As the Los Angeles Kings have fallen in the standings and onto the edge of playoff contention, the pressure has skyrocketed for General Manager Dean Lombardi to make a move to stop the bleeding. The Kings have been solid on defense and in net, ranking 3rd in goals against and 5th on the penalty kill. However, these stats have not been strong enough to counteract an offense that is dead last in goals scored and only 24th on the powerplay.
As rumors flew throughout the NHL about Rick Nash, Lombardi decided to finally pull the trigger on a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The trade did not involve Nash though; the Kings gave up defenseman Jack Johnson and a conditional 1st round pick (2012 or 2013 as they choose) to get center Jeff Carter in return instead.
The premise of the trade is simple, give up a clear strength on defense to improve a clearly inept offense. Was the price too high though?
As the Kings face off against the Blackhawks tonight in their first game since the trade, the immediate impact would suggest that the deal is a win for both teams. The Kings are in dire need of offense, and Carter can surely provide that. He has 368 points in 500 career games, and has topped the 20 goal mark in all but his 2nd season in the NHL. Meanwhile, the team was quick to call up defenseman Slava Voynov, a highly rated prospect who has 11 points in 33 games with the Kings this season, to replace Johnson.
A slight decrease in the current defense + a larger increase in the current offense = a short term win for the team.
The long term impact of this deal brings about many more questions though. Carter and current Kings forward, Mike Richards, were both shipped out of Philadelphia for rumored locker room issues. Carter was also clear about his disdain for landing in Columbus, so what will his locker room impact be in LA? He will be entering a Kings locker room that is already stressed out on account of a four game losing streak.
Additionally, Carter signed an 11 year, $58 million deal ($5.27 mil cap hit) before this season. That is quite a long commitment for the Kings to take on in an effort to solve their immediate problems. If this experiment fails in LA, will the Kings be able to move him for a decent return, if at all? Furthermore, will Carter’s deal have a major impact on the future deal for goalie Jonathan Quick? Carter comes with an awfully big cap hit if he can’t give the Kings 25-30 goals per year for his contract.
Finally, as if the talented Jack Johnson wasn’t enough of a price for Jeff Carter, the first round pick that the Kings gave up may be the kicker in the long run. If the Kings make the playoffs, the Blue Jackets have the option of taking either their 2012 or 2013 1st round pick. Meanwhile, if the Kings miss the playoffs, Columbus automatically gets their 2013 1st rounder. While the contingency provides a little protection for LA in case they miss the playoffs and have a high pick this year, how will it look if they proceed to miss the playoffs again next year? A team that misses the playoffs in consecutive years can’t afford to waste 1st round picks, and making the playoffs this year looks like a coin flip right now.
Simply put, giving up a young, highly talented defenseman and a 1st round pick for a scorer that doesn’t help this team get to the playoffs will be seen as a major blunder.
When it comes down to it, this trade was made out of desperation to make the playoffs. Therefore, it will truly be judged as a win or loss by the results of this April and the following one. If the Kings make the playoffs this year and next year, this is a winning deal no matter how Johnson and the 1st rounder turn out. If they miss the playoffs this year, chalk it up as a loss for Lombardi and the Kings, and a disappointing lesson on why you shouldn’t trade out of desperation.
It’s only an educated guess, but I have a feeling that Kings fans will be happy with this deal as Carter’s goal scoring keeps the team playing hockey into late April.
Thanks to CapGeek for the contract information.