How and why Holmgren tore apart the Flyers

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren speaks on the phone during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at the...

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren speaks on the phone during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif., June 25, 2010. (BRUCE BENNETT/Getty Images/AFP)

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:36 AM ET

TORONTO - Paul Holmgren categorically denies that off-ice issues led to the trading away of centres Mike Richards and Jeff Carter and the stunning remake of the Philadelphia Flyers.

In fact, the mere suggestion of inappropriate behaviour and the multitude of rumours that have surrounded the controversial transactions, angers the quiet Holmgren.

“That (off-ice behavior) had nothing to do with it, nothing to do it,” said Holmgren, the Flyers general manager. “They were young guys with a lot of money who enjoyed their life. And a lot was made of that. And why wouldn’t they? Wouldn’t you?

“A lot of has been said about this, too much really. There have been all kinds of stuff out there, and it’s untrue. Because they were quiet kids and weren’t good with the media, I think some of that came back to them. I think they paid for that. I don’t think it’s been fair. I think the world of both those kids. They gave their hearts and souls to our team.

“It wasn’t easy to do this. But we thought we had to do it.”

When last season ended, Holmgren convened with his hockey operations staff and coaching staff and began to plot the future. The first determination made was something that hadn’t been heard in Philadelphia for years.

“We decided to go after an upper-echelon goalie,” said Holmgren. He had looked back at the franchise and saw that Martin Biron had been the highest-paid goaltender over a significant period of time. And to them, that wasn’t good enough.

Finding the right goalie became priority No. 1 for the Flyers and once that happened, targeting Ilya Bryzgalov, it lead to the largest and most-debated makeover in hockey.

“This wasn’t an easy thing to do,” said Holmgren. “There was an emotional attachment. Any time you trade a Mike Richards or a Jeff Carter, that’s difficult. I personally like both those kids. They gave their hearts and souls to our team. But if you examine what we got back, what they’re going to bring now, and in the future, I think these were deals we had to make.”

Telling Carter he was traded was hard. Telling his captain, Richards, he was traded was one his most difficult acts as general manager.

But still, it had to be done.

“Everything started to change when we obtained Bryzgalov’s rights,” he said. “We had until July 1st to sign him. We knew we had to do something (transaction wise) if we wanted to get him.”

That led to Carter, who is just 26 years old and has already scored 181 NHL goals, being dealt to Columbus. The money that would have gone to Carter went to signing Bryzgalov.

“And then after that, we were presented with all kinds of options, a lot of things started happening. Things we hadn’t necessarily planned on or anticipated.”

He says that as though the Richards deal wasn’t planned. That we’re not certain of. There are various stories around about Richards’ availability, what led to it, and whether the Flyers were actively trying to trade him. All Holmgren will say is that the marketplace changed dramatically after he signed Bryzgalov and traded Carter: There was even a story going around that the Maple Leafs offered up Nazem Kadri and Nikolai Kulemin for Richards, but were turned down by Philadelphia.

In the end, the Los Angeles Kings made the offer Holmgren wouldn’t refuse.

It doesn’t make sense that teams went after Richards once Philadelphia traded Carter: Why would they make one young centre available after trading one?

“When they started talking about Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds, then it got interesting,” said Holmgren. “We felt we needed to get bigger on the wing and we thought adding a guy like Simmonds would really make a difference. And in our opinion, Brayden was a top young player who will develop in time. Something had to give. No matter what’s been said, I maintain we’ve made good hockey trades. We’re a much different team but I like the fact we’ve changed our dynamic.

“We’re stronger in goal, maintained our defence and now we have some younger guys up front. We’re bigger, faster and have more depth. The proof will be in the pudding but I like our team. I think we’ll contend for something.”


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