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 the trade was that of extreme disappointment to the extent that Blue Jackets team President Mike Priest, Howson and team captain Rick Nash traveled to Carter’s New Jersey summer residence several days after the trade to try to determine whether Carter indeed wanted to come to Columbus as Carter 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 on two stretches of this season, has not exactly meshed with the Blue Jackets franchise player, Rick 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 saddled with a 13-32-6 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. And although several players have been rumored to be “on the market” to potentially be traded – 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, Carter has a No Trade Clause (NTC) that Carter 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 is Jeff Carter’s 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’, an savvy attempt to mitigate the resources given in exchange for such an in-demand player such as Carter.
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 Jeff Carter and what would the Blue Jackets like to obtain in return? I offer 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 for 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 and the Leafs first or second round pick in the draft, or possibly including goaltender Jonas Gustavsson or forward Mikael Grabovski, both of whom 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 Flames 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. Some possible trade 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 – i.e. 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 respective defenses from isolating their efforts on Alexander Ovechkin, a move that a team so desperate for playoff success sorely needs. Possible Capitals trade assets could include Karl Alzner, Michal Neuvirth, Cody Eakin or including Brooks Laich in the trade for salary cap relief.