Flyers ‘change direction of organization’ by trading away Richards, Carter

Philadelphia also signs Bryzgalov to a long-term deal

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MINNEAPOLIS — After getting swept out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference semifinals, everyone thought they knew what was missing from the Philadelphia Flyers. The final piece, people said, was a stud goaltender.

On Thursday, Philadelphia officially added that piece by signing Ilya Bryzgalov to a lucrative, long-term contract (nine years, $51 million). But the funny part is — that was the footnote on a whirlwind afternoon that included the Flyers dealing away their best goal-scorer and their captain and face of the franchise.

In two separate trades, the Flyers sent Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets for winger Jakub Voracek and two draft picks (including the eighth selection in Friday night’s first round) and sent Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings for big winger Wayne Simmonds and super prospect center Brayden Schenn.

“What we’ve done today is kinda change the direction of our organization with these two moves,” Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. “I’ve always said over the last few years that I like our team. Today I like our team — we’re just a different team.”

That’s an understatement and a half. For the Capitals, it would almost be like trading away Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. The Flyers had inked Richards to a 12-year, $69 million deal in 2007 and last fall signed Carter to an 11-year, $58 million contract.

“I probably wouldn’t have signed the deal actually if I knew I was gonna get traded,” Richards said Thursday afternoon in a conference call with reporters.

Both players had no-trade clauses that hadn’t kicked in yet. Carter did not speak publicly about the trade, but Richards was left in a state of shock. Holmgren was noticeably emotional when talking about having to tell two of his homegrown superstars they were sent packing.

“I think we were both a little emotional, so it wasn’t a long conversation,” Richards said, “but one that I didn’t think I was ever gonna have to do.”

Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson had expressed a desire to wheel and deal this weekend in Minneapolis/St. Paul, the site of the NHL Entry Draft. He said discussions about Carter dated back to January.

Kings GM Dean Lombardi traced Richards talks back four weeks and was only willing to part with Schenn — one of the top prospects in hockey — because Richards was available.

“You want the guy who wears the jersey on his sleeve and the heart on his sleeve,” Lombardi said. “If we can get that here in L.A., that’s exactly what we need.”

Richards was available because the Flyers acquired the rights to Bryzgalov and were hell-bent on signing the charismatic goaltender.

“It’s been very clear now. Ed Snider has been very clear that as an organization we were gonna go the direction of a world-class goalie,” said Comcast-Spectacor chairman Peter Luukko.

Thursday was perhaps the biggest one-day shakeup an NHL team has had in years. And Holmgren might not even be done.

“This is a huge day for our organization, and it really changes a lot of things. I mean, we’ll see. I like our team right now — we’re different, but I like our team,” he said. “I like the makeup. I liked it before, but this is just the change for us. A lot of things can happen between now and the start of training camp, so we’ll see where that leads.”

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