Which bodies would hit the floor as a result of the salary cap purge in Philadelphia to finally sign a respectable goaltender has been the subject of speculation all week. That speculation ended abruptly Thursday afternoon when TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that Jeff Carter has been traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for forward Jakub Voracek, and first and third round picks in tomorrow night’s draft.
Columbus held the eighth overall pick, meaning the Flyers have now crept into the top-10 after dealing away their own first round pick this year to Toronto as part of the Kris Versteeg deal. The trade rids Flyers GM Paul Holmgren of Carter’s 11-year, $58 million contract signed last November, an extension that came with a cap hit of roughly $5.3 million annually.
The purge continued when the Flyers traded captain Mike Richards to the Kings for Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, and a second-round pick in 2012, according to TSN’s Gord Miller.
Since it wouldn’t be any fun to just stop there, rumours of a deal involving Versteeg heading to the sunny south are also bubbling, but haven’t been confirmed. With Stamkos almost certainly re-signing with Tampa Bay, and Carter traded along with Schenn, the Leafs Nation rumour mill is now left with only Brad Richards.
Holmgren then predictably signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year contract worth $51 million. Please excuse me for a moment while I reassemble the scattered fragments of my brain.
Alright, moving on then. So just what the hell does all of this mean?
First and foremost, it means that a fine display of fetal position technique is currently taking place around Philadelphia. Carter has led the Flyers in goals for the past three seasons, scoring a combined 115 times over that stretch, a pace behind only four other guys named Crosby, Ovechkin, Marleau, and Stamkos. Richards scored 23 times this year and tied Carter for third on the Flyers in points with 66. The 26-year-old did all of that while moonlighting as the warden of respect in the NHL too, a double duty that’s especially impressive.
Together the two combined for nearly a quarter (23 percent) of the Flyers’ goal-scoring this year. Overall Philadelphia had no problem scoring, and their historical struggle with stopping pucks eventually led to an embarrassing collapse in the second round against the Bruins. Philadelphia ranked third in scoring during the regular season with 256 goals, which is why creating a minor offensive leak to fix a gushing goaltending geyser is an understandable and justifiable move.
However, the removal of Carter and Richards was far more than just a pin-prick. The overall return for two of the team’s now former core stars is clearly brimming with youth and blossoming potential between Simmonds, Schenn, and Voracek. But Schenn has played a meager nine career NHL games, while the combined point total of Voracek and Simmonds from this past season was 76, which is far in the rear-view of the 132 posted by the duo Richards and Carter.
This is a move made with one eye strictly fixated on the future and a vastly changing offensive landscape, and the other looking wide-eyed at the team budget. Securing Bryzgalov required some serious forest to be mowed down in Philly’s overgrown cap jungle. Prior to these deals the Flyers were the most cap crunched team in the league with just $430,845 worth of room to maneuver.
Moving Richards and Carter freed up roughly $11.1 million in space against the new cap of $64.3 million. Both Simmonds and Voracek are restricted free agents, meaning that following the hit from Bryzgalov’s contract, Holmgren the magician has $7.6 million left to sign nine players (four UFA, five RFA). Are we sure that it’s always sunny in Philadelphia?
While the departure of scrap heap pieces like Brian Boucher is a mere matter of counting down the days, seven of Philly’s free agents are forwards, with Simmonds and Voracek combining for a dent of $2 million last year.
If we assume that signing players who were just acquired becomes a priority, my abacus indicates that at most $5.6 million will remain to either fill those five slots with suitable if unimpressive forwards, or start galloping towards a hopefully happy ending in the Brad Richards sweepstakes. Philly’s still lingering cap concerns also pour more fuel on the Versteeg speculation heading into the weekend.
Holmgren finally and mercifully found a solution to the gaping hole that sunk his otherwise structurally sound ship this year. But now he’s left with a $51 million anchor who’s under contract until he turns 40, putting the franchise right back where it started before Thursday afternoon’s flurry of deals.