a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Thursday, 23 June 2011

06/23/11 43.0 Wheeling and Dealing: Philadelphia's Big Day

Mike Richards

Christmas came early for hockey fans. Paul Holmgren (aka Santa) made an enormous splash today, dealing both Jeff Carter and former captain Mike Richards in separate deals and also signing Ilya Bryzgalov to a 9 year contract. When you move the best player in any deal, you tend to lose that deal. The Flyers will be hard pressed to win all these. Here's what they may mean:

Jeff Carter to Columbus

The Blue Jackets have needed a number one center for some time, and many believe that they have him now in Jeff Carter. Certainly Scott Howson believes that he finally has his man to play with Rick Nash. However, this deal may end up being a failure for Columbus and if it is it could ultimately cost Howson his job.

The problem is that Nash's skills are somewhat duplicated by Carter. Carter has 181 goals and 162 assists in 461 NHL games, while Nash has collected 259 goals and 229 assists in 592 games. Both are better goal scorers than set-up men. That means that the left winger on that line is going to have to feed these two goal scorers, and that position hasn't been addressed. Carter isn't known as a premier playmaker, so the man who is going to feed Nash the puck probably hasn't been found yet.

From Philadelphia's end of things, Voracek gives them some cheaper help on the right wing, but he figures to be a second liner in the long term. The big question will be whether or not Paul Holmgren intends to use the 8th overall pick, move up or down, or trade it for more immediate help. Even with these trades for youthful players, Holmgren still figures to be in win-now-mode. If Holmgren feels that he can get a player who can help his team soon he'll probably use the pick. Otherwise, don't be surprised if he moves it.

From an Oilers' perspective, it would be easier for Edmonton to trade a winger to Philadelphia than it would be to trade one to Columbus for the 8th pick, so if Tambellini is serious about moving up that pick could still be a target. The Flyers will have Voracek at right wing, but not a true number-one offensive threat at that position. The Oilers have one that might be available for the right price.

Mike Richards to LA

This deal doesn't make a whole lot of sense from Philadelphia's point of view. The hope will obviously be that Schenn becomes at least as good of a player as Richards is now, but Schenn is unproven and has played only 9 games in the NHL. He's certainly a solid prospect, but if the deal was simply Schenn for Richards then the Kings would have won at this point. Because of that, Wayne Simmonds and a second round pick were added by LA to sweeten the deal. There must have been more going on behind the scenes with this trade, because one would think that Philly could have acquired Simmonds and a second rounder without involving Richards if they had wanted to. Philadelphia might feel that Schenn will one day be better than their former captain, but it's a fairly substantial risk to take.

Ilya Bryzgalov
 Meanwhile, the Flyers opened up enough cap space to sign Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine year, $51 million dollar deal. The cap hit will be around $5.6 million per season. Bryzgalov just celebrated his 31st birthday and he'll be 40 years old when this contract expires. It's not impossible that Bryzgalov could still be playing at a very high level at the end of the deal. Still, there are question marks surrounding the former Phoenix netminder.

Most notably, can he get it done in the playoffs? The Flyers won a lot of regular season games despite not having a true number one goalie, but when it came down to crunch time their net was wide open. Bryzgalov has career numbers of 2.53 GAA and 0.916 save percentage in the regular season, and things don't change much in the playoffs. Over his 27 career playoff games, he's got a 2.55 GAA and 0.917 save percentage. The playoffs are a much smaller sample size, but at least his numbers haven't fallen off in the post season. The only difference is that Bryzgalov has a winning record in the regular season and he's 12-13 in the playoffs.

This deal will probably be a good one for the Flyers, but perhaps not at the expense of two of their best forwards. Time will tell.

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