I can't help but laugh when the buzz on social networks like Twitter starts. It was like any other day waiting for the draft, in full Cup hangover, when news started traveling that Jeff Carter was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Admittedly I had quite a bit of disappointment because while I had dedicated my roster pondering to the addition of Brad Richards this summer, I have a serious soft spot for Jeff Carter and secretly hoped a deal could be struck between Philadelphia and Columbus earlier in the year.
As luck had it, not long after the rumours started, they were squashed, and a new, better rumour began. Carter to Columbus. Just to clarify, that is "Number one center, Jeff Carter" or "All-Star center Jeff Carter" for those not well versed on Eastern Conference star players. TSN dropped the story without return, and the #CBJ hash began to explode with excitement. Zero hesitation, the franchise FINALLY had their number one centerman.
The deal has resitricted free agent Jakub Voracek, along with this years 1st round pick (8th overall) and 3rd round pick (68th overall) going to Philadelphia. Carter is signed at a cap hit of 5.27 million through the 2021/2022 season, making him an unrestricted free agent at the age of 37.
I am sure the numbers are the same everywhere you are reading it, so let me put some quick thoughts into this and we can begin looking forward to the draft tomorrow.
1 - Jeff Carter is every bit an elite center and scorer. His presence on the ice will provide a substantial amount of room for Rick Nash to operate, something that was not provided to him with Brassard and Voracek as linemates. This intangible is going to be a heavy contributor to many goals this coming season from both players, along with whichever fortunate soul gets the opportunity of being the third linemate
2 - Jeff Carter has pull with other Blue Jackets players, such as current UFA Scottie Upshall and 2012 summer UFA RJ Umberger. With an old friend and teammate back in the fold, I would certainly anticipate their interest of sticking around to be much greater, not to mention the fact that the franchise just patched a ten year hole at center.
3 - While Brad Richards was a quality candidate for the top line center role, his cap hit would have likely been 2+ million more than what Carter will make. This allows the team (who likely won't spend to the cap) the ability to utilize that additional two million dollars to bolster other areas of the roster that are lacking.
4 - Carter/Nash will be a brilliant combination. As was noted by Nash, many of the great teams have two distinct star players, and Columbus will not be an exception any longer. Not only does this bode well for the on ice product, but it gives fans an opportunity to enjoy an additional all-star rather than cheering for someone who maybe is slowly building themselves up into a second line position.
5 - While losing a first round pick stings, the draft has been noted as being a weaker one after the first handful of picks, and Columbus was likely well aware of that. Additionally, the franchise was not in real need of a player who could potentially be great for them 3-4 years down the line as much as they were in need of a player who could immediately contribute.
There is no doubt I will sit back in the next couple of days and ponder what could have been with Voracek. He was a great guy with the potential to be a star in the NHL, but seemed to really struggle to transition into a top line role. It also concerned me that contract talks had stalled and messy RFA battles are not what this franchise or the fanbase needs to contend with this year. I am hoping this is the first of a series of quality decisions and signings made by Howson during this off-season. Certainly my confidence in him has been solidified.
Carry the Flag!