Written By: Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter
There are plenty of rumors surfacing in NHL circles that the Philadelphia Flyers are looking to make a major move. Most of these rumors seem to start and stop with struggling centre Jeff Carter.
It’s no secret that the Toronto Maple Leafs have long coveted Carter and his scoring prowess; question is, with Carter marred in one of the worst scoring slumps of his career, would Leafs general manager Brian Burke still be willing to explore the possibility of adding the 24 year old to the fold?
Carter scored 29 goals in 2007-08, 46 goals in 2008-09 and is on pace to score between 25 and 30 goals this season. Thirty goal scorers do not grow on trees, so Carter still has some legitimate value on the trade market, regardless of his struggles this season.
Recent reports suggest the Flyers have approached the Atlanta Thrashers about the possibility of landing Ilya Kovalchuk. Needless to say, it will take a lot more than just Carter to bring Kovalchuk to Philly, but the Flyers are more than capable of putting together a package of roster players, prospects and draft picks for Kovalchuk, adding some validity to the rumors.
To be fair, the Thrashers are in good shape this season. Free agent acquisitions Maxim Afinogenov has registered 31 points in 35 games, including 12 goals and former Maple Leaf Nik Antropov has 31 points in 35 games, including nine goals.
Averaging 3.20 goals per game, Kovalchuk, Antropov and Afinogenov are the main reasons the Thrashers are ranked third overall in NHL scoring. Clearly, subtracting Kovalchuk from the Thrashers would be a difficult decision, but with rumors that Kovalchuk is looking for a ten year deal in the neighborhood of $11 million per season, he may have out priced himself for the financially struggling Thrashers.
If the Thrashers were to entertain moving Kovalchuk I suspect they would be looking for a first line forward with scoring abilities, a characteristic that, in the right situation, Carter could bring to the Thrashers. That said, there is no guarantee that Carter would mesh with Afinogenov or Antropov (who has played plenty of wing in the past), which is a huge risk for the Thrashers, who are on the cusp of their first playoff since 2006-07.
In the end, one has to believe that the Thrashers will do everything in their power to keep Kovalchuk in Atlanta, and ultimately you have to think they will find a way to keep him. With that in mind, perhaps it’s time that Burke picked up the phone to inquire about landing Carter from the Flyers?
The Leafs gave up two first round draft pick’s (2010 and 2011) to the Boston Bruins in order to acquire Phil Kessel, so any trade involving Carter would likely involve a number of roster players and perhaps a prospect.
The Flyers have inquired about Tomas Kaberle in the past, but the Czech defenseman has thus far balked at the idea of playing in Philadelphia, refusing to waive his no-trade clause, which has put the kibosh on any previous trade speculation.
If Kaberle was willing to waive his no-trade clause, I suspect a deal could be worked out. Having said that, Burke has stated on countless occasions that he likes the skill set Kaberle brings to the Leafs and, considering Kaberle’s low cap hit ($4.250 million in 2009-10 and 2010-11), Burke feels Kaberle is underpaid and thus brings great value to the Blue and White.
If Kaberle once again refused to move to the Flyers, there are other players the Leafs could consider moving. Defenseman Luke Schenn has had a tough sophomore season, but nobody doubts his overall skill set and upside. Once thought to be the next captain of the Leafs, could Burke now entertain moving Schenn in a package to acquire Carter?
Matt Stajan (11 goals, 28 points through 36 games) is a decent playmaker and penalty killer and may be a decent addition for the Flyers. At $3 million per season through 2011-12 Niklas Hagman (15 goals, 25 points through 36 games), has played well in stretches this season and may very well be attractive to the Flyers.
Would a package of Schenn, Stajan and Hagman get a deal done? Probably not, but it does offer a good starting point for these two teams and, in my mind, is not far off what the Flyers would be looking for.
Clearly, Carter has tremendous trade value, so you have to suspect that numerous NHL teams would be willing to make an offer on him.
If Burke could sell Flyers GM Paul Holmgren on the idea that adding three players to the roster for the price of one could turn around the fortunes of his team, we may have the makings of a deal. That said, it’s still a long shot and, in all likelihood, unless the Leafs can find a way to get Kaberle to move his no-trade, all bets are probably off.
In the end, something has to give for the Flyers. It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out. One thing is for sure, there will be plenty of rumors where the Leafs and Flyers are concerned, Carter to the Leafs is just one of them.
Until next time,