Earlier tonight, Penguins GM Ron Hextall decided to trade for an ex-Philadelphia Flyer and two time Stanley Cup Champion in Jeff Carter from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a conditional third round pick in the 2022 NHL draft, as well as a conditional fourth round pick in the 2023 NHL draft. In this deal, the Kings retain 50% of Carter’s contract for the rest of the 2021 season, making his remaining cap hit for Pittsburgh $2.636 million. He has one more year remaining at this cap hit for the Penguins, as he will be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the 2021-22 NHL season. Jeff Carter brings even more Stanley Cup pedigree and experience to an already loaded Pittsburgh Penguins team, as they have an 8-2-0 record in their last ten games and are on a three game win streak. The Penguins sit just two points back of the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals, who each have 58 points in 42 games.
At thirty-six years of age, we have to wonder if this may be the last chance Jeff Carter has to win another Stanley Cup. Los Angeles is in the process of a rebuild and it certainly wasn’t going to happen there, so dealing him to a contender was a classy move by Kings GM Rob Blake in our opinion. In forty games this season, Carter has scored eight goals and registered eleven assists for nineteen points. His midseason AB score of -5.32 would actually be Carter’s best score since 2017-18 if it holds, as he has had back-to-back double digit negative AB seasons (-14.3 and -13.68 in 2019-20 and 2018-19 respectively). Despite the improvement, Carter’s -5.32 score is the fourth worst of any player on the Kings roster this season, above only Adrian Kempe’s -5.76, Austin Strand’s -7.43, and Tobias Bjornfot’s -8.13. Carter hasn’t registered a positive individual score since that 2017-18 season and has registered negative scores in three of the last four seasons. This season, he was averaging 16.26 minutes per game, and his departure could lead to an increase in minutes for Gabe Vilardi, the team’s first round selection in the 2017 NHL draft. The Kings are set down the middle for the foreseeable future with Vilardi, as well as Anze Kopitar, who is still an elite player, and 2020 2nd overall pick Quinton Byfield will hopefully be ready for opening night of next season.
When Ron Hextall and Brian Burke were hired by the Penguins on February 10th, they said they would see how the team performed before making any drastic decisions about a rebuild. This team looks good enough to contend for another Stanley Cup, and the first big trade of the Burke/Hextall era in Pittsburgh confirms this thought. It’ll be interesting to see what else this management tandem decides to do later on in the day leading up to the 3pm deadline, and we look forward to following it live as it happens. Much more to come.