Jack Johnson for Jeff Carter Trade Impacts San Jose Sharks, NHL

MJ KasprzakSenior Writer IIFebruary 24, 2012

ANAHEIM, CA - FEBRUARY 03:  Jeff Carter #7 of the Columbus Blue Jackets takes a shot against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on February 3, 2012 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

During the Thursday night contest between the visiting San Jose Sharks and host Toronto Maple Leafs, the biggest trade of the season to date was being leaked, according to NHL.com

The Los Angeles Kings are reuniting Jeff Carter with Mike Richards. In return, they sent former top pick and U.S. Olympian Jack Johnson from their talented blue line and a first-round pick in either 2012 or 2013 to Columbus.

Suddenly, the Kings blue line is not so deep. It has only one elite player now, and went from top-three to top-10 at best.

However, the lowest scoring team in the league now has a scorer who can defend. Both players are near their peak abilities, making this a trade of what they had plenty of for what they need most.

The cost for acquiring this balance was a pick that will almost certainly be in the last half and maybe the last third of the first round. To pay that price, L.A. GM Dean Lombardi must believe his team is on the cusp.

But will this really make them a potent scoring team? Unlikely. They also will remain a stingy one.

In other words, this will not alter the nature of a team that is currently on the outside looking in at the Western Conference playoffs. It is not likely to carry them to the division title when they are trailing two teams by more than two games with just 21 to play.

That leaves them playing a division winner in the first round, and probably one of the top two seeds. Because the move does not make them better than either the Detroit Red Wings or the Vancouver Canucks, they are going to exit in the first round.

That is why this trade has more flash than substance.

Or to put in terms Californians can understand—since the trade emanated from Los Angeles, who plays in a division currently led by San Jose, this was a mere tremor.

After the broadcast of the Sharks win (the link to the Hockey Beat recaps Thursday's action throughout the Pacific Division) over the Toronto Maple Leafs, Comcast Bay Area analyst Jamie Baker indicated the trade should not make the Sharks react—neither should the ups-and-downs of the season, such as the recent four-game losing streak.

He was half right. You do not respond to ups-and-downs as much as the entire body of work.

But a team as inconsistent as the Sharks that is so affected by injuries to key players as to go into a tailspin every time they happen obviously needs more top talent to give them a wider margin of error. And teams do need to keep up with their competition, so long as a solid option is available.

In fact, it is quite likely the Kings were motivated to pull the trigger in part because Phoenix improved by adding their own forward from Columbus while not losing a difference-maker in return.

If this trade does not impact the Coyotes, it will be felt in Dallas and Calgary. These three teams are currently tied with them for the last playoff spot, and it certainly staves off those behind them trying to leapfrog their way into the postseason.

Calgary and Dallas may very well respond with moves of their own. Dallas appeared ready to be a seller, but they can now smell their first berth in four seasons.

That is what teams do.

That is why the potential of the Sharks having a tougher first-round opponent would be reason to make a move. The Sharks can ill afford a first-round exit, but need to make strides from the quick conference final exits of the last two playoffs.

But because the Kings were not drastically improved, this will not make a difference to most of the league—i.e. not only did this trade measure low on the Richter Scale, it missed most of the population.