Pittsburgh Penguins Finally Rewarded With Jeff Carter Acquisition

Pittsburgh Penguins fans can breathe a sigh of relief as the new management regime has finally pulled the trigger on a transaction with some substance. The team landed Jeff Carter from the Los Angeles Kings for a third-round draft pick in 2022 and a fourth-rounder in 2023.

Given the fact the Penguins had basically no resources to leverage for a trade, you have to applaud the addition. I think general manager Ron Hextall and President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke deserve a ton of credit for this “hockey deal” as they have not only rewarded this roster for battling through injuries and adversity, they give the team Carter for next season as well.

Related: Trade Deadline Tracker

I have to admit when I’ve been asked lately who the Penguins should be going after it was always either a big physical winger who plays a heavy game or a third-line center who could fill that Nick Bonino and Jordan Staal type of role. Carter is the perfect fit for the third-line of this Penguins team and there’s still a chance Hextall and Burke pull the trigger on a move for a big winger before the trade deadline on Monday.

Carter Compliments This Group Very Well in Pittsburgh

The 36-year-old veteran is an old friend of Sidney Crosby as the two have played on the international stage together. In 40 games this season Carter has scored eight goals and tallied 19 points and while he can be a shoot-first type of player with a 46 goal track record, the London, Ontario native has an extremely high hockey-IQ that will benefit the Penguins lineup.

Jeff Carter Los Angeles Kings
Jeff Carter will fit in nicely as the Penguins third-line center (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While Carter can be inserted as the third-line center for the Penguins once the roster is fully healthy, he does have experience playing on the wing and could provide Evgeni Malkin some punch from the right-side should Kasperi Kapanen not be able to find his stride post-injury. This is the type of versatility the Penguins needed heading into this postseason so again let’s ensure Hextall and Burke are getting some serious credit for this trade.

Hextall and Burke Pulled This Trade Off With Basically No Cap Space

It’s been two months since ex-GM Jim Rutherford stepped aside for personal reasons and the new regime has been very open indicating they were in “win-now” mode and would add a piece that made sense. There’s no doubt in my mind adding Carter to this Pens team makes a ton of sense and ensuring the Kings retained half of his salary was also an aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked here.

The Penguins were essentially handcuffed when it came to the salary cap so by adding that additional draft pick in 2023, it convinced Kings general manager Rob Blake to retain over $2.6 million of Carter’s cap hit. And while his cap hit may be $5.27 million for next season, Carter’s actually only owed $2 million in real cash so that takes some of the burden off of Penguins ownership.

The Trade Carries a Few Minor Conditions

Pierre LeBrun of TSN was first to point out the trade does include some conditions. If the Penguins end up making the Stanley Cup Final and Carter plays in at least half of the games the third-round pick becomes a second-round pick. If Carter was purely a rental for the Penguins I would say this would be an overpayment, but because of the fact he’s signed for next season, I don’t mind this condition one bit.

One Penguins player to watch now is Jared McCann who would have been likely penciled in as the team’s third-line center once everyone was healthy, but with Carter now in the fold, could potentially move up to play second-line left wing with Evgeni Malkin. This could end up being a great opportunity for McCann to propel his career into the top-six forward we’ve been waiting for. He’s been solid for the Penguins lately, recording 21 points in 29 games this season and along with Malkin and Kapanen could form a very productive second-line for the playoffs.

The Penguins are a better team on paper today than they were yesterday and it’s because their new management tandem wasn’t scared to pull the trigger and take a gamble on a proven winner. You have to tip your cap to the executive for rewarding this roster who has been through a lot this season. Adding Carter who has won championships basically at every stage of his hockey career is a great addition for the organization. Hextall, Burke and the rest of the Penguins organization are hoping he’s able to find room in his trophy case for a couple more Cups.

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