The Philadelphia Flyers selected centerman, Mike Richards, of the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers with the 24th-overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Richards helped Kitchener win the Memorial Cup the season prior. The Rangers awarded him for his efforts by naming him team captain. After being drafted by Philadelphia, Richards returned to the OHL for two more seasons. Richards joined the Philadelphia Phantoms of the AHL for their 2005 playoff run, helping them win the Calder Cup Championship averaging over a point per game.
Richards made his NHL debut in the 2005-06 season. The young center scored a goal against the New York Rangers in his first ever game. His first career hat-trick also came that season against the Islanders. Remarkably, he tallied two short-handed goals in the contest. Richards finished his rookie season with 34 points in 79 games.
Unfortunately, Richards’s sophomore season was shortened due to injury. Stomach surgery limited him to only 59 games that year. Luckily, the misfortunes of 2006-07 did not bleed over to the following year. The 2007-08 campaign saw Richards transform into a young star in Philadelphia. Not only did he lead the team in scoring with 75 points, but the Flyers also named Richards an alternate captain and signed him to an unbelievable 12-year contract. Additionally, Richards was selected to play in his first all-star game that year.
In the 2008 postseason, Richards played an essential role in taking the Flyers all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Unfortunately, the run would end there as Philadelphia fell to their in-state rivals, the Penguins. Richards finished the 2008 playoffs with 14 points in 17 games.
Before the start of the 2008-09 season, the Flyers named Richards the 17th captain in franchise history. His 80 points that year were second-best on the team, finishing only behind Jeff Carter. After the season came to a close, the NHL announced Richards as a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy. Unfortunately, he finished just behind Pavel Datsyuk in votes.
Though Richards continued to produce on the ice in 2009-10, he gained a reputation as a big partier off the ice. This information, of course, led to some unfriendly interactions with the media that we are not going to dive into. Regardless, the Flyers squeaked into the postseason with a shootout victory against the Rangers in the final game of the season. As we all know, this led to the fantastic 2010 playoff run that saw Philadelphia make it to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Blackhawks.
Richards would post 66 points the following year, helping the Flyers secure the second seed in the Eastern Conference. However, Philadelphia’s playoff run did not last as long as expected. They fell to the Bruins in four-straight games in the second round.
The Flyers Send Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings
On June 23, 2011, Paul Holmgren made a move that shocked the hockey world. He traded Philadelphia’s captain, Richards, along with Rob Bordson to the Los Angeles Kings. In exchange, the Flyers received youngsters Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn, along with a 2012 second round pick. Holmgren did not stop there as he also sent Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jakub Voracek and a first-round and third-round draft pick. Though some attributed both trades to the “party guy” reputation of both players, Holmgren stated that the moves were made to shed cap space. Of course, that space would be used to ink Ilya Bryzgalov. A deal that never panned out for the Flyers.
From an individual standpoint, Richards’s performance took a dip once in Los Angeles. However, he played on two Stanley Cup winning teams. Through four years with the Kings, Richards played in 257 games and recorded 133 points.
Transaction Grade: A-
When analyzing the Richards trade, people tend to sway to one of two sides. Some criticize the deal because Richards went on to win two Stanley Cups. Others tend to applaud the deal because of the return the Flyers received. I am apart of the camp that praises the deal. Yes, Philadelphia dealt away their captain and someone they invested a great deal of money towards for a lengthy period. Yes, he saw success in Los Angeles that the Flyers have failed to experience. However, both Simmonds and Schenn became important parts of the Flyers roster. Schenn has since been traded but Simmonds is currently the heart and soul of the team. Additionally, the twelve year contract given to Richards was a complete mistake. Philadelphia was lucky to get rid of it when they did.