BLOCKBUSTER TRADE: Los Angeles Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi and Philadelphia Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren got the drop on the rest in terms of draft day deals by completing a draft-eve, blockbuster trade that sent center Mike Richards to the Kings in exchange for right wing Wayne Simmonds, center prospect Brayden Schenn, and a second round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Also includes details on Ryan Smyth requesting to be traded and about the Kings and the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
LOS ANGELES — With the Stanley Cup Finals and the National Hockey League’s annual awards extravaganza behind us, at this time of year, attention turns to the annual NHL Entry Draft, which is often accompanied by a slew of draft day trades.
But this year, Los Angeles Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi decided not to wait until later today when the 2011 NHL Entry Draft begins in St. Paul, Minnesota. Rather, he got things off to an explosive start with a draft-eve, blockbuster deal that sent right wing Wayne Simmonds, center prospect Brayden Schenn, and a second round pick in the 2012 draft to the Philadelphia Flyers, in exchange for center Mike Richards and center prospect Rob Bordson.
According to various media outlets, Bordson, 23, was a “throw in,” as the Flyers were at the maximum number of contracts, and will become a restricted free agent on July 1. The Kings are not expected to offer him a contract.
Richards, 26, scored 23 goals and added 43 assists for 66 points with a +11 plus/minus rating and 62 penalty minutes in 81 regular season games this season.
In eleven playoff games this season, 5-11, 195-pound native of Kenora, Ontario scored a goal and tallied six assists for seven points with 15 penalty minutes.
Richards, who served as the Flyers’ captain for the past three seasons, is signed through the 2019-20 NHL season, with an annual salary cap hit of $5.75 million (the contract also includes a no movement clause that goes into effect on July 1, 2012). He has averaged 28 goals, 42 assists and 70 points over the last four seasons while playing in an average of 78 regular season games per year.
During that span, Richards played in 57 playoff games, scoring 16 goals and adding 33 assists for 49 points, with his best post-season performance coming in 2009-10, when he helped lead the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals with seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points in 23 games.
In 453 NHL regular season games, all with the Flyers, Richards has scored 133 goals and has contributed 216 assists for 349 points, while racking up 397 penalty minutes.
In 63 playoffs games, Richards has scored 16 goals and has added 34 assists for 50 points with 49 penalty minutes.
Richards was selected by the Flyers in the first round (24th overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
In international play, Richards helped lead Canada to the Gold Medal during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, scoring two goals and tallying three assists for five points with a +5 rating in seven games.
To get Richards, the Kings had to part with Simmonds, the 22-year-old, rugged right wing who scored 39 goals and added 54 assists for 93 points with 264 penalty minutes in 240 regular season games over three seasons.
This season, Simmonds scored 14 goals and tallied 16 assists for 30 points with a -2 rating and 75 penalty minutes in 80 regular season games. He also scored a goal and added two assists for three points with a -1 rating and twenty penalty minutes in six playoff games.
Simmonds’ best season came in 2009-10, when he scored 16 goals and contributed 24 assists for 40 points with a +22 rating and 116 penalty minutes in 78 regular season games. That season, he also scored two goals and added an assist for three points with a +1 rating and nine penalty minutes in six playoff games.
Simmonds was selected by the Kings in the second round (61st overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
The Kings also parted ways with Schenn, their highly-coveted young center prospect, who played in eight games with the Kings this season before being assigned to his junior team, the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League.
With Brandon, Schenn, 19, played in just two games, scoring a goal and adding three assists, before he was traded to the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL, where he scored 21 goals and tallied 32 assists for 53 points in 27 regular season games.
In the playoffs, Schenn, who was projected to be the Kings’ second line center in the not-too-distant future, scored six goals and added five assists for 11 points in ten games.
After Saskatoon’s season ended, Schenn joined the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League (Kings’ primary minor league affiliate), where he scored three goals and tallied four assists for seven points in seven regular season games. He went on to score a goal and contribute three assists for four points in five playoff games.
“We view [Schenn] as one of the top players not playing in the league,” said Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, who also referred to Schenn as a “hidden gem.”
“Brayden Schenn is little bit of a diamond in the rough here,” added Holmgren. “Do we take a step back with him? I don’t know. He’s a tremendous young player and I look forward to seeing him over the next number of years in our organization.”
Schenn was selected by the Kings in the first round (fifth overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Lombardi: The Time Was Right
Although the price for Richards is high, Lombardi believes the time was right.
“We felt, at this stage of the franchise, it was time to make a significant move for an impact player,” he said during a media conference call. “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.”
Along with center Anze Kopitar, Richards gives the Kings a one-two punch down the middle that they have lacked throughout their history.
“I don’t know if it’s an analogy with baseball and the [number] three [and] four hitters, the idea of having a guy hit behind you,” said Lombardi. “Looking at last season, going into the playoffs, or how we lost in the playoffs, [the second line center] was clearly the hole to me, that was our biggest hole.”
“You go into Vancouver and it’s [Henrik] Sedin and [Ryan] Kesler,” added Lombardi. “You go into Detroit, it’s [Henrik] Zetterberg and [Pavel] Datsyuk. You go to San Jose, it’s [Joe] Thornton, [Joe] Pavelski or [Logan] Couture. Those models of strength down the middle—Boston is another example—that still holds.”
“The game is changing, and I think we’re seeing some things that are certainly evolving, but there are fundamental principles that are holding. Last year they said, ‘you don’t need a goalie.’ Well, I think the goalie is pretty important on our team. I’ve seen some shift in thinking. I’m still a firm believer in strength down the middle.”
That strength down the middle is particularly important in the Western Conference.
“Frankly, our conference is like that,” Lombardi noted. “It allows your coach to get the matchups he wants. It allows you to focus on a third line. It can maybe focus on checking instead of spreading your scoring.”
“I think the centers, as I’ve always said, make other players better,” Lombardi added. “It allows you to build your wingers a little easier, when your middle has hockey sense and makes plays. There’s a whole host of reasons, but this isn’t some revelation…most hockey people agree with that.”
All this goes back to Lombardi’s beliefs on building a team.
“I think you pretty much know my philosophy in terms of building from the back and then strength down the middle,” he said. “I think it’s very clear, not only historically—you can go back and look at [Peter] Forsberg-[Joe] Sakic, [Joe] Nieuwendyk-[Mike] Modano—I’m a very strong believer in strength in the back and then get that strength down the middle.”
“It’s the old thing [former Flyers great] Bobby Clarke once told me,” he added. “In the end, you’d rather have Clarke-[Rick] McLeish than Clarke-[Bill] Barber. Not taking anything away from the players, but it’s the strength down the middle. I think this is something that clearly I had my eye on at the trade deadline. I thought this was the one position that would make us the biggest leap.”
That deal was not available at the trade deadline.
“It certainly wasn’t there, but again, you guys have asked me hundreds of times about, ‘who are you getting?’ ‘What are you going to do?’ ‘Do you have to do something?’ But it has to be two things. The timing has to be right and it has to be the right player,” said Lombardi. “I think it’s fair to say that when I found out this player was available, there was no doubt in my mind, given what I know about his character and his competitiveness, and the thought of having him and Kopitar down the middle, that allows us, I think, essentially, to match up to any team in the Western Conference. I think that was a big hole. So I think we’ve cleaned that up today.”
Richards’ contract was also very attractive.
“Given that he’s only 26 years old and he’s on a long-term contract, he fits our plan now and for the long-term future,” said Lombardi.
That fact was a big reason Lombardi was willing to part with Schenn, unlike at the February trade deadline, when Lombardi held onto his highly-coveted prospect.
“At the trade deadline, there was nobody comparable to Mike Richards available,” Lombardi explained. “Brayden Schenn is a very good player and a very good prospect, but as I said then, when everybody was asking about him, why would I give this guy up for a guy with one year left on his contract, or a free agent? It made no sense.”
“We’re also talking about a player here [Richards] who arguably isn’t even in his prime yet, and the fact that he’s signed to a very favorable AAV [salary cap hit], at $5.75 [million],” Lombardi elaborated. In today’s day and age, with trying to keep our core together and seeing how some of these AAV’s are going, this deal made a lot of sense for us.”
“I guess what I’m saying is, you never say never. I mean, [Wayne] Gretzky got traded. But, clearly, a player of this caliber was not available at the trade deadline. Again, that’s taking nothing away from Brayden. The Flyers got a very good player, who is going to play next year, but we felt that given Mike’s age and our need to move to the next level, this is our Adrian Gonzalez [first baseman and number three hitter for the Boston Red Sox], I guess.”
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