Did Jeff Carter Ask to be Traded?

On Thursday evening, Renaud Lavoie of TSN’s French-Canadian affiliate RSN.ca reported that Columbus Blue Jackets’ center Jeff Carter would like to be traded.  Carter, who was acquired in June from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Jakub Voracek and the Blue Jackets’ first and third round picks in the 2011 NHL Entry draft, is apparently frustrated to the point that a sizzling rumor had spread that he has specifically asked out of Columbus.

After the story broke, what followed was a dizzying series of damage control, denials and back-tracking from Carter, Jeff Carter’s agent, Rick Curran, Blue Jackets General Manager (GM) Scott Howson, local (Columbus) and national media and Stinger, the Blue Jackets’ mascot.  Okay that last one wasn’t true but it might as well have been true.

So, who are you to believe?  I offer two thoughts:

  • Where there’s smoke, there’s panic, and
  • Something happened

Perhaps it’s best to look at the primary characters and the histrionics that led to this potentially legitimate rumor, gone wild.

It was rumored that Howson was actively interested in trading for Carter during the mid-June time frame.  This possibility disturbed Carter, who had just signed an 11-year, $58 million contract extension on November 13, 2010 to the extent that Curran addressed his client’s concern Flyers GM Paul Holmgren.  Curran claimed that Holmgren assured him that there was nothing to worry about, that they weren’t interested in trading Carter, something that Carter was also reputedly told.

Carter was then traded two weeks later, much to his shock and dismay.

What followed was one of the most bizarre impersonations of Howard Hughes in recent memory.  Carter could not be reached for comment about the trade and had not engaged in any contact with any of the Blue Jackets, be it their captain, Rick Nash, Howson or any members of the media.  Emotions had spiraled so out of control that Nash and Howson traveled to meet with Carter to see whether Carter did indeed want to come to Columbus.  Carter expressed his gratitude to the Blue Jackets organization and stated that his silence was not meant as disrespect to the city of Columbus and to the organization, that his anger was directed at the Flyers organization for not being frank to him when he was previously assured that he was to remain a Flyer.

There is another piece to this puzzle – Carter’s agent, Rick Curran, represented now retired NHL defenseman Adam Foote, a former Blue Jacket.  Foote’s departure was a subject of great consternation to the Blue Jackets organization and their fans as reports surfaced that Foote had not only asked to be traded from Columbus back to the organization of his greatest glory, the Colorado Avalanche but that Foote had orchestrated his departure by demanding a contract extension and significant salary, one far in excess of Foote’s fading value.

Curran took to dispel the reports by contacting TSN’s highly-respected insider Bob McKenzie and assure him that these claims were patently false.  However, the belief was that Foote indeed did request his way out of Columbus and the ill will that was generated resonated for the years that followed, particularly when Foote traveled to play in Columbus.  So, while it’s difficult to ascertain whose account was correct regarding Foote’s possible demand to be traded, it isn’t difficult to question whether there is an adversarial history between Curran and the Blue Jackets organization.

Fast forward to the recent rumors…

The rumors that Carter had asked to be traded had elevated to the extent that Howson met with Carter to discuss the RDS report.   The Columbus Dispatch’s highly-respected reporter, Aaron Portzline, reported via Twitter the comments of Howson,

“Howson declined to detail the meeting,” Portzline tweeted “Except to say that he and Carter are on the same page, that there has been no trade request.”

However, it appears that insecurities have run high enough to warrant a GM to request to meet with a player to discuss what may have been said.  These insecurities are heightened given the Blue Jackets disappointing and horrid start to their season, a season in which the Blue Jackets own the NHL’s worst record at 3-13-2, this for the team with the fifth-highest payroll in the NHL.

When asked to comment, Carter did state that while he did not say anything or ask for anything in way of a trade, he did say that he is not happy right now,

“I don’t think anybody is happy (in the dressing room) right now,” Carter said. “If anybody is happy in this room, they shouldn’t be. We’ve won three games.

“Nobody came in here thinking it was going to happen overnight, but obviously, we didn’t think it was going to be like this. We have a lot of new guys in the room, guy who haven’t played together before. You know that’s going to take time, but I don’t think anybody thought it would turn into 3-13-2 at this point.”

So if Carter did indeed ask for a trade, what may have prompted him to do so?  Is it based on Carter still harboring ill will to the Flyers for trading him when previously promised that such rumors were unfounded?  Is it based onColumbus’ disappointing performance to date?  Is it directed at the Blue Jackets team president Mike Priest and GM Howson’s perceived apathy or wherewithal to rectify the current disastrous team performance to date?  Is it mired in the belief that the Blue Jackets’ identity and culture is one where losing is accepted if not deeply entrenched?

No matter the reason, rumors like this will continue to abound unless a serious change in the team’s fortunes or a seismic shakeup in the organization and its direction occurs.

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  1. How to Fix the Blue Jackets’ Mess | INSIDE HOCKEY - February 6, 2012

    [...] the question is, how do you improve the fortunes of the NHL’s worst team (14-32-6) one with a disgruntled center in Jeff Carter, one who is rumored to be on the trading block, a downtrodden, fragile locker room, a rapidly [...]