In case you haven’t checked your calendars this morning, today is June 23rd, one of the most infamous days for Flyers fans. It was on this day in 2011 that the Flyers shockingly rid themselves of their captain, Mike Richards, and their leading goal scorer, Jeff Carter, for a boatload of prospects. One year later, in 2012, Philadelphia dealt frustrating winger James van Riemsdyk to Toronto in exchange for defenseman Luke Schenn. Finally, just when it seemed that the chaos of June 23 was over after a quiet 2013, the Flyers traded Scott Hartnell to Columbus for R.J. Umberger and a 4th Round Pick. While articles examining the “winners and losers” of these trades are plentiful, I thought it might be interesting to see what exactly became of all the players in the trade, and if the Flyers would make the trade again if given the opportunity.
6/23/11: Flyers trade Jeff Carter to Columbus Blue Jackets for Jake Voracek, a 2011 First-Round Pick (Sean Couturier), and a 2011 Third-Round Pick (Nick Cousins)
This was the first of the two trades on that fateful summer day in 2011. Carter was the Flyers’ leading goal scorer, and one of their top stars. Legend has it that Paul Holmgren called Columbus up and asked if they wanted to acquire both Carter and Mike Richards. It was probably better that Columbus said no, as it allowed for a greater return for the two individuals alone. Jake Voracek was a frustrating winger at the time who had not yet blossomed into the player he is today, and some thought that the Flyers didn’t get enough in terms of actual NHL-ready talent. Those men were proven wrong when Voracek turned in a solid season and Sean Couturier began playing as an 18-year-old shutdown center who rendered Evgeni Malkin, his boyhood idol, useless in his first playoff series. In the present day, Voracek has become an MVP candidate and Couturier’s defensive presence as a forward is his trademark and is still improving. Cousins saw his first taste of NHL action this season and did not score a point in 11 games. Carter, on the other hand was injured in Columbus and demanded a trade to Los Angeles, where he could play with his buddy Richards. Carter scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in 2012 with the Kings and has enjoyed tremendous success both individually and team-wise. However, I think the Flyers would still execute this trade in a heartbeat if given the chance. Having two star players is always better than having one, and the Flyers definitely have some in Voracek and Couturier.
6/23/11: Flyers trade Mike Richards, Rob Bordson to Los Angeles Kings for Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, and a 2012 Second-Round Draft Pick
One hour later, the Flyers traded their captain and face of the franchise to California for a bunch of unproven youngsters. Richards enjoyed 6 years in Philadelphia, but really became a star in the middle 2 before regressing slightly in the final two seasons. Lackluster playoff performances also ensued, and Richards was let go at the right time it seems in retrospect. He has been ineffective to the point of being waived in Los Angeles, and is a major buyout candidate this summer. From the Flyers perspective, they received a power forward in Wayne Simmonds that has likely eclipsed even their expectations. Simmonds has become a leader with the Flyers and has flirted with 30 goals in all 4 of his years in Philly. The jury is still out on Schenn, but being moved from center to left wing to right wing sure didn’t help his development. Schenn is good for at least 45 points a season. While he never lived up to expectations as a franchise player, Schenn is still a very good second line center that has the versatility to play wing and excel in the slot on the power play. The pick the Flyers received was traded to Dallas for Nick Grossmann (ugh), and Rob Bordson actually wound up coming back to Philadelphia to play for the Phantoms. The Flyers won this trade overwhelmingly; it is one of the greatest trades in Flyers history.
6/23/12: Flyers trade James van Riemsdyk to Toronto Maple Leafs for Luke Schenn
This is where June 23rd starts to take a bitter turn for Flyers fans. Van Riemsdyk was a popular player among the Flyers fan base despite his low scoring totals in his 3 years in Philly. JVR was the second overall pick in the 2007 draft, and teams don’t usually give up on players like that so early. It is important to note that van Riemsdyk was often injured in Philadelphia, only scored 20 goals once, and while he had one epic playoff in 2011, that was really his only point of major success in Philly. The Flyers needed a right-handed defenseman badly, and they decided to bite on Luke Schenn. Schenn is not a bad defenseman. He is a capable 6th d-man who has a strong body and is not afraid to get physical. However, the lack of draft picks involved ruined this trade. The Flyers sold low on JVR, only acquiring an underachieving defenseman in return. Van Riemsdyk has become a 30-goal scorer despite his defensive woes, and ironically has remained healthy in Toronto. Schenn and a 2nd-4th round pick would’ve been a much better return when looking back. Heck, if given the choice, I’m not sure Paul Holmgren would make this trade again. He tried to fill a hole at defense by subtracting an asset from a surplus, but the move has backfired.
6/23/14: Flyers trade Scott Hartnell to Columbus Blue Jackets for R. J. Umberger and a 2015 4th-Round Pick
This trade was puzzling from the start, and while Ron Hextall was the GM at the time, this trade definitely involved Paul Holmgren at some point. Looking to save money, the Flyers traded the valuable Hartnell for the nearly-bought-out R.J. Umberger and a mid round pick. Hartnell had been coming off of an inconsistent season that only saw 20 goals, acquired mainly in spurts, and a goose egg in the 7-game loss to the New York Rangers in the first round. This, combined with Hartnell’s long contract and tendency to take bad penalties, earned him a one-way ticket out of Philadelphia. It was a decision that had some good thought processes behind it, but the Flyers must have forgot how much Hartnell did for them from 2008-2014 before his terrible playoff. Hartnell was good for 20+ goals a year in every season except one (technically two, but he was on pace for 20 if the 2013 season was a full one), and had amazing chemistry with Jeff Carter, then Danny Briere, and eventually Claude Giroux. Hartnell went on to post 28 goals and 60 points for Columbus, just the third time in his career that he posted over 25 goals and 60 points. Umberger, on the other hand, played injured in Philly and was good for just 9 goals and 15 points in 67 games while looking slow and out of sorts defensively. However, most frustrating is the fact that the Flyers only saved a net of $100,000 a year for one less season with Umberger than Hartnell. For that minuscule amount of money, I’d deal with some bad penalties if it would get me the scoring I need to win games. This trade was a disaster, and one that the Flyers simply need to forget about entirely.
The Flyers as a whole have done pretty well on June 23rd. They acquired 3 franchise players, a solid goal scorer, a depth defenseman, and a veteran winger for 2 franchise players, a since washed-up center, and a young winger. I doubt we will see any action today, but the legend of June 23rd will live on forever. The Flyers won the Richards and Carter trades, lost on the van Riemsdyk trade, and failed miserably on the Hartnell trade. While the Kings have won two Stanley Cups, the Flyers are the more balanced offensive team thanks to the pieces they’ve acquired. If this core stays in place for awhile, and maybe some more suave June 23rd deals shake out in the coming years, the Flyers could become contenders sooner rather than later.