No Vacancy: The Flyers' Depth at Center Makes Jeff Carter Expendable

Dan KellyContributor IMay 3, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - APRIL 25:  Jeff Carter #17 of the Philadelphia Flyers skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Round of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs  at the Wachovia Center on April 25, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Penguins defeated the Flyers 5-3 to win the series 4 games to 2.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The 2008-2009 Philadelphia Flyers showed us down the playoff stretch some glaring deficiencies, such as a lack of leadership, lack of team discipline, and a weak back end. Flyers fans were lining up on the Ben Franklin Bridge.

After a deep run into the Conference Finals the year before and the return of injured first line LW Simon Gagne, expectations were high both in and outside of the locker room.

But a lackluster stretch run and a first round demise at the hands of Sidney Crosby and the hated Pittsburgh Penguins has left many more questions than answers heading into what could be a make or break offseason for GM Paul Holmgren and Head Coach John Stevens.

Holmgren will have the unenviable task of trying to upgrade a soft Flyers' defense that gave up 32.5 shots a game and had problems clearing the puck out of their own zone all year.

The Flyers do not have an NHL goalie under contract, as Martin Biron and backup Anterro Nittymaki are unrestricted free agents.

And the absence of a defensive specialist centerman, who can win faceoffs, hurt this team mightily, especially in the playoffs when Pittsburgh won 56 percent of the draws and the combo of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin seemed to have their way.

Nestled up against the salary cap Paul Holmgren undoubtedly will have to move some players to address his team needs, as well as give the Flyers a "cap cushion" that is necessary to avoid losing players as cap casualties.

The obvious high-salaried names who might be on the block are Joffrey Lupul, Randy Jones, and Danny Briere.

While the media and fans surely will be clamoring for these players to get moved, and perhaps rightfully so, I propose a new name as trade bait—Jeff Carter.

I know what you are saying: JEFF CARTER!?!? Second in the NHL in goals Jeff Carter? The Flyers' leading point scorer Jeff Carter?

Yes, that Jeff Carter.

While he, without argument, is a pure goal scorer with possibly the games best wrist shot, he is physically a soft player who lacks intensity, is not a very skilled passer, is overrated because of his size—which he doesn't use—as a defensive center, and is average—48 percent—in the face off circle.

The emergance of Claude Giroux and the the slim chance of anyone willing to take on Briere's contract make Carter an obvious bait.

His stock is as high as ever after his 46 goal performance. Claude Giroux need to see more ice time on this team as the second line center, while captain Mike Richards centers the top line and Briere centers the third line.

If Carter can garner any combination of a stud goalie, stud defenseman, and defensive specialist/face off center, Holmgren has to seriously consider moving the former first round pick.

If not, Homer may find himself with a red carpet from his office to the Ben Franklin Bridge.