Philadelphia Flyers: Trading Jeff Carter Would Be a Gamble At Best

RonnybrookCorrespondent IJune 14, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 02:  Jeff Carter #17 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on during warm-ups against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Three of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Wachovia Center on June 2, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

If the Philadelphia Flyers had something in the form of trade currency, Jeff Carter's face would be printed on the bills.

And why not? As one of the few elite players without a no-trade-clause on the Flyers roster, Carter is one of the few blue chip pieces the Flyers have to deal with as the team looks to strengthen their lineup approaching the 2010-2011 NHL season.

Carter is signed through the 2010-11 season and remains property of the Philadelphia Flyers as a restricted free agent after his current contract expires.

Whenever the prospect of trading Jeff Carter comes up, there seem to be two schools of thought.

One says the Flyers are loaded down the middle with players such as Mike Richards, Claude Giroux and the resurrected Danny Briere, leaving Carter as the odd-man out at center. Or at best, playing out of position on the wing. So why not use the Flyers leading scorer in a trade to address several organizational needs, the most glaring of which would be a bonified starting goaltender.

The other school of thought says that 40-goal scorers are hard to come by, and despite the Flyers other needs, teams need to score goals to win. And Carter scores a lot of goals.

When taking Carter's age and demonstrated ability into account, it's safe to make the assumption that any trade involving Jeff Carter would be a deal where Carter is the best player in the transaction.

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And fact of the matter is, players of Carter's ability aren't often traded without some type of mitigating circumstance, such as impending unrestricted free agency or an irreconcilable grievance the player has with his team.

If you find yourself in the school of thinking that says Carter should be traded to address the Flyers needs in any combination of goaltending, scoring winger or third pairing defensemen, ask yourself this question: when trading an elite player entering his prime, which team usually comes out the winner in the deal?

Last year's saga involving then-Senator Dany Heatley was anything but a windfall for the Ottawa Senators, as they shipped Heatley off to San Jose for Milan Michalek Jonathan Cheechoo and a second round pick in the 2010 draft.

Michalek's 22 goal performance went some of the way toward replacing Heatley's offense for the Senators. But anyone who believed Jonathan Cheechoo would benefit from a change of scenery in Ottawa was sorely disappointed.

A former 56-goal scorer, Cheechoo contributed just five goals for the Senators, and earned himself a 25-game stint with Ottawa's AHL affiliate in Binghamton.

Meanwhile, Heatley went on to San Jose, completing one of the more awsome displays of firepower in the NHL when put onto a line with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau .

Speaking of Joe Thornton, how did that trade work out for the Boston Bruins?

In 2005, the Bruins sent Thornton to San Jose for a package of players that included Marco Sturm , Wayne Primeau and Brad Stuart .

Thornton went on to produce 116 goals and 361 assists for 477 points in his five seasons with the Sharks.

While Sturm comes close to matching Thornton in offensive output with 106 goals in five seasons with the Bruins, his 87 assists hardly qualify Sturm as a player that makes those around him better.

The other two players in the deal, Wayne Primeau and Brad Stuart, have become well-travelled journeymen since their arrival in Boston five years ago.

Once again, the seller lost.

When poring through recent trades involving players of this caliber, there are few if any instances of anything approaching fair value for teams shipping out elite players; at least not without the deal being completed under the duress of a trade deadline with an impending unrestricted free agent.

Which brings us back to Jeff Carter.

In Carter, the Flyers have a top-tier scorer with proven ability entering the prime of his career, as evidenced by 46 and 33 goals performances over the last two seasons.

The names of goaltenders that often come up in trade speculation involving Carter include Carey Price , Jonathan Quick , Jonathan Bernier and Corey Schneider .

Carey Price and Jonathan Quick represent emerging goaltenders, though neither have been around long enough to establish themselves as entrenched NHL commodities just yet.

Price, once highly touted in Montreal, has been relegated to backup duty with the emergence of play-off sensation Jaroslav Halak; and while Price is only 22 years of age, he is anything but a sure bet with regard to fair value in a trade involving Jeff Carter.

Jonathan Quick has displayed an elite level of play in Los Angeles, following up 21 wins in 2008-09 with 39 wins in 2009-10; but are the Kings really so eager to send Quick packing in favor of highly touted prospect Jonathan Bernier, who has played just seven NHL games? Unlikely.

Any deal involving Jeff Carter for Corey Schneider and a package of players would be a gamble at best. Like Bernier, Schneider is also unproven as an NHL starter, and fair value in such a deal would hinge on whether the Flyers at last found their long-lost starting goaltender in Schneider.

Of course, the NHL is littered with former highly-touted goaltending prospects toiling as back-up goaltenders or worse. For a local example that's still fresh, does the name Maxime Ouellet ring a bell?

The NHL has also brought the likes of Roman Turek , Brent Johnson , Dan CloutierRoman Cechmanek , Mathieu Garon and most recently Tim Thomas back down to earth after hot starts the first few years of their NHL careers, never to emerge as elite goaltenders.

Even if Quick does develop into a franchise goaltender, why would Los Angeles be so eager to deal him? And is it reasonable to assume that Carter would be the only significant player to leave Philadelphia to complete such a deal? Again, unlikely.

Of course, in any trade there is a calculated risk involved; a gamble, no matter how strongly you believe in the potential of the players coming back in a deal.

The Flyers have a 46-goal scorer in Jeff Carter.

Deals for players of his caliber seldom result in equal value for the players exchanged in the transaction.

With that in mind, the Flyers would probably do best to stand pat and hang onto Jeff Carter.


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