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2011 NHL Entry Draft
2011 NHL Entry Draft Hats

Clarke: Flyers different, but better after big moves

Saturday, 06.25.2011 / 12:07 PM / 2011 NHL Entry Draft

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Clarke: Flyers different, but better after big moves
Flyers senior vice president Bobby Clarke likes the direction of the organization after Philadelphia traded away young stars Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
ST. PAUL -- In the eyes of Bob Clarke, the complexion of the Philadelphia Flyers certainly changed this week.

"But from our standpoint, it's for the better," Clarke, the team's senior vice president, told NHL.com on the floor at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. "It'll be a different team -- bigger, faster, younger and stronger."

The Flyers made a major organizational shakeup on Thursday by trading Jeff Carter and captain Mike Richards in separate deals with Columbus and Los Angeles that reverberated throughout the hockey community. In return, they reeled in top prospect Brayden Schenn and promising young players Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds. General Manager Paul Holmgren also acquired the No. 8 pick and a third-round choice (No. 68) in the 2011 Draft via the deal with Columbus for Carter.

"I think that Paul Holmgren thought about (these trades) a lot and did what he thought was right for the team and all of us who are a part of the organization certainly support what he did," Clarke said. "He's made our team better. We realize we gave up two very good players and you hope it's a deal that turns out good for the Flyers, Los Angeles and Columbus.

"(Carter and Richards) are terrific players and they were important to our organization, but it was time for a change."

Still, Clarke knows pulling the trigger on the deals had to be a difficult one. Richards had been the team's captain the last three years and produced 133 goals and 349 points in 453 career games spanning six seasons with the Flyers.

"I think any manager would feel the same way as Paul did after making those deals," Clarke said. "He likes those guys. They're not only good players but good people and they come through the organization and it's certainly not an easy thing that Paul did … it took a lot of soul searching, thinking and planning and he did what was right for the Flyers, which is his job."

Clarke said he would expect veteran defenseman Chris Pronger to assume the captaincy.

"I think that both (Claude) Giroux and (James van Riemsdyk) really came through last year and will be expected to pick up what we lost in Carter and Richards," Clarke admitted. "The face of the club changed so the whole team will be different. Our goaltending will be different with the two Russians."

In addition to the trades, Holmgren also reportedly signed goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a $51.5 million contract over nine years. Sergei Bobrovsky would likely serve as Bryzgalov's backup for the 2011-12 campaign.

"Giroux did it in the playoffs two years ago; he's a terrific player and JVR just got better and better as the year went on and, by playoffs, they both were our two best players," Clarke said. "You get two young kids like that and it allows you to move a Carter and Richards and bring in a bunch more young players. We think Schenn is going to be a star one day … he's a star right now."

Clarke also felt gaining two additional draft picks in what many consider to be a deep draft pool was of utmost importance in re-establishing organization depth. In particular, obtaining the eighth overall pick from Columbus in the Carter deal was a significant feather in Holmgren's cap. The Flyers selected center Sean Couturier of the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the No. 8 pick on Friday.

The 6-foot-4, 197-pound Couturier was not only voted 'Best Professional Prospect', but was also 'Most Valuable Player' in the QMJHL this past season. He collected his second straight 96-point campaign, including 36 goals and 60 assists, despite playing 10 fewer games due to his participation in the World Junior Championship for Team Canada in Buffalo, N.Y., in January. He also won 54 percent of his faceoffs during the regular season on 1,430 opportunities.

In Drummondville's four-game sweep over the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the opening round of the QMJHL playoffs, Couturier had 3 goals and 8 points. He'd finish with 6 goals, 11 points and a plus-3 rating in 10 playoffs games for the Voltigeurs.

"You have to have kids coming in if your organization is going to remain strong and ours will," Clarke said. "Our center ice is going to be Giroux, (Danny) Briere, Schenn and, possibly, Couturier. It's going to be young, but very good, so you can set yourself up for a lot of years if you draft good."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale