Jeff Carter has been the hottest topic of conversation in the NHL the last few weeks. The speculation surrounding Columbus is that General Manager Scott Howson is very much open to making enormous and sweeping changes in the organization. It sounds like he would like to retain his long time captain, Rick Nash, but he did not sugar coat the reality that Jeff Carter is available for a trade.
I don’t think it’s really necessary to talk about the reasons that Carter may be available. They are pretty obvious at this point. The Jackets are dead last by a country mile and their organization is veering dangerously close to being an embarassment. With a massive payroll not living up to expectations, changes must be made.
Moreover, ever since the trade to Columbus, rumors have hinted that Carter was unhappy with Paul Holmgren’s decision to blindside him with the move. With Eric Francis reporting Saturday night on CBC’s Hot Stove segment that the trade nullified Carter’s agreed upon No Trade Clause, who can blame him?
Carter essentially agreed to be a Flyer for 11 years. and even negotiated for the right to veto trades away from Philadelphia. He wanted to be part of the organization, and as silly as it sounds to say about an athlete who makes over five million dollars per season, he took a paycut to make that arrangement feasible for Flyer management. Before the contract could kick-in however, Holmgren dealt his star center to one of the worst managed clubs in the league.
So How Much Will He Cost?
Carter was worth Voracek and a 1st round pick (7th overall) last summer. Since then, one has to assume that his value has dropped a little bit. His numbers are down and he’s piled up some injuries that make the 10 years reamining on his contract seem a lot more risky than they did when Columbus acquired him. Basically, the Jackets are probably looking to minimize the damage of the trade and get a couple good young assets back in return.
And Where Will He End Up?
Most every team in the league would love to add a 30-40 goal scorer (assuming Carter can get his numbers back to normal on a more competitive club). That said, lots of teams cannot afford to add another big cap hit to already crowded rosters. Others cannot afford the financial commitment that Carter’s 58 million dollar deal entails. So without further ado, the following are the five teams I believe to be most likely to attempt to acquire the services of Jeff Carter:
(5) Montreal Canadiens
There’s a lot of chatter about the Canadiens wanting to finally rectify their longstanding lack of a true number one center with size and scoring ability. With the team now in dead last in the Eastern Conference, it seems like a move of this magnitude is long overdue. However, the Habs aren’t exactly teeming with top quality assets to offer up in high profile trades. This might be a trade they’d be more comfortable making a year from now, after clearing out some of the excess baggage they’re carrying (ie. Gomez).
Best Offer: Yannick Weber, 1st round pick (likely to be a lottery area selection)
(4) Calgary Flames
It’s pretty clear that Jay Feaster has been sincere about his lack of desire to rebuild the Flames despite their blatant mediocrity. He seems determined to surround Iginla with the pieces necessary to try and win now, most recently evidenced by the acquisition of Mike Cammalleri. At this point, he might as well go all in and try to acquire a young center like Carter as well. If he could get that deal done, it would give the Flames a star to build around long after Iginla has retired. They may have to give up high end draft picks, which will upset fans, but to be fair, it’s not like the organization has made any use of draft picks in the last decade anyways.
Best Offer: Michael Backlund, Sven Bartschi, 1st round pick (may require Jackets to take salary back)
(3) Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs would love to solve their top center issue once and for all. While Tyler Bozak and Mikhail Grabovski have out-performed a lot of more expensive, bigger center duos, there’s no doubt that long term Brian Burke will want a Getzlaf-ian style of player in his top pivot position. Carter could be that guy. He is a good friend of Joffrey Lupul, and the two have played together before. Still, Burke is not a huge fan of those long contracts. It seems like Burke would be unlikely to break the bank for Carter, and could be easily outbid if it comes to that. It’s not even a certainty that Burke would part with any top prospects like Nazem Kadri or Joe Colborne. Regardless, with the trades Burke has pulled off the last couple years though, you can’t really count the Leafs out.
Best Offer: Matthew Lombardi, Nazem Kadri, 1st/2nd round pick
(2) Winnipeg Jets
The talk around the Winnipeg Jets right now is that Kevin Chevyldayoff is happy to just stay the course, maybe shed some UFA salary (ie. Oduya), and reboot next year with guys like Kane and Burmistrov a year older, and maybe Schiefele in the line-up to bolster scoring. While I agree that this is a sensible approach, the idea of Carter in Winnipeg has become perhaps a more realistic option of late.
Previously, Carter’s No Trade Clause was a huge obstacle for a small market team like WInnipeg. If Carter isn’t happy in Columbus, how would he react to the icy climate Winnipeg has to offer? I’m a Winnipegger, born and raised, but I can admit that it isn’t for everyone. A lot of people will say that athletes shouldn’t complain with the money they’re making, but the fact is that his No Trade Clause did give him some say in where he plays. With that out the window thanks to the shrewdness of Paul Holmgren, Carter is pretty much helpless to make decisions about what city he calls home.
The really intriguing thing about Carter to Winnipeg though, is how much sense the two teams make as trading partners. Jackets fans are justifiably worried about the 1st overall pick they’re almost sure to receive at June’s Entry Draft. The top two prospects are Russians, and the club has had enormously bad luck with high end Russian picks (Nikita Filatov and Nikolai Zherdev spring to mind). Perhaps the Jackets would do well to insulate Russian sniper Nail Yakupov with a highly talented young countrymen like Alex Burmistrov. I am sure Chevyldayoff is not anxious to deal Burmistrov, but a decade long solution to the #1 Center slot might be too tempting to turn down – especially if they could also move out some salary from the back-end.
Best Offer: Alex Burmistrov, Ron Hainsey, Patrice Cormier
(1) Los Angeles Kings
Probably the most likely destination for Carter is with the Kings alongside his good buddy Mike Richards. The Kings lack scoring in a huge way. They are dead last in the league in that category with only 115 goals scored. Compare that to the 180 scored by the league leading Bruins, and the Kings are desperate for a guy like Carter.
Lucky for Dean Lombardi and the Kings, they happen to have some assets that might be highly interesting to the Jackets for their future. The Jackets have seen enough of the Steve Mason experiment, and would probably love to see what Jonathan Bernier could do between their pipes. A nice piece like Slava Voynov wouldn’t hurt either.
It seems like the Kings are ‘in on’ every big name player, but this seems like a deal they could actually get done. Carter fits the salary structure Dean Lombardi has put in place as well. Could be a great fit.
Best Offer: Dustin Penner, Jonathan Bernier, Slava Voynov
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