Kings acquire Jeff Carter from Blue Jackets for Jack Johnson
The offensively challenged Kings trade for Carter, a center who had a 46-goal season for Philadelphia but struggled in Columbus. L.A. gives up Johnson, one of its young defensemen, and a first-round pick.
The Kings acquired veteran forward Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets… (Chris Russell / MCT )
One disgruntled forward and one desperate team.
That perfect hockey storm resulted in the struggling Kings' acquiring center Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday in exchange for defenseman Jack Johnson and a first-round draft choice in 2012 or 2013. If the Kings do not make the playoffs this season, the pick slides to next year.
The deal reunites the 27-year-old Carter, a former 46-goal scorer, with Mike Richards, his close friend and former teammate in Philadelphia. Richards and Carter were traded by the Flyers in draft-day deals in June, but although Richards eventually came to terms with his relocation, Carter never did.
The 25-year-old Johnson, who had eight goals and 24 points this season, was the third-longest-tenured Kings player behind captain Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar and, along with teammate Drew Doughty, once represented the core and future of the young Kings defense.
"The only way that we can make this deal is because we have some young defensemen coming through the system," Kings President and General Manager Dean Lombardi said, adding that Slava Voynov would be recalled from Manchester, N.H. "… It kind of allowed us to reach out to a player of this caliber who is still a young player, barely in his prime.
"This isn't a rental. This isn't a classic trade-deadline deal where you are giving young players for a rental-type situation. It's a hockey deal."
This blockbuster move comes with the Kings having won once in their last seven games and twice in their last 10, and Lombardi said the situation was "snowballing." The Kings pulled the trigger on a major deal four days before the NHL's trade deadline.
"It's almost psychological now," Lombardi said. "How much of this is quality of play ... but it's been beating us up mentally. And they're going to have to fight their way through."
The Kings had been in talks with the Blue Jackets regarding star Rick Nash, but the high-scoring winger apparently was not interested in coming to Los Angeles, according to those familiar with the situation but not authorized to comment.
Lombardi has come under significant pressure to add offensive punch to a team than ranks last in the NHL in scoring and is in danger of missing the playoffs. The Kings are 10th in the Western Conference, tied in points (61) with eighth-place Dallas and ninth-place Calgary. Three other teams, including the Ducks, are within four points. The top eight teams make the postseason.
Asked whether Carter was capable of hitting the 46-goal mark again, Lombardi laughed, saying: "Right now I'd take 20 [goals].
"It's not easy to go out in the marketplace and find a guy with the potential to score 40 goals who is 27 and a cap number [$5.2 million per season] that's very favorable in terms of me keeping this nucleus together."
Carter comes with plenty of baggage and a sizable contract. The Flyers signed him to an 11-year, $58-million contract, rewarding his 33-goal, 61-point output from the 2009-10 season when Philadelphia reached the Stanley Cup finals. Carter had a three-season run with the Flyers in which he had at least 60 points. And in the four years before this season, Carter scored 144 goals for the Flyers.
The consistent scoring touch he once had in Philadelphia did not accompany him to Columbus in what has been an injury-riddled season. Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson said at a news conference in Columbus that Carter found it difficult, from the start, to deal with the trade from Philadelphia.
Carter is expected to arrive in Los Angeles on Saturday, and the deal is contingent upon Carter and Johnson passing physicals. Carter had 15 goals and 25 points for the Blue Jackets in 39 games and scored his goals in clusters, including a hat trick in his last game with Columbus, against San Jose on Tuesday.
Of course, there is the matter of perspective: The only Kings player with more than 15 goals this season is Kopitar, who has 17.