Thursday, June 23, 2011

Flyers Shake Their Core In Hopes Of Future Ending Better Than Past

Following a trip to the Stanley Cup finals one year ago and an excellent regular season this past year, the Philadelphia Flyers were deemed by many to be a goaltender away from contending for the Stanley Cup.  Apparently the Flyers did not see it that way as they blew up a large part of the core of their team today in trading away their captain, Mike Richards, and center Jeff Carter.  Even with the acquisition and signing of Ilya Bryzgalov to be the answer in net, the combination of the deals changes the focus from being that contenders to looking down the road a few seasons.  

The Carter trade was somewhat expected or at least had been talked about enough to be in the consciousness to not come as a total surprise.  The move to deal Richards is a completely different story.  To deal away Richards, even for a package that includes stud prospect Brayden Schenn, says something about a dissatisfaction with what was going on in the locker room in Philadelphia.  They had to feel that combination of personalities in the locker room would not allow them to get over the hump and so they blew it up for a rebuild.

There is no disputing that the Flyers acquired good talent in the deals with Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek along with a first, second and third in the 2011 NHL Entry draft.  The hope for the Philadelphia organization now has to be that in a few years when Schenn, Voracek and Simmonds are ready to come into their own with the continued advancement of James Van Riemsdyk and the All-Star caliber play of Claude Giroux is that the aging defense will still be good enough.  

This could be a day that Flyer’s fans look back on and say it was the day that set their championship season or even dynasty into motion, but that will take all of these young players maxing out to their potential.  That is the ideal scenario for Flyer’s fans, but that is far from certain.  In the end, it could end up that none of these players or picks ever become as good as Jeff Carter or Mike Richards are right now and Paul Holmgren is vilified in Philly for taking a team that was seen as on the verge of a championship and blowing it up.  It is the chance Holmgren is taking as he obviously decided as constituted that team could not get over the hump

Blockbuster Trade: Mike Richards To LA Kings for Brayden Scehnn and Wayne Simmonds

As if one blockbuster trade wasn’t enough for an afternoon, the Philadelphia Flyers made another one according to Gord Miller of TSN.  The Flyers agreed to trade their captain Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for top-prospect Brayden Schenn and forward Wayne Simmonds.  

Combine this with the Jeff Carter trade to Columbus and Philly has drastically changed their team in the course of an hour.  There have been murmurs about problems in the Flyers dressing room and if these don't prove those were true, they certainly show they wanted to change it up.

Rumor: Dreger Doubts Whether Rangers Will Answer Richards Demands

During a conversation with Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank, Darren Dreger of TSN reports that he expects Brad Richards to get a long term contract averaging at least $6.5 million per season.  That part of the conversation was nothing new.  What was interesting was to hear Dreger volunteer the fact that he doesn’t think the Rangers are willing to do that kind of deal.
“I don’t think the New York Rangers have the stomach or the where-with-all to get in on that kind of a run at $6.5-7 million dollars per year.”
To hear Dreger say that is somewhat surprising given the history of spending within the organization, but might just signal that things really have changed in terms of giving out the long-term deals to aging players.  I am on record as saying that signing Richards for anything more than four years will likely end up a mistake as the deal goes on and with Pierre LeBrun of ESPN reported yesterday that Richards is looking to sign the final deal of his career this time, four years is not what Richards is looking for now. 

Jeff Carter Trade To Columbus For Voracek, Picks Gives Both Sides What They Need

Update: The Flyers weren't done as they also dealt captain Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings in a blockbuster.  

According to Bob McKenzie and confirmed by multiple other sources, the Philadelphia Flyers have traded center Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets for winger Jakub Voracek, the number 8 overall pick and Columbus’ third round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry. 

There have been murmurs about this deal for the past few weeks and now it has finally happened.  Columbus finally gets Rick Nash a top line player to play alongside.  Carter, 26, has 29 or more goals in four straight seasons and with Nash should form one of the top duo’s in the NHL.  There is certainly risk involved for Columbus as they are taking on an 11-year contract extension that Carter inked earlier this season.  The cap hit of $5.27 million per is very reasonable for a player of his skill, but there is no clue how good or bad that deal will look down the line.

For the Flyers, the deal had to made in order to clear cap space, especially if they are going to sign Ilya Bryzgalov to anywhere near the $7 million he apparently wants his new contract to be worth.  Considering the situation for GM Paul Holmgren he did very well in his return for Carter.  Voracek is a promising young forward with tremendous hands and is still growing at the NHL level with high upside.   The number 8 pick in this year’s draft also has high value, but the key is getting out from under the contract and clearing cap space.

Overall the deal is probably a win-win for both sides with the Flyers likely gaining as the years progress.

Rangers 2011-12 Schedule With Quick Thoughts

The NHL has officially released the 2011-12 Schedule, so check out the one for your New York Rangers
Thoughts after initially looking over the schedule:
  • MSG renovations were going to make for long opening month and Rangers get 8 road games to start but then nice 6 game homestand.
  • Longest homestand is 7 games from March 11-March 23
  • Rangers will have 14 sets of back-to-back games
  • Rangers don’t play New Jersey until December 20
  • Winter Classic is official and scheduled for January 2 at 1PM.  The game should be night game considering it is on a Monday.
  • Brutal finish to the schedule with Montreal, Boston, Philly, Pittsburgh and Washington so let’s hope there is not another close race to get in at that point.
  • Rangers have 41 home games as both games in Sweden are considered Away games
  • Western teams Rangers play twice: Anaheim, Chicago, Phoenix.  All three made the playoffs last season, so no breaks there

Rumor: Rangers Never Called Jagr To Return

There has been a lot of discussion lately about where Jaromir Jagr will play hockey next season.  According to Larry Brooks at the New York Post, New York will not be that place.  Brooks is reporting that the Rangers did not reach out to Jagr to see if he would be interested in coming back to New York.  Jagr believes that if he was desired by the Rangers that they would call him and so the reunion that many fans have been hoping for appears to be officially off the table.
"I don't want to put this the wrong way, but teams that want me and think I can help them have been calling me, and the Rangers never called, so I don't think they would want me," Jagr told The Post by phone last night from his home in the Czech Republic.
"I don't want to be a guy who says, 'Do you need me; do you want me?' It's not like I'm looking for a job," No. 68 said. "Teams know I'm serious about coming back. If Glen thought I could help, he would have told me.
The main contenders for Jagr appear to be the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins.  Those two places are better for Jagr and the Rangers are better not making the move for him this season.  Jagr can still contribute at the NHL level, but with Detroit and Pittsburgh he can do it in a role that better suits his current ability level.  With the Rangers, Jagr would be expected to be much of what he was before he went to the KHL before the last three seasons and that is not fair to anyone.  In terms of position the Rangers are not a fit either as New York has Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahan already here to play right wing.  Jagr was great for the Rangers while he was here, but both sides have come to the proper conclusion that going back for the 2011-12 season would be the wrong move.

Rangers Absent From NHL Awards Winners But Seven Rangers Received Votes

During last night’s NHL Awards the New York Rangers won zero awards and had no nominations to show for their 2010-11 campaign.  That does not mean that the work of individual players went completely unnoticed as seven members of the organization received votes. 

Lundqvist was the highest finisher with a fourth place in the Venzina voting while also coming in 14th in the race for Hart.  The only reason that Lundqvist did not crack the top three in the Vezina race this season is the overall team performance.  The combination of the Rangers squeaking into the playoffs as the final seed in the Eastern Conference and the Canuck’s winning the President’s trophy is why Luongo got the nod over Lundqvist.  Nice to see Lundqvist getting some votes for the Hart as well since he is one of the single most valuable player’s to their team.

Marc Staal continues to fly under the radar in terms of awards with his one fifth place vote in the Norris race.  Not saying Staal should have been a finalist or even close this season, but the impact offensive numbers has on the voting is still somewhat disappointing.  Coming in tied for 16th is not indicative of the season Staal had and there are those who finished above him that should not have.  Problem for Staal is that unless he raises his point total, serious consideration for a Norris will never come his way.

John Tortorella coming in ninth in the Jack Adams is one of the more interesting ones to me.  There was serious buzz about him mid-season as a contender, but the slide to start the second half and needing the huge finish just to get in took that away.  He probably should be higher on the list considering the job he did, but the guys he likely should pass have a combination of better team success and reputations to overcome. 

The Rangers did have two players make an appearance in the Calder voting with Derek Stepan finishing 13th while Michael Sauer came in 17th.  Stepan should have been a little higher on the list, probably 9 or 10, but inconsistency did plague his season, so it is easy to see why he did not get full credit for his season.  Possibly the most surprising vote getter was Michael Sauer.  Not that he did not deserve to get the fifth place vote he did, but that he was recognized for his excellent rookie season.  The lack of flash is Sauer’s game usually has player’s like him go unnoticed when it comes to awards, but good for him in getting the vote.

If there is an award, besides the Vezina that the Rangers might win sometime soon it is likely to be the Selke as they numerous forwards who work very hard on the defensive end of the ice.  Ryan Callahan came in at number 10 in the voting despite missing significant time this season while Brandon Prust was 18 and Brian Boyle finished 31.  It is not a stretch to think that if Callahan can hit 30 goals next season and play 82 games that he could creep into the top-5 range in the voting.  As for Prust and Boyle, like Sauer, it is nice to see them be rewarded for their hard work with some recognition around the league.

There were no awards for New York, but that does not mean performances were unnoticed.