The Kings Need to Prioritize Trading Jeff Carter

Jeff Carter has been playing in the NHL for a long time. The 2020-21 season will be his 16th season in the league, and his first game will be the 1,041st in his career. The 35-year-old has scored 732 points, 382 goals, and 350 assists, with three teams. He was picked 11th overall in 2003 by the Philadelphia Flyers and played his first season in 2005-06. He would play for the Flyers until 2011, when he played part of the season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, moving on to the Los Angeles Kings in the same season.

Jeff Carter Los Angeles Kings
Jeff Carter, Los Angeles Kings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Carter has played for the Kings since the 2011-12 season, winning the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014. He currently serves as one of the alternate captains for the Kings. Although he has had an outstanding career, it is time for the Kings to move on from Carter, but only if they can.

Carter’s Production and Cap Hit Don’t Match

Carter usually averages 50-60 points per season, an important piece for any team. Unfortunately, his production has dropped off since the 2017-18 season when he suffered a brutal leg injury. He ended up only playing 27 games that season, putting up 22 points. That’s a pretty solid points per game, despite how poorly the season went for him. The issue is after he returned for a full season in 2018-19, the number of games went back to normal, but the points got left behind.

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In 2018-19, he put up just 33 points and a minus 20, and in 2019-20 he put up 27 points and a minus-21. Carter’s cap hit is also substantial. Until the 2022-23 season, he is being paid $5,272,727. This is huge for a rebuilding team like the Kings who are going to have to sign their up-and-coming talent. If the Kings can trade Carter, it would be a great move, dropping the cap hit for a player who isn’t bringing much aside from leadership.

Who Would Take Carter?

Not many teams would be interested in picking up Carter, so he will be a hard move for Kings general manager Rob Blake. The Flyers seemed interested in bringing Carter back earlier this season, but the Kings would likely have to retain some salary. Depending on the specifics of the deal, this might not be a bad exchange for Los Angeles.

Jeff Carter (left) as a Flyer (Neat1325/@flickr)

The best thing for Carter, the Kings, and the team that he would go to, is to move him to a contender team who needs veteran presence to go on a run. Aside from the Flyers, the Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Calgary Flames, and Vancouver Canucks come to mind. They all have decent cap space, could go on a run soon, and could use the experience. However, the likelihood that any of them would spend $5.27 million is slim, so the Kings would have to sweeten the deal.

It’s Not the Worst Thing If the Kings Can’t Move Carter

If the Kings can’t move Carter, they will just have to bite the bullet. Luckily, this is only for two more seasons. Although this isn’t the Kings’ only unreasonable contract — $11 million for Doughty is a lot. Doughty brings another element to the game and Carter is almost invisible. He does bring leadership though, playing over 1,000 games and winning two Stanley Cups. The problem with paying Carter for just leadership is by the time his leadership will be of use to go on a run, he will be an unrestricted free agent, likely not getting another contract from the Kings.

Todd McLellan, Jeff Carter
Los Angeles Kings coach Todd McLellan, right, talks to Jeff Carter (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Even if the Kings don’t have Carter once they need leadership, they still have Anze Kopitar, Doughty, likely Alex Iafallo, and possibly Jonathan Quick. Carter is also a center, which is a waste of a spot. The Kings have a ton of incredible center prospects coming up, and Carter taking up one of their spots hurts not just the team, but the prospect’s development. If the Kings can’t trade him, they will have to find another way to tackle the situation.

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