Flyers’ second line alongside center Sean Couturier and right winger Jake Voracek. Weise checks back in after sitting the last two games and seven of the last 12 as a healthy scratch.

Weal impressed in two games and a period before suffering his injury Thursday in Edmonton. He’s averaged 11:50 of ice time, playing a career-high 15:31 Wednesday in Calgary, a game he had six shots on goal. Through three games, Weal has an 83.0 corsi for percentage, which is remarkably high but an extremely small sample. He was more confident along the boards and with the puck, hungrier than at any point last season with the Flyers.

It was only a matter of time before the 24-year-old was going to pick up his first career NHL point. Now, he’s sidelined at least one game. If it’s not a long-term injury, Weal’s play in the two-plus games should be enough to warrant inserting him back in when he’s healthy.

“He added something every game,” Hakstol said of Weal on Saturday. “Obviously, it was two games and a period, but he’s dynamic. He hadn’t been here [this season], but he had the puck quite a bit. He looked like a player that was confidently on the top of his game, and I didn’t think any of that was lost in the transition from Lehigh to our team.”

3. Mediocre matchup
The Canucks are not exactly a team oozing with confidence, either. With Saturday's OT win over the Flames, the Canucks are now 4-8-0 in their last 12 games. They are four points behind Calgary now for the West's second wild-card spot, and gave up a valuable point to the Flames on Saturday by blowing a 1-0 lead with six seconds left in regulation.

Vancouver sits in the bottom 10 in goals for (2.3, 28th), goals against (2.8, 20th), power play (14.9, 27th) and penalty kill (79.1, 24th). It's a team that doesn't score a ton of goals, but also doesn't give up many, either. It's the epitome of a below-average team from a talent perspective — sound familiar? — that can grind its way to competitiveness.

With how the Flyers have been playing over their last two months and how this current Canucks team competes, it's safe to say tonight's game will be one filled with little scoring, a much different tune than the first matchup.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: There is not a single Flyer worth watching right now. I suggest making one of those origami fortune teller games with a list of Flyers, play it and whoever you get, watch him.

Canucks: Vancouver’s leading scorer is no longer one of the Sedin twins. Instead, it’s 21-year-old Bo Horvat, who has 18 goals and 39 points in 58 games. Horvat, the ninth overall pick in 2013, made his first NHL All-Star Game this season. In the previous meeting with the Flyers, he picked up an assist.

5. This and that
• Lineup change: Andrew MacDonald will be a healthy scratch, along with Nick Schultz. Brandon Manning will move to the left side to the right side, and is expected to play with Ivan Provorov.

• The Flyers’ power play is five for its last 45 dating back 13 games.

• Friendly reminder: Shayne Gostisbehere’s goal drought is now at 31 games.