When the Flyers visit The Rock for the Devils home opener this year, the team will have a very different look. The Flyers made some bold moves this afternoon, trading captain Mike Richards and leading goal scorer Jeff Carter, shocking their team and fan base to the core. What does this mean for the Devils when it comes to their Atlantic Division rival? Continue reading for more.
The trades and aftermath shake down like this:
Kings Get: Mike Richards and Rob Bordson
Flyers Get: Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, 2012 2nd Round Pick
Blue Jackets Get: Jeff Carter
Flyers Get: Jakob Voracek, 2011 1st Round Pick (8th Overall), 2011 3rd Round Pick (68th Overall)
As I said before, Richards was the Flyers captain and Carter was their leading goal scorer. They also had the 3rd and 4th higheset contracts on the team after Kimmo Timonen and Daniel Briere. The Flyers ended up clearing out $11 Million in cap space by unloading Richards and Carter. They then proceeded to sign Ilya Bryzgalov to a 9 year, $51 Million deal that comes out to a $5.6 Million cap hit. Unloading Carter and Richards got the Flyers the goalie they wanted and desperately needed. While Bryzgalov doesn’t have the same name recognition as Brodeur,
umm Luong0, or Thomas, he has put up great numbers in 3 of his 4 seasons in Phoenix and could be the long term goaltending addition the Flyers have seemingly spent years telling people they could win without. The Flyers are not, however, out of the woods yet.
The Flyers only have $7 Million in cap space left to sign a number of players. They have 9 forwards and 6 defensemen signed, and 3 goalies. Newly acquired Jakob Voracek and Wayne Simmonds are both RFAs. Ville Leino and Nikolai Zherdev, both UFAs, could be on their way out. Zherdev most likely is out, but I think losing Leino, a heart and soul type player, could hurt the Flyers. Also unrestricted are defensemen Nick Boynton and Sean O’Donnell. I imagine they’re both gone as well. Rounding out their RFAs are Dan Carcillo, Andreas Nodl, and Darroll Powe. Hard to tell where the Flyers will go with any of those guys, but I’m sure it will mostly come down to money.
One way the Flyers can save some money is by trading Kris Versteeg. He seemed lost when he came to the team last year, and I can’t imagine them wanting to keep his $3.1 Million deal. Also, if Brayden Schenn is deemed to be not ready, his $3.1 Million can head to the AHL. However, with the statement made by trading Carter and Richards, it would appear they are ready for Schenn right now. Furthermore, this team is now firmly in the hands of Claude Girioux and James Van Riemsdyk. One of those two, Giroux probably, will be the next captain. It could be Pronger, but he’s getting older and this team is getting younger. It might be best to turn the team over to the dynamic Giroux, and let him develop as a leader as the team grows around him.
The Flyers also jump into the top 10 tomorrow night for the draft where they can most likely address the need for another defenseman. The Flyers are pretty deep however, and they’ll probably just go with the best available player in the eighth spot. One thing’s for sure: the Flyers are going to be very good for at least the next three to five years and probably longer. So what does that mean for the Devils?
First, it means that the Devils, whose core is very strong, is going to have very tough competition in the Atlantic for quite some time. If you had asked me this morning how the Devils stacked up, I’d have told you that I thought the Devils were best set up over all other teams in their division. They have one of the top 5 goalies in the league. They have two of the top ten forwards in the league. They have a fantastic management team. All they need is some defense, and that should be coming soon. Jon Merrill’s on his way up. Matt Taormina and Alex Urbom could end up as a good 2nd pairing. And if somehow the hockey gods let Adam Larsson drop to number four tomorrow night, we’re gonna be jumping for joy, as he absolutely represents the player the Devils most need. Couturier or Huberdeau would be nice additions, but Larsson would be a huge get for the Devils. The Rangers and Islanders have their prospects, but let’s face it, they’ve never been great at building from within, so it wouldn’t be shocking if they continued their run of mediocrity. Pittsburgh is still very good, but they obviously have their issues. They learned very quickly, as we did, that you can’t replace your top line offensive defenseman with Paul Martin. They draft 23rd tomorrow night so I can’t see them solving their problems via the draft.
Second, it means that the Devils are going to have to keep reloading if they don’t want to drop a ton of points to the Flyers every year. Goaltending is no longer and issue, scoring is going to be there, and the defense is strong. The Devils will be in the exact same position until at least Marty retires. At that point, the Devils need to have a solid solution as to who will replace him. And they need look no further than the Flyers to see what a lack of goaltending can do to you. For 15 years, you could argue that the major difference between the Devils and Flyers has been Brodeur. In the time the Flyers have been looking for a goalie, the Devils have won three Cups, been to a conference final, and lost one final. All this while the Flyers coaches and GMs that have come and gone have said goaltending is not an issue, as if to say it’s overrated. The Flyers have lost in the final twice, and twice been eliminated by the Devils in the conference final. To make matters worse, they’ve played each other in the playoffs four times since 1995. The two times the Devils won, they won the Cup, whereas, when the Flyers won, their season ended without hockey’s holy grail.
Ultimately, the Devils suddenly went from the drivers seat to splitting driving duties with the Flyers for the foreseeable future. Tomorrow night will tell us a ton more about where both teams are going. But one thing’s for sure, the Devils/Flyers rivalry is not going to simmer down for quite some time.