Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.
The Flyers finally have their bona-fide starter. They have some size and grit. They have wingers. They have cap space, and draft picks, and prospects. As Dick Enberg is fond of saying…Oh my!
They got all of the assets that we perceived to be lacking in the franchise and for the low, low price of the captain and one of the alternates. The cost is nothing more than a top-tier, team-leading scorer and a heart-and-soul, leave-it-all-on-the-ice leader. Really, it’s a mere pittance.
First-line centers. Cornerstones. Franchise players. That’s it.
Anyone who has enough clarity to see the true value of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards knows that every team tries to acquire players like these but they rarely get moved because these are the types of players who help you win championships. To see both of them moved on the same day is nothing shy of a true shock.
Within the course of an hour, the identity of the post-lockout Flyers was erased. Paul Holmgren took the pieces he had and exchanged them for the pieces the team lacked. He moved Carter, Richards, and two draft picks for Bryzgalov, Schenn, Simmonds, Voracek, the 8th overall pick, a 3rd round pick, and a 2nd round pick in 2012. What they lost in the quality of those two players, they certainly made up for in quantity.
The old trade maxim goes that the team that gets the best player wins. So, it’s natural to think that the Flyers lost the Richards and Carter trades. By far, they were the best players moved yesterday. However, the Flyers do have one distinct, albeit unfamiliar, advantage: cap space.
After Holmgren locks up the notable restricted free agents (Voracek, Simmonds, Nodl, Powe), the team should have nearly $9 million in cap space available for two forwards and a defender. If he swapped (via trade, waivers, etc.) Sergei Bobrovsky with Brian Boucher and Jody Shelley with Tom Sestito, that number could reach over $10 million.
How is that possible? Well, Brayden Schenn has a total of 9 NHL games and 7 AHL games under his belt. I think it would be a mistake to assume he would simply be handed a spot on the roster.
Keeping Schenn in the AHL allows him to develop at his own pace while opening up a spot at center that could be filled by notable unrestricted free agent Brad Richards. Richards, who is nearly a point-per-game players is reportedly seeking a deal in the neighborhood of eight years and $50-55 million. The cap hit for such a deal would range from $6.25 million to $6.875 million, which would still leave about $3 million to round out the roster.
Doesn’t that just smack of a typical Holmgren contract?
I’d like to think that I’m being reasonable by assuming the Flyers could lure Richards to Philadelphia and not just playing armchair GM (I mean, they really wouldn’t have to fabricate a new uniform).
The front office has decided to bank on another cycle of their “win now” mode, and the aggressive moves made to acquire and sign Ilya Bryzgalov only reinforce that. To trade away Richards and Carter for players who have yet to establish themselves makes no sense in isolation. It’s only once you start looking at the whole picture and add a player like Brad Richards to it that everything starts coming together.
During the playoffs, I began writing a story about the passing of the torch from Richards and Carter to Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk. Although I never completed the piece, these trades turn that idea into a reality. On offense, this team now belongs to the next generation of players, lead by Giroux and JVR.
Giroux took his game to the next level this past season after a stellar performance in the ’10 playoffs. Van Riemsdyk had a similar run in this last postseason and appears to have turned a corner in his career. He’s become more consistent and focused. His work ethic and drive are much more apparent as well.
The downside of this is that there will be more pressure heaped upon Giroux and van Riemsdyk to perform, as they’ll be expected to be marquee players and no longer hidden behind the shadows of Richards and Carter. My hope is that this does not setback their development at all.