There are a lot of rumors surrounding who the Leafs will potentially target in a trade, and it seems lately that Burke is going to make a trade any day. According to TSN's Darren Dreger, Jeff Carter is "100% available", so the last week has featured dozens of articles and blogs about that possibility, and the consensus seems to be that Jeff Carter is an over-rated, injury prone party animal, with a bad attitude and an even worse contract. On top of which, he isn't the play making centre the Leafs apparently are in desperate need of. Look, the internet is not kind to reasonable people or critical thinkers. Almost all the supposed reasons why Jeff Carter is a bad fit for the Leafs do not stand up to any kind of logical analysis. It turns out that Jeff Carter would be an amazing acquisition. Let’s look at the facts:
Not a Good Fit: To me, this is the dumbest of the reasons people are giving as to why the Leafs should not get Carter. Kessel needs a playmaking centre, they say. The facts don’t bear this out. Without a top line centre Kessel has back to back 30 goal seasons and is probably going to get at least 40 this year. Lupul and Kessel have combined to be one of the best and most consistent lines in hockey this year, and no offence to Bozak who has played well, but they’ve done it without a premier pivot. They both excel at creating their own chances and are not the kind of players who need a pure playmaking centre to score goals. Kessel himself is an incredibly underrated playmaker, and playing with a guy like Carter could turn him into a kind of Paul Kariya-like winger/centre hybrid. The point is, it’s dumb to assume Carter wouldn’t have chemistry with this line. He is big, skates well and is responsible defensively. This will improve the ability of this line to cycle down low and it will make them better without the puck, which are their two biggest weaknesses. Finally, as the line currently stands, opposing teams cheat off Bozak and focus on Kessel, who draws the opposing team’s top defenseman every single game, every single shift. His stats are even more incredible this year when you consider that. Jeff Carter and Phil Kessel would be a lethal combo when you consider that Chara can only shadow one of them. This would be one of the league’s best and most unique lines.
Contract: Jeff Carter is on an 11 year 55 or so million dollar contract. Everyone, except me, thinks it’s a bad deal. Why? Connolly makes almost 5 million per year. Connolly is a garbage player, most of the time. That makes Carter a good value right now, and inflation is only going to improve that. The only reason a fan should care about contracts is in relation to salary cap management, and 5 million a year for Carter is good value. If he ever goes south and isn’t worth the money, put him in the minors, since the Leafs are the league's richest team. There is no downside to this contract. People mention Burke’s aversion to these contracts. The reason is that he feels its dishonest and a form of cheating. Well, Burke didn’t sign the contract, but I doubt he would mind being “stuck” with it though.
Attitude: Not enough was made about how low it was for Paul Holmgren to sign a guy to a ten year contract and then trade him to the Pittsburgh Pirates, I, uh, mean, Columbus Blue Jackets. A complete lack of honor, respect and integrity was shown by the Flyer’s GM when he made this move. If I signed a ten year contract and got moved before it kicked in, I would be mad too. Suddenly you have to spend your career in Columbus instead of Philly? He should have taken them to court and voided the contract. Jeff Carter does not have a bad attitude. In fact, he is considered to be a good leader. And what twenty something millionaire doesn’t like to party a bit? Give me a break – I hate when people act like hockey players are somehow inhuman robots who are abstinent tea-toddlers.
Injury Prone: All hockey players are subject to a career threatening injury on every shift, and contracts are insured, so who cares?
Conclusion: Jeff Carter is an excellent, potentially great hockey player who plays the one position that the Leafs are in desperate need of. I love Tyler Bozak and he would be a very good third line centre, but he is a sub-par first line centre, and the Leafs are going nowhere until they have a player who makes the Charas of the world move off Kessel by forcing them into a decision of who to cover. The best part? Simply by cutting Connolly (anyone got a third rounder?) Carter fits in under the cap and the Leafs are vastly improved squad