PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, two key cogs in the Philadelphia Flyers' run to the Stanley Cup finals a year ago, were both traded in a pair of separate stunning trades that shakes up the franchise on the eve of the draft.
The moves on Thursday cleaned house - and cleared needed salary cap space to sign goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. Later in the day, the Flyers announced they signed the franchise goalie to a multiyear contract. TSN reported it was a $51-million, nine-year deal. The Flyers acquired the rights to Bryzgalov, 31, earlier this month in a deal with the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Flyers moved over $100 million in salary in Thursday's deals that sent Richards to the Los Angeles Kings and Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Richards and Carter still had plenty of years remaining on monster contracts - Richards has nine years left on a 12-year extension he signed in 2007, and Carter agreed in November to a $58-million, 11-year pact.
Richards was traded for forwards Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds and a second-round pick. The Kings announced the trade. The Flyers acquired forward Jake Voracek and the club's first- and third-round picks from the Blue Jackets.
"Those are two hard phone calls to make," said general manager Paul Holmgren, his voice quivering and eyes misting over. "I think the world of both of them. That's difficult. That's the hard part of the job."
Holmgren said there were no real talks about trading either player until they acquired Bryzgalov.
Philadelphia won the Atlantic Division title last season with 106 points, but was swept in the second round by the Boston Bruins, who eventually won the Stanley Cup.
The Flyers' postseason run was short-lived because of problems in net. In the 11-game postseason, Philadelphia used three goaltenders with little success: Sergei Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton. Bryzgalov would help to solve that three-pronged problem in net.
But Philadelphia paid a steep price to find some peace between those pipes.
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.
Richards said he was shocked when he learned of the trade. He became emotional when he talked with Holmgren.
"It wasn't a long conversation," he said, "but it was one I didn't think I'd ever have to do."
Richards said he wanted to stay a Flyer the rest of his career and never would have signed that long-term deal had he known he would have been traded.
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.
Exit Carter and Richards. Welcome to Ilya-delphia.
A Vezina Trophy finalist in 2009-10, Bryzgalov went 36-20-10 with a 2.48 goals-against average and seven shutouts last season, but had some shaky moments as Phoenix was swept from the playoffs by Detroit in Round 1.
Bryzgalov and his agent, Ritch Winter, spent two days last week in Philadelphia hammering out details of the contract, and visiting the city.
"When you get a goalie you view as an upper-echelon goalie," Holmgren said, "you know you have to pay him."
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."