Should the Red Wings Have Traded for Jeff Carter?
When news broke that Pavel Datsyuk was out for 2-3 weeks from a minor knee surgery, everyone in Hockeytown panicked. After a few minutes, a few tweets, and a few deep breaths later, we were assured that Pav was going to be okay and in fact it was just a minor surgery. It was taken as a precaution so the Wings’ best player would be 100% come playoff time.
I’m not one to generally panic, since the Red Wings have been in stretches without their best players before. However, the Winged Wheel has had a great season going so far, and we are entering into a portion of the season where points are at a premium. We all saw what happened last year in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals, when San Jose (finished with 105 points) was able to take advantage of home ice and close out the Wings (finished with 104 points). Do the Wings win that series if Game 7 is played in Motown? We’ll never know, but wouldn’t every Wings fan have loved to see that scenario play out? After winning 23 games in a row at home, the Wings have gone a mere 1-2-1 without their Russian sniper. The Vancouver Canucks have just surpassed the Wings in the standings. Ken Holland should have pressed the proverbial ‘panic-button’, traded for Jeff Carter, and solidified first place in the West.
Before we delve into what it would take to acquire the former Flyer, lets see how he would have fit in. First, it is very important to be aware of The Detroit Rule. This is something I’ve been aware of over the past 15 years, where the Red Wings are able to take scraps off NHL rosters and maximize their potential and become serious contributors to playoff success. Going way back, the Wings have taken the likes of Larry Murphy, Jamie Macoun, Pat Verbeek, Bill Ranford and had them contributing to playoff success, at a rate far more than with their old clubs.
More recently, Detroit was able to make Brett Lebda look like a serviceable NHL defenseman and Joey MacDonald look like an All-Star goalie. Both of these players crashed and burned when they were playing for the Leafs just a couple seasons ago. Lebda is now the worst defenseman on the worst team in the NHL. Ian White is having a career year as a Red Wing. Danny Cleary was a lost cause until coming to the Red Wings, and from the 2006-07 season until the 2010-11 season, he has scored 20, 20, 14, 15, and 28 goals, while appearing in an average of 68 games per season (that’s an average pace of 23 goals per year for an 82 game season). Todd Bertuzzi just earned himself a 2 year contract extension after doing nothing with Florida and his brief stints with Anaheim and Calgary. Chris Osgood's play elevated after coming back to the Wings after leaving the Islanders and St. Louis. Manny Legace had great regular season statistics for the Red Wings and now he can't even find a backup position in the NHL.
Call it what you want, whether it is puck possession, coaching, or players, Hockeytown brings out the best in its players. Stop, think, and imagine how good Jeff Carter would have gelled playing on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen.
Jeff Carter’s trade value was at an all time low. When the Flyers traded him, he was swapped for a pair of picks and Jakub Voracek, who may as well be Jakub Kindl. That was when he was coming off 46, 33, and 36 goal seasons. The Kings traded Jack Johnson and a first rounder for Carter. That is the equivalent of Brendan Smith, a first rounder, and another promising prospect for the Wings.
What is more important is that Jeff Carter’s cap number is actually manageable ($5.273 M according to nhlnumbers.com). The Wings have tons of cap space, and could still have enough resources in the future (with Lidstrom’s salary off the books) to sign either Ryan Suter or Shea Weber down the road. Oh, did I mention he plays center? There is no denying that the center position is the most important forward role on each line, and has a major impact on overall team success (just ask the Leafs or Sabres if they’d like a number one center to play alongside Kessel/Lupul and Vanek/Pominville). The last fifteen Stanley Cup winning teams have all had great depth at center (starting from 1996: Sakic, Yzerman, Yzerman, Modano, Holik, Sakic, Yzerman, Nieuwendyk, Lecavalier, Brind’amour, Getzlaf, Datsyuk, Crosby, Toews, Bergeron).
To those who argue Jeff Carter’s head is in the wrong place is truly an accurate statement, but imagine the sigh of relief of being traded to a top team. The Red Wings sat tight at the trade deadline, and now hope their team can continue to roll without Datsyuk, who just placed first in 6 of 15 hockey categories selected by his peers. Ken Holland should have taken a “chance” on a player that would have scored 40 goals a year playing with Datsyuk or Zetterberg. The price to get Carter would have been equivalent to that of a second line center. The return would have been a Rocket Richard effort. This trade would have been the definition of ‘buying low’.
The golden opportunity of locking up home ice advantage now rests in the health of the Red Wings going forward. I just don’t want to see my team play another Game 7 in San Jose, ever.
I hope you know what you’re doing, Kenny.
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