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Richards, 26, spent the last three seasons as team captain. He scored 133 goals and had 349 points in 453 games since making his debut with the Flyers in 2005.

“We felt, at this stage of the franchise, it was time to make a significant move for an impact player,” Kings president and general manager Dean Lombardi said. “Mike Richards is not only one of the top players in the league, he’s also universally recognized as one of the finer leaders in the game and one of its elite competitors.”

Richards had 66 points this season. A year ago, he led the Flyers in points (62) and was second in goals (31), while leading the Flyers within two victories of their first championship since 1975.

The news hit some of the Flyers hard.

“Speechless like everyone else about what happened today, but sometimes that’s the nature of the beast,” Philadelphia defenseman Matt Carle posted on Twitter. “Best of luck to both of those guys.”

Richards had no desire to leave. He grew up in the organization with Carter, they won big games together and the best friends talked often about winning Philadelphia’s first Stanley Cup since 1975. Richards said he never would have signed the massive contract had he known the Flyers ever wanted to trade him.

On deal day, he had a brief, emotional conversation with Holmgren.

“It wasn’t a long conversation,” he said, “but it was one I didn’t think I’d ever have to do.”

Carter, 26, instantly becomes the best center to ever play for Columbus. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder agreed in November to a $58-million, 11-year contract. Beginning next season, Carter’s salary-cap hit will be $5.27 million.

Carter has 181 goals in his six full seasons in the NHL, all with the Flyers. He has had 46, 33 and 36 the last three seasons.

With Richards gone, forward Danny Briere, or defensemen Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen could wear the “C” on the sweater.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, meanwhile, refuted talk he had a falling out with Richards. He called it tough to lose the stalwarts.

“Jeff and Mike were terrific players for our organization. They’re elite players in our league,” he said. “We went and replaced them and went in a different direction with a goaltender and wingers up front, different pieces.

“Paul said it best: It should be a good team, but it’s a different team.”

They have plenty of new faces in the orange and black.

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