Out of nowhere, the Flyers dropped the plunger on their team nucleus over the summer. Philly fans are still coming to terms with it all.
Whenever scribes opined about the possibility of a big Philly trade before the NHL Draft, team management squashed that talk. And then this happened: They Flyers traded center Jeff Carter to the Blue Jackets and center Mike Richards to the Kings.
In return, they received Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and the multiple draft picks for reloading.
The Flyers cleared the salary cap space needed to sign goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million contract. And they dramatically altered their team chemistry that, by all accounts, needed some change.
Schenn could become an offensive star in the NHL. That rangy Voracek is just scratching his potential. Simmonds will be a popular second- or third-line power forward for Philly.
The Blue Jackets get a second proven scorer to help poor Rick Nash, although a playmaking center might have greater value to that team. The Kings get a gritty No. 2 center to support team cornerstone Anze Kopitar.
And the already deep Western Conference got that much tougher for the Blues with the addition of these two stars.
Here is what the experts shortly after the bombs dropped.
Phil Sheridan, Philadelphia Inquirer: “After the Flyers were eliminated in the second round by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, there was talk about taking the ‘C’ off Richards’ sweater. That would have been a pretty clear sign that GM Paul Holmgren and coach Peter Laviolette wanted to change up the chemistry on this team. But this? Dealing both of the joined-at-the-hip, faces-of-the-franchise, signed-for-eternity forwards will utterly remake this hockey team.”
Ken Campbell, The Hockey News: “My, how time flies when you’re underachieving. It wasn’t long ago that the rest of the NHL was looking enviously at the Philadelphia Flyers and their future prospects with young superstars Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in the lineup. That all changed in two fell swoops Thursday when Richards and Carter were dealt away in two separate transactions on the eve of the NHL draft. To say the Flyers executed an extreme makeover one year removed from the Stanley Cup final would be a gross understatement. They lifted the house from its foundation with these moves.”
Mike Brophy, Rogers SportsNet: “All in all, the Flyers get younger and save money on the cap. Will they be as good a team? Well, considering they have been picked to win the Cup by many the past two years and have fallen short, can they be any worse? Assuming veteran defenseman Chris Pronger returns to health after back surgery, and Bryzgalov works out in net, there is no reason to think the Flyers cannot challenge for supremacy in the Eastern Conference."
Greg Wyshynski, Yahoo! Sports: “One of the most dramatic transformations of a dressing room in recent NHL history. Or at least since the Flyers traded for Chris Pronger, which was another bombshell dropped at the NHL Draft. And why did they acquire Pronger? Because of the locker room issues caused by players like Carter and Richards. This is Pronger's team now, as you assume he'll get the captaincy that probably should have been his to begin with. This is now the team of Danny Briere and Claude Giroux.”
Chris Stevenson, Ottawa Sun: “The Flyers aren't a better team now than they were with Richards and Carter. They are younger with Schenn, 19, and Voracek, 21, who likely won't be contributing on the NHL stage for some time and they'll get another good prospect with the eighth pick Friday night. But we have to wait to see what Holmgren does with the rest of his cap space. Only then will the dice stop tumbling.”
Gare Joyce, ESPN.com: “Richards is a great two-way center. Can Schenn match it? That's a bit better than a maybe. True, it's a high bar to set for Schenn to be as good on faceoffs as Richards, who is among the league's best. But Schenn has a great motor -- he won't be outworked. He has a toughness and edge along the lines of his brother Luke, the hard-rock Toronto defenseman. Both of the Schenns have a high hockey IQ. Both are low-maintenance self-starters. When prospects are traded these days, it's usually because there's a perceived hole in their game. Not so with Schenn. There's nothing diminished about his terrific potential.”