MINNEAPOLIS - Somebody should have told Paul Holmgren the NHL has moved its travelling road show from Las Vegas.
The Philadelphia Flyers general manager is still rolling the dice.
Holmgren blew up the team that was a Stanley Cup finalist in 2010, scattering former core players Mike Richards, the team's captain, and Jeff Carter across to the Western Conference with a pair of blockbuster deals Thursday. Richards was traded to the L.A. Kings and Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
He then turned around and took a huge gamble on goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, signing the 31-year-old to a nine-year, $51-million deal.
Now the question is, has Holmgren positioned the Flyers to take a run at forward Brad Richards, who will be the most coveted unrestricted free agent come July 1?
Shipping out forwards Richards and Carter -- along with their $11 million combined annual hit -- and signing Bryzgalov left the Flyers about $7 million under the new salary cap, which was set at $64.3 million Thursday. There were also rumours that forward Kris Versteeg and his $3-million salary could be the next Flyer to go.
The stunning moves on the eve of the entry draft sent shock waves through the NHL.
"Paul Holmgren must have woke up and just said let's giver hell today. Some big time trades. Western conference just got two great players," tweeted Anaheim Ducks forward Bobby Ryan.
As for the Kings, general manager Dean Lombardi said "it was time to make a significant move for an impact player."
He said Mike Richards is one of the league's top players and is "universally recognized as one of the finer leaders in the game and one of its elite competitors."
There had long been talk of discord in the Flyers dressing room, particularly after the arrival of veteran defenceman Chris Pronger, who can take up a lot of air (though there's no arguing his positive impact on teams). There were whispers of issues between Richards and the Flyers coaching staff and the sometimes-sullen captain clashed with the Philly media. Whatever you think about that, the fact is it is part of the captain's duties to deal with the media.
In one afternoon, Holmgren changed the Flyers' vibe.
The Flyers received top prospect forward Brayden Schenn, forward Wayne Simmonds and a 2012 second-rounder from the Kings in exchange for Richards. For Carter, they got forward Jakub Voracek and the Jackets' first-round pick (eighth overall) Friday night when the draft kicks off and a third-round pick Saturday.
Holmgren said neither player had asked to be traded and both were upset when they found they had been dealt. He said the trades were made with an eye toward making the Flyers bigger on the wing, something that was accomplished with the additions of Simmonds and Voracek, he said.
"Both those guys are bigger wingers that can play in your top-nine mix of forwards and perhaps the hidden gem in this whole thing is Brayden Schenn. In our opinion, he's one of the top, if not the top young player outside the NHL," Holmgren said.
The emergence of Claude Giroux as a front-line player for the Flyers also made parting with Richards and Carter easier, the GM said.
It remains to be seen if Holmgren has finally answered the annual goaltending question in Philly, which seems as much as part of that city as a cheesesteak sandwich.
While Bryzgalov has had some outstanding seasons, he has no track record as a winner in the playoffs (.879 save percentage, 4.36 goals-against average against the Detroit Red Wings in the first round this year and owns a 12-13 record for his career).
"Did he play great? I think even Ilya would say, 'I didn't play great.' But sometimes they have bad days, too," Holmgren said.
Certainly some of the heat will be taken off Bryzgalov if Holmgren can find a way to sign Brad Richards.
The Flyers aren't a better team now than they were with Richards and Carter. They are younger with Schenn, 19, and Voracek, 21, who likely won't be contributing on the NHL stage for some time and they'll get another good prospect with the eighth pick Friday night.
But we have to wait to see what Holmgren does with the rest of his cap space.
Only then will the dice stop tumbling.