It’s no secret that Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Scott Howson is actively shopping center Jeff Carter, a player he acquired a mere seven months ago as part of an attempted series of impact moves designed to place the woebegone Blue Jackets into playoff contention.
Carter’s reaction to his trade from the Philadelphia Flyers was of such extreme disappointment, that Blue Jackets team President Mike Priest, Howson and team captain Rick Nash traveled to the 27-year-old’s New Jersey summer residence in the days after the announcement to try to determine whether Carter indeed wanted to come to Columbus, as the former all-star could not be reached for several days after the trade was made.
To be kind, the Carter acquisition has failed in just about every respect: Carter, while injured for two stretches of this season, has not exactly meshed with the Blue Jackets’ franchise player Nash and has appeared disinterested throughout the time he has been healthy.
In fact, rumblings of Carter’s discontent occurred at a relatively early juncture of the season when it was rumored that Carter had requested a trade as early as mid-November, something Carter and Howson patently denied. However, the rumor had some apparent teeth to it to the extent that Howson requested a meeting with Carter to determine the validity of the rumor.
Of course, any elite sniper of Carter’s ilk wouldn’t be enthralled with the prospect of playing with the NHL’s worst team, now saddled with a 14-32-6 record.
But for a team headed nowhere besides the quest for the first overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, it’s become obvious – actually necessary – for the Blue Jackets to attempt to cut their losses and begin yet another attempted rebuild. Although several players have been rumored to be “on the market” to potentially be traded – namely Antoine Vermette, RJ Umberger, Sammi Pahlsson, Kristian Huselius, Curtis Sanford and Steve Mason, among others – it is Jeff Carter who appears to be the trade-bargaining chip that Scott Howson seems to be most intent on moving.
Trading Carter will not be that easy. For starters, the London, ON. native has a No Trade Clause (NTC) that he would have to waive before consenting to a trade, although given the current situation, that shouldn’t present an obstacle for Carter to exit a horrid team and situation. Additionally, rumors of Carter’s discontent in Columbus as well as the rumors of Carter’s hard-partying ways could cause several teams to balk at bringing in a potential locker room and character issue into their clubhouse.
But it’s his contract that may be the biggest obstacle that may dissuade other NHL teams from attempting to nab an elite goal-scorer like Carter. The obstacle lies more in the remaining term of the contract – 10 more seasons after the current season – than in the salary cap hit – $5.3 million per season. In fact, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke expressed concerns over his personal interest in Carter due to the length of the contract term. It’s no secret that Burke loathes long-term contracts beyond a five-year term. However, while I have the utmost respect for Burke, I also know he covets Carter and have witnessed more than a few of his clever ‘smokescreens’, a savvy attempt to mitigate the resources given in exchange for such an in-demand player.
Even with these potential obstacles, TSN’s mega-insider Darren Dreger believes there are teams who don’t consider Carter and his contract to be untradeable.
So which teams might have interest in the forward and what would the Blue Jackets like to obtain in return? Inside Hockey offers some potential suitors and what could be suitable to both parties:
Los Angeles Kings – Rumors have abounded on Twitter and the NHL Network that the Kings and Blue Jackets are in serious discussions of trading Carter and Curtis Sanford, the Blue Jackets current starting netminder, for Jarret Stoll and starting goaltender-in-waiting Jonathan Bernier – a trade that appears somewhat lopsided towards the Kings. A fairer trade might include the Kings first pick in the upcoming entry draft or switching Stoll for defenseman Jack Johnson.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Both defenseman Luke Schenn and forward Nazem Kadri have both been rumored to be on the trading block. So a scenario of trading Carter for Schenn or Kadri plus the Leafs first or second round pick in the draft, or possibly including goaltender Jonas Gustavsson or forward Mikhail Grabovski. But both of the latter are slated for Free Agency this summer, which would be problematic for Columbus in any attempts to retain them after season’s end.
Calgary Flames – Given the Flames’ salary cap constraints, this seems unlikely, but GM Jay Feaster did make a serious play for Brad Richards over this past summer. Add to that the Flames’ desperate need to reverse their downward trend of being on the outside looking in for playoff contention and you have a team who needs to pull the trigger on a big trade. Some possible scenarios could be Carter for defenseman TJ Brodie, goaltender Henrik Karlsson and either their first pick in the draft and/or including a player who could mitigate the Flames salary cap limitations – for example, Matt Stajan or David Moss.
Washington Capitals – This could be a true “shot in the dark”, but adding an additional sniper like Carter could ease the Capitals’ opponent’s defenses from isolating their efforts all on Alexander Ovechkin – a move that a team so desperate for playoff success sorely needs. Possible assets the Capitals could trade may include Karl Alzner, Michal Neuvirth and Cody Eakin (as well as draft picks) or including Brooks Laich in the trade for salary cap relief.
Wherever the destination may be, Jeff Carter appears to be one of the NHL’s hottest trading commodities as the NHL’s trade deadline of February 27th approaches.