If there is one thing that sports fans cannot live without, it is speculation. That being said, the NHL trade deadline is fast approaching – February 27 at 3 p.m. ET – so ’tis the season to start speculating. The Washington Capitals, as they have been in recent seasons, are sure to be active at the deadline, so over the next month, KOL will examine some of the marquee names available as well as some surprises. The first installment is below. Share your thoughts down there as well.
Jeff Carter (C), Columbus Blue Jackets
- Contract status: 10 years remaining on a 11-year, $58 million contract; $5.2 million annual salary cap hit.
The figure above is most likely enough to scare away General Manager George McPhee, not to mention Carter’s struggles during his inaugural and injury-plagued season with the Blue Jackets (10 goals, 17 points in 30 games while suffering from a fractured foot, a lower-body injury and a separated shoulder). Yet, there are plenty of pluses in Carter, who has proven to be an elite scorer when healthy and is reportedly “100% available” according to TSN’s Darren Dreger, something echoed by Blue Jackets majority owner John P. McConnell.
First, Carter’s contract, while enormous, does not feature a large cap hit: $5.2 million. The Caps could easily afford that next season if the team does not retain Alexander Semin, whose cap hit is $6.7 million. The Edmonton Journal‘s Jonathan Willis expands:
“For a team struggling to generate revenue, this is not advantageous, while for a larger club that has plenty of dollars available but needs to carefully watch the salary cap the structure is ideal.”
Sounds like Washington.
Yet, the problem lies in how the Caps could afford Carter now. Either salary would have to be dumped in a trade or Mike Green’s $5.25 million cap hit would have to remain on long-term injured reserve.
If the Caps do take a risk on Carter and it does not pan out, his no-trade clause, which starts next season in full before transforming into a modified clause by contract’s end, may not be transferable in a trade, according to Willis. That way, if Carter does not fit, Washington can place him on the trading block. Willis also reports that buying out the final three seasons of Carter’s contract (2019-2022) would cost less than $5 million.
These, however, are all ways to circumvent Carter failing. There are positives that have to do with his production.
Carter is a bona fide scoring center (three consecutive seasons of at least 33 goals, including 46 in 2008-09) with great versatility; he can play on both special teams units and is incredibly successful on the power play (he scored eight power play goals for the Flyers in 2010-11, tied for most on the team with Claude Giroux and leads the Blue Jackets with five this season in limited action). Carter is also successful in the faceoff circle with a 51.3% success rate, 40th in the NHL. That number would be tied for second on the Caps with Nicklas Backstrom.
Most importantly, Carter is capable of being the second-line center that Washington has sorely missed since Sergei Federov left after the 2008-09 season. No longer would Washington have to fill that hole with players like Jeff Halpern, Brooks Laich or Marcus Johansson, who are more suited for a checking line role than a scoring one. There are plenty of risks associated with Carter (Dry Island, anyone?), but with high risk can come high reward.
Brenden Morrow (LW), Dallas Stars
- Contract status: one year remaining on a six-year, $24.6 million contract; $4.1 million annual salary cap hit.
Caps fans would not be wrong for seeing Morrow as nothing more than another Jason Arnott: a gritty, complementary forward with leadership qualities. Both were/are captains and they were teammates in Dallas. The comparisons are endless.
Where Morrow differs from Arnott, however, is that Morrow would not be a rental; he has one more year remaining on his current contract. What Morrow would be is a replacement for Mike Knuble.
Knuble’s one-year, $2 million contract expires at the end of the season, a season that could ultimately be the worst season he has ever had offensively. At 39 years old, Knuble’s production will likely continue to decline. Meanwhile, the 33-year-old Morrow is still going strong, earning 22 points (eight goals) this season through 41 games.
While Morrow is more injury-prone than Knuble (he only appeared in 18 games in 2008-09 after right knee surgery and 40 games in 2006-07 with groin and wrist issues), he is still capable of producing; he is just one season removed from a 33-goal, 56-point 2010-11 season where he played in all 82 games.
Morrow is physical (14th in hits with 225 in 2010-11), excels on the power play (2:51 PP TOI/G, third on the Stars, and four goals, tied for first) and makes a living in the slot. He is also sound defensively, making him a two-way asset that the Caps could use and any team cannot have enough of.
The biggest similarity between Carter and Morrow is what Washington would have to relinquish in order to receive their respective services. Dreger reported that the Blue Jackets are looking for a similar package to the one they gave up for Carter: a high draft pick and a young roster player. According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Stars are looking to get younger, so a similar package might be necessary to wrangle Morrow from Dallas.
Of course, the Caps have an extra No. 1 draft pick from the Colorado Avalanche that they received last summer for Semyon Varlamov, as well as young players like Cody Eakin in which to entice possible trade partners.
Check back throughout the month for more trade deadline analysis.