You can’t help but feel for the Columbus Blue Jackets and their early season struggles. As of Saturday morning, the Jackets sit at the bottom of the NHL with a 3-13-2 record, having given up the most goals and tied for fewest goals scored in the conference. Through all of this, rumors have arisen this week that center Jeff Carter has requested a trade, though the validity has been denied by Carter, his agent, and Columbus GM Scott Howson as reported by the Columbus Dispatch.
With that being said, if there is some amount of truth to the rumors, this is an interesting case when it comes to professional athletes requesting a trade. At this time last year, Carter was an alternate captain for the defending Eastern Conference champions, coming off three years where he had scored 29, 46, and 33 goals and figured to be a cornerstone for the franchise for years to come. It appeared as though The Flyers organization felt the same way as they signed Carter to an 11-year, $58 million extension that kept him under contract through the 2021-2022 season at a fair price to Carter and cap hit to the Flyers.
The Flyers finished the regular season last year as the #2 seed in the East, beat the Sabres in the opening round of the playoffs in 7 games, and were subsequently ousted in 4 straight by the eventual cup winning Bruins in the second round. Carter was a bit of a disappointment in the playoffs finishing with only 2 points in 6 games played and a -3 rating, but did battle an injured right knee he suffered in game 4 of the opening round. It was the drubbing at the hands of the Bruins that seemed to have changed the plans for the future of the Flyers higher brass.
The Flyers had been fighting inconsistencies at the goalie position for years, and this past off-season they decided to make a big move. They traded for the rights to potential unrestricted free agent and star goalie Ilya Bryzgalov of the Coyotes, but had to make some moves to work the contract needed to sign Bryzgalov (9-year deal, $51 million) under the salary cap. Carter and captain Mike Richards, who had signed a 12-year contract extension in December of ’07, ended up being the victims, per se, in this deal. The same day Bryzgalov was signed, Richards was traded to the Kings and Carter was traded to the Blue Jackets. There were several rumors out of Philadelphia that there were a lot of off-ice issues that the organization didn’t approve of that led to the departure of Richards and Carter who are extremely close. Nonetheless, Philadelphia received forward Jacub Voracek and the 8th overall pick in the 2011 draft, who turned out to be Sean Couturier in return for Carter. Expectations for Carter in Columbus were great as the team had never had another weapon of that caliber to go along with perennial all-star Rick Nash. For a team with financial and attendance struggles, having only made the postseason once in their 11-year history, this was to be a breakout year. They moved among the top 5 in the NHL in payroll, and expectations to start the year may have been the highest they’ve ever had.
This brings us to today. Five games into this season, Carter suffered a hairline fracture in the top of his foot, the result of a blocked shot. Through those 5 games, Carter only managed 3 assists. He returned to the lineup November 11th, and in the past three games since he’s been back, he has yet to record a point. Carter now finds himself in a situation where he is on the worst team in the league and under contract for the next 10 years. But you have to feel for Carter as he inked his deal with the assumption that a majority, if not all of that time, he would be a part of one of the best organizations in the league. Although he continues to deny the reports that he has requested to be traded, this is a situation where if he indeed has those feelings, you can’t really blame the guy. This is not a Kyle Turris situation where you have a young guy who has only scored 19 goals in three professional seasons sitting out and demanding to be traded. With the Jackets burying themselves deeper in the standings with every passing game, frustrations up and down the organization building, attendance in the bottom 4 of the league, and mounting financial concerns, you have to wonder if Columbus will continue to try and make this work. Though publicly, this issue appears to be squashed for the time being, there continue to be rumors that teams have been inquiring into the availability of Carter. I don’t see any rash decisions coming any time soon as Carter has only played in 8 games for the Jackets, but if things don’t approve you have to wonder if this situation will be brought up more in the coming months leading up to the trade deadline.