Flyers blockbusters: Trade Jeff Carter to Columbus and Mike Richards to Los Angeles

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Back in 2003 at the NHL Draft, Philadelphia was able to select forwards Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, a pair of guys the Flyers felt they could build around for the future and win the Stanley Cup with. Now, just a day before the 2011 NHL Draft in Minnesota, both of them on their way out of town in separate trades.

Thursday afternoon’s madness began with the Flyers sending Carter to Columbus for restricted free agent forward Jakub Voracek and first and third round picks in the draft. Voracek has been slowly emerging as a power forward force in Columbus and while playing alongside Rick Nash he’s become a better player. Carter has been a perennial 30-40 goal scoring center and now he’ll line up with Nash in Columbus. The Blue Jackets and GM Scott Howson have been talking about making a big splash this summer one way or another and acquiring Carter does just that.

The other stunning deal sees Flyers captain Mike Richards off to Los Angeles in exchange for Wayne Simmonds and highly touted prospect centerman Brayden Schenn. Richards will give L.A. a definitive second line center behind Anze Kopitar and a guy that provides a ton of snarl to the lineup. The Flyers getting Simmonds and Schenn gives them another young center to join Claude Giroux and Daniel Briere in Philadelphia and now an instant chance to make a splash in the NHL after Kings GM Dean Lombardi wouldn’t give him the green light last year.

The Flyers clearing out both Richards and Carter will now clear the way to sign goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to whatever contract he might want now. The rumored deal that Bryzgalov was looking for was a seven-year, $50 million deal with a cap hit of just over $7 million a year. With Carter and Richards both out, the Flyers have moved out 20 years worth of contract commitments to those two worth $102 million. Richards’ deal was a 12-year deal worth $69 million, good for a $5.75 million cap hit while Carter’s was a 11-year $58 million deal with a cap hit of just over $5.2 million.

(Update: Flyers sign Ilya Bryzgalov to nine-year $51 million deal)

With over $10 million gone from the cap, the Flyers now have $51 million committed to next season’s cap and with a salary cap of around $64 million set for next season that’s more than enough space to get Bryzgalov and Voracek signed as well as having flexibility to add elsewhere. It’s an unreal more for Flyers GM Paul Holmgren to free up this kind of cap space and a gutsy one as well as both Carter and Richards were beloved in Philly as well as being their top two centers. Now that role shifts to Giroux to lead the way up the middle.

For the Kings they’ve got their second center in Richards and with a potential trade of Ryan Smyth elsewhere, they’ll have to be a bit more active in the free agent market this summer to help give the team some depth. Giving up Schenn is a move that will keep eyes on the Kings and on Schenn’s progress in his career.