Rumors swirled on Twitter Tuesday morning about a potential swap between the Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets involving Jeff Carter.
The Sabres were supposedly in on the Carter talks last summer when he was dealt to Philadelphia and on the surface, the move makes some sense from the Buffalo perspective.
Carter is 27 and is in his first season of an 11 year $58 million contract that runs through the end of the 2021-22 season when he will be 37 years old.
Carter had seasons of 46, 33 and 36 goals before being shipped to Columbus and he is surely a top line center, which the Sabres have needed for years. Darcy Regier tried to land that spot this past offseason with the acquisition of Ville Leino after he was unable to get Brad Richards.
He is a manageable contract as well despite the length. At $5.75 million per year against the cap, Carter would check in as the second highest paid forward behind Thomas Vanek.
But would Buffalo actually want him? The current crop of Sabres has been plagued by a lack of mental toughness and leadership since the departure of Chris Drury and Danny Briere to free agency after the 2007 season.
Their top stars are either sullen and prone to getting down on themselves (Vanek, Ryan Miller), or quiet and reserved (Jason Pominville). Guys like Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff could fill that void but they are both in their first season and wouldn't be disposed to rock the boat.
Carter probably wouldn't help with that. He was shipped out of Philadelphia last year, along with several other major pieces of a Flyers team that had just reached the Eastern Conference Finals, because of desire to change the culture in the locker room, which is hockey-speak for not a guy with strong character.
The Sabres would probably have to part with a player like Drew Stafford to make the deal work. Derek Roy also comes to mind, but the point of this deal would be to get the Sabres their other top-six center to go along with Roy.
However, from Columbus' perspective, the deal doesn't make a lot of sense. They acquired Carter less than a year ago for a boatload - Jakub Voracek, the number 8 pick and a third round pick.
Carter has been miserable for the Blue Jackets, notching just 12 goals and 22 points in 38 games so far this year which has obviously lowered his value tremendously. But if Columbus were to go for a package from Buffalo that included Stafford, and some combination of prospects and picks could they actually sell that to their fan base so soon after they gave up so much for him?
Not to mention that Carter was supposed to be the great line mate that Rick Nash was missing to propel him to even greater heights. When it happened last summer, the acquisition was one of a very few positive moments in Blue Jacket history and bailing on it so quickly could have a very detrimental effect on an already jaded fan base.
Though the deal is interesting in principal, it just doesn't seem to work in practice unless Columbus is ready to totally give up on what they are doing now, and want to completely start over. As general manager Scott Howson as presided over all of the moves that got them into this mess, it doesn't seem likely that he would just blow the whole thing up.
Revisit this deal as an idea when and if Howson is replaced, perhaps as soon as this offseason.
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