Flyers Anniversary Special: Franchise Faces Richards, Carter Dealt

PHILADELPHIA - MAY 24: Mike Richards #18 of the Philadelphia Flyers recieves the Prince of Wales Trophy for NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly after defeating the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 4-2 to win in Game 5 and advance from the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wachovia Center on May 24, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA - MAY 24: Mike Richards #18 of the Philadelphia Flyers recieves the Prince of Wales Trophy for NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly after defeating the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 4-2 to win in Game 5 and advance from the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wachovia Center on May 24, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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The Philadelphia Flyers used the 11th and 24th overall picks in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft to select forwards Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, respectively. There was a point in time when the two were labeled as the franchise centerpieces who would lead the Flyers back to glory.

Their fall from grace culminated on June 23, 2011, ten years ago today, when former general manager Paul Holmgren traded both players in an hour’s span. The decision to move on became one of the most controversial topics in Flyers history, and the effects can still be seen a full decade later.

The Faces of the Flyers Franchise

Richards and Carter helped the Philadelphia Phantoms to a Calder Cup in 2005 prior to the team’s relocation to Allentown. Both made their NHL debuts during the 2005-06 season after the league returned from the lockout.

Breakout seasons in 2007-08 solidified them as the two young faces of the franchise, and the Flyers recovered from an embrassing 2006-07 season and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. Richards was given the “C” at age 23 during the ensuing offseason following the departure of veteran Jason Smith, who had been somewhat of a placeholder captain.

Both Richards and Carter posted new career highs in point totals in 2008-09, but the team was eliminated from the playoffs for a second consecutive year by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Their most impactful contributions to the franchise, however, came the following year.

Along with a cast of key contributors including Chris Pronger, Danny Briere, and Claude Giroux, the tandem helped the Flyers to an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals and one of the most exhilaratingly dramatic playoff runs in NHL history.

Richards, Carter Trending South in South Philadelphia

The Flyers suffered a disappointing second-round exit the following season. A victory over the Buffalo Sabres in Game 7 of their opening round series was followed up by an abrupt sweep at the hands of the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

The franchise’s goaltending issues came to the forefront, as head coach Peter Laviolette mishandled a chaotic revolving door of starting netminders. Brian Boucher, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Michael Leighton ineffectively rotated in and out of the crease throughout the two series.

Team chemistry became a serious concern late in the season, and rumors of excessive partying and immature behavior off the ice created stirs among the media and the fan base. The multi-layered situation still continues to unravel today in what was revealed to be a complex debacle.

Major Overhaul

General manager Paul Holmgren finally pulled the plug on the dynamic duo following the 2011 Playoffs. Carter was sent to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for winger Jakub Voracek and the two draft picks used to select forwards Sean Couturier and Nick Cousins. Richards was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings for forwards Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds and a future draft pick.

The moves cleared enough salary space to execute the ill-advised signing of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, which was supposed to solve the Flyers goaltending woes long-term. The captaincy was handed to Pronger, and developing stars Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk became the young centerpieces hopeful to replace Richards and Carter.

Holmgren signed Penguins heroes Maxime Talbot and Jaromir Jagr and built the top-six around the acquisitions of Simmonds, Schenn, Couturier, and Voracek. The overhaul directly molded the majority of the team’s current core.

Richards and Carter, in a painfully ironic coincidence, went on to win the Stanley Cup as teammates on the Kings the following season. The Flyers have won two playoff series since that fateful day on June 23, 2011. The irony has continued, as several other major trades affecting the team’s top-six forwards have come on this anniversary.