From a stand-alone perspective, trading Jeff Carter to Columbus is not a bad trade for the Philadelphia Flyers. Everything that happened afterwards is chaotic, as Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren laid his team’s foundation and future through 2012 on a roulette table.
Where the Jeff Carter trade baffles me is that it meant more than a long contract for salary cap relief, a young roster player (Jakub Voracek) and a couple of picks, one of them #8 in a pretty decent draft. Philadelphia used all the long-term money they save on a piece that they may not have needed. An oft-repeated cliché is that the Flyers were just a goalie away from the Stanley Cup. They haven’t won one since Bernie Parent.
(By the way, in the above link, forgive me for typing that the Flyers only moveable contracts do not include Jeff Carter or Mike Richards.)
The Philadelphia Flyers, however, were just as close to a Stanley Cup as they ever were with Pelle Lindbergh or Ron Hextall as they were with Michael Leighton in net. This is a real good Philadelphia team, a good mix of talent at forward. The only truly pressing need the Flyers had was that they had one too many overpaid defensemen, plus a few long contracts that may become an issue in the year 2020. Nothing Paul Holmgren did took away from that. He reshuffled the forward corps and, for my money, potentially made them as deep two or three years down the line as they are today. That is hardly worth the risk.
The Flyers traded away 59 goals from last season in Carter and Mike Richards for 28 in Voracek and Wayne Simmonds (who still need to be re-signed as restricted free agents). They got Brayden Schenn (who scored eight goals in seven games at the World Juniors, but did it shooting 30.8%) I’m not sure where Paul Holmgren made the deduction that, when you’re good enough to win now, it’s best to re-tool and think about the team’s future. The Richards and Carter deals are long and expensive, but, being good enough to win now, you eat the poor value from future contracts and bite the bullet for another shot at the Stanley Cup. This is the point of the front-loaded deal, since it also makes the contract easier to unload to a team with more cap space than available funds.
As bad as the Ilya Bryzgalov contract looks now, at least it wasn’t an over-35 deal (hint: Chris Pronger) so if Bryz hangs them up, it doesn’t count against the salary cap. At an annual cap hit of $5.7M, Bryzgalov’s value (dollars per win) is placed somewhere between Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas, above Cam Ward and Marc-André Fleury, but far below that of Sergei Bobrovsky or Brian Boucher.
While Philly’s defensemen and goaltending is set for the present, while Holmgren tooled his forwards to be more in line with the future. He’s taking a big gamble that Claude Giroux, James Van Riemsdyk, Voracek and Schenn to emulate the production that Richards and Carter netted him. Most of all, the gamble came for an unchivalrous reason, which was overreacting to the media-and-fan-generated narrative that the Flyers needed a goaltender. This was a real good hockey team in Philadelphia. It still might be, if they can get all these players signed.