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Numbers Game: Flyers send Richards to Los Angeles

Scott Cullen
6/23/2011 11:33:10 PM
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Not content with one blockbuster deal, the Philadelphia Flyers followed up their Jeff Carter trade by swapping their captain to Los Angeles.

Numbers Game breaks down the Mike Richards trade and what the deals could mean to the new-look Flyers.

Kings Get: C Mike Richards.

Richards, 26, was the captain of the Flyers yet came under criticism by season's end not only for his deteriorating relationship with the media (which isn't the end of the world), but also with head coach Peter Laviolette (which is decidedly worse), apparently opening the door for a trade.

Whatever those issues might have been, Richards has scored more than 60 points for four straight seasons and has been a double-digit plus player in three of the last four seasons, so his production hasn't suffered terribly.

When it comes to his on-ice role, Richards is skilled enough to put up points and play the power play, while also providing the grit and defensive responsibility of a penalty-killing checking centre. That versatility makes it easy to use him at any time under any circumstances, so it's no wonder that the Kings (with their Philadelphia pipeline) were interested.

In Los Angeles, Richards should be in a good situation as the number two centre behind Anze Kopitar and while it will provide plenty of ice time and opportunities to score, it remains to be seen who will be available to be his wingers (considering Wayne Simmonds went the other way in this deal and the ongoing rumours of a Ryan Smyth trade) so there is at least some possibility that Richards may not have the same calibre of linemates that he did in Philadelphia, but that can sort itself out over the summer.

Nevertheless, Richards gives the Kings immediate strength down the middle and that's crucial for contenders in the NHL.

Richards has nine years (ending after the 2019-2020 season) and $51.6-million remaining on his deal, yet it comes at a relatively reasonable $5.75-million cap hit. For a centre with Richards' skills that can play 20 minutes a night, and doesn't shortchange on effort, that's good value.

Flyers Get: C Brayden Schenn, RW Wayne Simmonds and a second-round pick.

Schenn, the fifth overall pick in 2009, played eight games with the Kings at the start of last season, scoring two points, before he was ultimately returned to junior.

He also had seven points in seven regular season AHL games, followed by four points in five AHL playoff games but, in junior, Schenn was dominant, scoring 57 points in 29 games and leading the World Junior Hockey Championship with 18 points in seven games for Canada.

So, with his scoring credentials established, the 19-year-old has a good chance to make the jump to the NHL next season and, in Philadelphia, he can do it in a role that doesn't come with that much pressure.

That's not in any way to suggest that the Flyers won't expect production out of Schenn, but with Claude Giroux and Daniel Briere already in the fold, Schenn can play more protected minutes, if need be, and still be productive while not facing the opposition's best defenders night-in and night-out. If he's up to that challenge right away, then great, but the Flyers don't need to force-feed him a major role right out of the gate.

Long-term, Schenn should become a productive scoring centre in the league; maybe not a prolific enough to be a point-per-game guy (there were only eight centres in that club last season), but a quality second-line centre that could be expected to score 65-to-70 points eventually.

Simmonds, 22, took a step back this season after an outstanding sophomore campaign in 2009-2010.

A feisty winger who can skate, Simmonds ought to be popular enough in Philadelphia as a relentless checker who's not afraid to mix it up (a dozen fights over the last two seasons, according to www.hockeyfights.com), but his tenacity can also create chances off the forecheck and he can provide complementary offensive production.

A restricted free agent, Simmonds is due for a raise on the $821,667 he cost the Kings' last season (www.capgeeek.com) but once his new salary is combined with Schenn's cap hit of $3.11, it's not going to present a massive savings on next year's cap for the Flyers. Maybe a million dollars, give or take a few hundred thousand, but the financial burden is dramatically shortened and the Flyers can invest in the potential of these two players, along with the pieces they received in return for Jeff Carter from Columbus to provide a more flexible yet lasting organizational plan.

Essentially, the Flyers have diversified their portfolio, trading a couple of blue-chip stocks while piling up significant assets with growth potential instead.

Prior to these deals, the Flyers had a relatively poor list of top prospects, with no elite talent on the way, but Schenn, Simmonds and Voracek are all under 23 years-of-age and none of them has a contract that is remotely burdensome.

Of course the cash savings on these deals for the Flyers was primarily to get goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov under contract (he has since signed a nine-year, $51-million deal), but the Flyers may also be in a better position to keep unrestricted free agent Ville Leino, something which seemed highly unlikely before these moves were made.

Add in picks in the first second and third rounds and, suddenly, the Flyers not only have the pieces in place to still have a strong group of top nine forwards, but they will also re-stock a prospect shelf that was starting to gather dust.

To call this a day of bold moves for Paul Holmgren doesn't do it justice. While the Flyers' cap situation always made a deal of a high-priced forward possible, no one would have guessed that, within a half hour, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards would be shown the door in Philadelphia.

It speaks to Holmgren's confidence that he could deal players of this calibre -- his team's third and fourth-leading scorers -- in order to gain financial flexibility, yet also get enough of a return in talent that the Flyers most likely will be considered as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference going into next season.

The Kings got more immediate help; the Flyers have set themselves on a different path, but one that has a chance to pay dividends for many years to come.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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