Philadelphia Flyers' Richards celebrates his game-winning goal against Ottawa Senators with teammate Carter during their NHL hockey game in Philadelphia

Kings and Blue Jackets excited about their blockbuster trades with Flyers

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Former Flyers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were both shocked by the trades this afternoon. Richards said he first heard of his trade on the internet, while Carter’s agent explained that the Philadelphia organization repeatedly assured him his client would not be moved. Whether or not the star centers were prepared for change, one thing that’s for sure is their both of their new teams are ecstatic with their newest acquisitions.

Both of the teams that made trades with the Flyers on Thursday were singing the praises of their acquisitions.  Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson knew it was important for the Blue Jackets organization to make a splash this offseason. He said, “Anytime a franchise acquires a player of this status it energizes the franchise.” He continued by talking about how the trade could make the team more attractive for not only the fans in the market, but also for any potential free agents they would be interested in.

“I think the time has come for us to do something like this to try and bring an immediate impact on our team. I don’t take trading away a Jake Voracek, a 21-year-old player who’s got tremendous upside, or the eighth overall pick, lightly. But our fans have been very patient. It’s been 10 years now and we just had to do something that’s going to make us better right now.”

(snip)

“I think (the trade) shows people we made a statement. We’re trying to get better now and hopefully they’ll see us as a more attractive destination because we haven’t done enough winning in Columbus to let that sell itself.”

In Jeff Carter, Columbus may have finally found the center they’ve been looking to pair with Rick Nash. Ever since Nash was drafted first overall in 2002, the Blue Jackets have desperately needed a talented center on their #1 line. Carter has already racked up 181 goals and 162 assists over the course of his six-year career. The 26-year-old is actually younger than his new linemate as well. With both players locked into long-term deals, the Blue Jackets look like they’ll have some firepower for foreseeable future.

A mere 2,000 miles away, the Los Angeles Kings were celebrating their own acquisition via Philadelphia. GM Dean Lombardi has made no secret that he’s respected Mike Richards ever since his days as an assistant GM with the Flyers. Four weeks ago he learned that it may be possible to bring Richards to LA, but he admitted that only in the last two days did the deal really come together.

He explained on a conference call his excitement for Richards as well as helping fill a void on the Kings roster:

“I think it’s fair to say that when I found out this player was available, there was no doubt in my mind — given what I know about his character and his competitiveness — and the thought of having him and Kopitar down the middle, that allows us, I think, essentially, to match up to any team in the Western Conference. I think that was a big hole. So I think we’ve cleaned that up today.”

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren acknowledged that informing Richards and Carter of the trades was a “tough (call) for me to make and tough for them to receive.” For his part, Richards was saying the right things to the media in a conference call this afternoon. Even though he was shocked by the news of his trade, he expressed the positive things he’s heard about his new team:

“I was fortunate enough to go to L.A. where I’ve heard nothing but tremendous things about the city and how nice it is out there and how great the organization treats you. When I signed that extension I wanted to stay in Philadelphia for the rest of my career. That’s what I envisioned, up until probably about 2:00 or 3:00 this afternoon when I got the call.

“You don’t understand it’s a business until you’re traded. But it is. It’s the worst part about it.”

Much has been made about the Flyers and their excitement for Ilya Bryzgalov and their ability to jump into the 1st round of Friday’s draft. But in the midst of their transformation, they made two Western Conference teams better in the short-term. The Blue Jackets immediately have one of the most dynamic top-line pairings in the entire league; the Kings filled the biggest need on their roster with one of the most respected professionals in the game.

Hopefully they’re happy with their moves, because it certainly sounds like the Blue Jackets and Kings are happy with theirs.

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

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There’s nothing better than a Game 7, especially when a spot in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle in a do-or-die game for the right to play the San Jose Sharks with Lord Stanley on the line. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for this one:

Penguins, Lightning prepare for ‘roller coaster’ Game 7

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

Video: Brouwer was big for Blues

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Troy Brouwer made quite an impression in his first year with the St. Louis Blues. After being acquired from the Capitals for T.J. Oshie, the 30-year-old scored 18 goals and 39 points in 82 games during the 2015-16 season. His eight goals and 13 points during the playoffs weren’t too shabby either.

Brouwer took on more of a signficant role in the postseason. His points-per-game increased, his ice time increased and he was more productive on the man-advantage (3 goals in 20 games). While the Blues were fighting for their playoff lives in Games 4 and 5 of the Western Conference Final, Brouwer contributed three goals.

Now, the Blues will have to find a way to keep him around. His playoff success likely means that he’ll be expecting a substantial raise between now and the end of the league year on July 1st. Brouwer is set to become an unrestricted free agent on that day.

Brouwer came with a cap hit of $3.66 million and it wouldn’t be surprising to see that number climb higher, especially if he hits the open market.

The Blues also need to work out deals with other pending free agents like captain David Backes and Jaden Schwartz (RFA). There isn’t a ton of money left under the cap in St. Louis, which means that GM Doug Armstrong will have to get creative this summer.

One of the things Armstrong and head coach Ken Hitchcock liked about Brouwer was the way he seemed to fit in right away.

“He was on the team for a month,” Hitchcock explained earlier this week, per the Vancouver Sun. “I think my meetings were a little bit too long.  He told me it would be best if I kept them a little briefer.  So I knew he had a bite on the team right away. It didn’t take him long to get comfortable with us, which is great.”  

How much will comfort count for in the off-season negotiations between club and player? We’ll find out soon enough.

PHT Morning Skate: Jim Craig doesn’t regret selling ‘Miracle on Ice’ memorabilia

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

–These parents named their baby girl after Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov. (ABC News)

–The  hockey card that helped inspire a Tragically Hip song. (Puck Junk)

–The fan who promised to get a tattoo of Gary Bettman if LA and Chicago were eliminated in the first round kept his word. (Bardown)

–Watch the highlights from last night’s game between the Sharks and Blues. (Top)

–Jim Craig doesn’t regret auctioning off most of his “Miracle on Ice” memorabilia. (Yahoo)

–A Q & A with former Quebec Nordiques forward Peter Stastny. (ESPN)

–Former Flyers coach Craig Berube breaks down Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. (NHL)

Hitch: ‘I see the devastation in our locker room’

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Despite a late comeback attempt, the 2015-16 season came to an end for the St. Louis Blues, as they lost the Western Conference Final in six games to the San Jose Sharks.

And with Wednesday’s loss, the off-season will settle upon the Blues. It will be an intriguing one in St. Louis, starting with their head coach Ken Hitchcock. He’s on a one-year deal and he has already outlined that he’s fine with taking short-term contracts. But is an appearance in the conference final enough to solidify his place behind the St. Louis bench for next year?

The Blues have, according to General Fanager, five pending unrestricted free agent forwards, including Scottie Upshall, Kyle Brodziak, Steve Ott, and most notably Troy Brouwer and David Backes.

Backes, 32, is the team’s captain and coming off a 21-goal, 45-point regular season, which is a decline from the numbers — 26 goals and 58 points — he posted the year before. Brouwer, 30, enjoyed the best post-season of his career, with eight goals and 13 points in 20 games, and he could potentially cash in on that this summer.

However, while there are questions ahead for the Blues, the emotional toll this loss took was clear.

“I see the devastation in our locker room right now. Guys aren’t even able to speak. I’m more worried about our guys right now, to be honest with you. We got some guys that are pretty shook up right now,” said Hitchcock to reporters.

“I’m not going to talk to them for a day or two. They need their space with each other. They’ve bonded together here better than any team I’ve coached in the last 10 years. They need their time together. They don’t need me interrupting them right now. We’ll talk at an appropriate time. But right now they need to be with each other.”