In their first move on a day of blockbusters, the Philadelphia Flyers gave the Columbus Blue Jackets the first-line centre they've been seeking.
The Blue Jackets Get: C Jeff Carter.
Carter, 26, has played centre and wing for the Flyers, but figures to get a shot in the middle in Columbus where he could pair with Rick Nash to form a power-based number one line. Most importantly, Carter is a threat that will give the Blue Jackets options as they decide how to distribute their scoring.
Over the last three seasons, only four players -- Alexander Ovechkin, Patrick Marleau, Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby -- have more goals than Carter's 115. He's improved his faceoffs, winning better than 53% over the last two seasons, and he can play in any situation.
As such, even though Scott Arniel didn't play Nash huge minutes last season, it won't be a surprise to see Carter and Nash get more ice time than they received last season (18:15 and 18:56, respectively).
Signed through 2021-2022, at a cap hit of $5,272,727 and with a no-trade clause kicking in for the 2012-2013 season (www.capgeek.com), Carter will be a cornerstone piece for the Blue Jackets and as he and Nash are both in the prime of their careers, the fate of the franchise will rest heavily on the production of two forwards that have proven to be capable of scoring 40 goals in an NHL season.
Since each last hit that plateau, in the 2008-2009 season, there have been a total of 17 players that have scored at least 40 goals, and now the Blue Jackets have two of them.
Whether Carter plays centre or the wing, the Blue Jackets will have to complement Carter and Nash with someone who can distribute the puck. If Carter plays the wing, that could mean Derick Brassard staying in the middle on the number one line or rookie Ryan Johansen getting thrust into that role, but if Carter is in the middle, veteran Kristian Huselius might be the best fit with them as a playmaker.
Considering how much the Blue Jackets have struggled and how long they have been searching for a legitimate number one centre to play with Nash, this was a move that GM Scott Howson simply had to make. It shows an urgency to bring results, to make the Blue Jackets a playoff contender, an urgency that is probably overdue.
The Flyers Get: RW Jakub Voracek, Columbus' first and third-round picks
Voracek will turn 22 this summer and, while he has tantalizing talent, has yet to reach his potential in three NHL seasons. As he's grown into the body of a power forward, Voracek is still seeking the consistency that could make him a winger capable of 70 points or maybe even more. Voracek had 46 points last seasons despite not scoring a goal in the first 11 games and last 16 games of the season.
With all the turnover in Philadelphia, there will still be a very good opportunity for Voracek to play in a scoring role, perhaps on the wing with Claude Giroux or, failing that, newcomer Brayden Schenn, so Voracek will have opportunities. However, Philadelphia's depth will mean that if Voracek isn't producing, he could be surpassed by other options on the depth chart a little more easily than he could be in Columbus.
While the third-round pick is a sweetener, with about a one-in-four chance of netting an NHLer, getting the eighth overall pick in the draft will sure help the Flyers re-stock a prospect cupboard that is nearly bare. Looking at Bob McKenzie's draft rankings, the Flyers could be looking at a puck-moving defenceman like Ryan Murphy, or any of the centres that might still be available, looking at Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome or Sean Couturier.
The major benefit of this deal for the Flyers is that they save money and drastically decrease their long-term financial commitment. Owing Carter 11 years and $58-million is a much bigger responsibility than what will be required to sign Voracek, a restricted free agent who was a cap hit of $1,270,833 (www.capgeek.com) last season.
Of course, the Flyers needed to make room in order to sign free agent goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov (who they subsequently signed to a nine-year, $51-million deal), so gaining the cap room to make that move, while adding a skilled forward with untapped potential and a high draft pick is not only bold, but rather forward-thinking of Flyers GM Paul Holmgren.