Western Conference Improves as Philadelphia Unloads Jeff Carter and Mike Richards

A day before the NHL Draft and we already have some massive changes in the Western Conference.

The Philadelphia Flyers sent franchise cornerstones Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to the Los Angeles Kings and Columbus Blue Jackets respectively, acquiring Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek, and a first and third round draft pick. It was a notable haul in terms of promising young players, but there's no doubt the effects of these transactions will put a damper on the Flyers ability to win next season.

For all intents and purposes it is Claude Giroux's and James Van Riemsdyk's team now. While those are two excellent forwards you can build around, the increasing age of defensive stalwarts Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen make the window for success much closer to now rather than later-- today was a futures move for Philadelphia on the forward front, something that doesn't exactly mesh with the age on their backend.

As for Los Angeles, I don't think there's any doubt they just received a world-class two way forward that is as dangerous defensively as he is offensively. Joining Anze Kopitar and Jarret Stoll down the middle, the Kings now have three players who match up well against the best 1-2-3 center punch in the NHL (Thornton, Couture, Pavelski). And while Pittsburgh's duo of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin is a better 1-2 combo, the Kings are now on par with (if not better than) every other NHL team in regards to their top two centers.

Los Angeles got the number two center they were looking for this offseason. With a deal sending Ryan Smyth to Edmonton reportedly imminent, the Kings should have enough cap space in order to sign Drew Doughty, Alec Martinez, Brad Richardson, Oscar Moller, and Trevor Lewis.

Expect the Kings to contend once again for the Pacific Division title. With the amount of talent they already possess on the backend, they should once again be a Stanley Cup contender provided they can stay healthy down the stretch.

As for Columbus, the acquisition of Jeff Carter allows them to finally give Rick Nash a player to work with in the offensive end of the ice. Whether or not that vaults them into playoff contention remains to be seen with free agency still a factor, but there's no doubt that the Blue Jackets have improved in the short term as well.

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