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Should the Preds Target Jeff Carter?


Photo Courtesy Yahoo Sports

In between the first and second period of last night’s Montreal\Detroit blowout, Darren Dreger of TSN dropped a bombshell:  “Jeff Carter is 100 percent available.”

While there’s been some idle speculation for a while now, this was the first definitive statement anyone had made on the matter.  Prior to this point, we know Carter was unhappy to be traded (more about Philly than Columbus, in Carter’s own words).  We also know that Columbus is having a very, very bad season. Understating it. Putting two and two together to make four in this instance isn’t a difficult matter, but still– would Scott Howson and the Columbus Blue Jackets shed themselves of the superstar center that they acquired only seven months ago ALREADY?  I had my doubts, yet Dreger seemed to state with a good degree of confidence.

To no one’s surprise, Twitter’s contingent of Predators faithful was immediately buzzing.

It’s no secret that while Nashville’s longstanding scoring woes have seen a vast improvement this season, and even the characteristically dreadful power play has reached rarified top 3 air, they still lack an element of reliable star power in the top six.  David Poile has been in the market for a top six forward since the summer, and vowed to keep his ear to the ground after an already dewy free agent well ran completely dry.  While the offensive depth has improved, the playoffs typically put every facet of a team’s game to the test, and if there’s one area that the Preds have been deficient in, it’s scoring.  Not withstanding the Ducks series, which featured an anomalous lack of goaltending and defense from a playoff club, the Predators were well shut-down in the playoffs last season.  The Canucks were able to effectively quash the Predators’ top six, and while the third and fourth line posited a yeoman effort, it simply wasn’t enough.  Nashville was limited to an average of 1.8 goals per game in that series, and essentially relied on Rinne to keep them in while the rest of the team held on for dear life.  While many point to the eventual Cup winners, the Boston Bruins, as an example of how to win with balanced scoring and no overwhelming superstars, the Bruins offense was top five in the league overall, and featured such legit first-liners as Krejci, Lucic, and Bergeron.  The Predators don’t really have anyone on that level.  Instead, they rely on a collection of forwards that’s essentially 2 second lines and 2 third lines.  In an isolated matchup, goals can be grinded out in that fashion, but when a more defensive game is played over a seven game series, it becomes harder to get by without a real measure of skill.

So when a name like Carter gets mentioned available, I can’t help but salivate a bit.  Sure, the cost in terms of assets to acquire and salary to dispense is greater than for a player such as Tuomo Ruuttu, the overall effect on your roster is likely to be proportionally greater as well.  A player like Jeff Carter offers more to the Nashville Predators than the customary trade deadline band-aid.  No offense to Mike Fisher– he’s a great leader and two-way player, but he’s not the type of difference maker that gets you over a hump like we’re faced with.  With the future uncertain for Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, David Poile has acknowledged that we’re in a window of opportunity.  Acquiring a player of Carter’s magnitude might just be the slam dunk that not only propels the legitimacy of the Preds’ contention forward, but also provides the impetus to Suter and Weber to dedicate themselves to the team longterm.

It’s been said for some time that Suter and Weber love Nashville.  They’ve come up through the organization, paid their dues in Milwaukee, and arrived at superstardom with the team.  However, they’ve not signed yet, and it’s largely rumored to be due to qualms over the team and ownership’s commitment to winning.  Both are at the top of their field, and could likely write their own ticket to play anywhere, and get paid handsomely doing it.  What better way to demonstrate dedication to winning a Cup than by bringing in a guy that has averaged 38 goals over the last three seasons?  A legitimate franchise center with a laser shot and a shoot-first mentality?

While some have raised concerns over the length and term of his contract (10 more years at 5.4 million), I think you’ll be hard-pressed to acquire a player capable of that kind of consistent production for less.  In fact, in light of recent contracts dispensed, you’re far more likely to land a player that’s considerably LESS productive at that rate.  As for the term, Carter will be 37 years old when the deal ends, with the dollar amounts tapering off in the last few years.  Not exactly retirement age.  The deal essentially carries Carter through the prime years of his career– all of which could be spent in Predator gold.  In addition, there’s been some question of his attitude and work ethic– but these are coachable traits.  Just ask Sergei Kostitsyn and Shane O’Brien, both of whom came into town amidst a cloud of bad reputation.  Skill and ability the likes of which Jeff Carter possesses are not something that can be taught.

Now, there are some factors beyond our control here.  First and foremost– why would our pesky little brother be interested in trading with Darth Vader?  Well, maybe they wouldn’t, but I’m of the opinion that given the already bad optics of the original trade (Carter has been injured, Philadelphia turned him into Couturier and Voracek and another prospect), Columbus can’t be choosy about where they send him.  There best bet, the best chance for redemption in the eyes of a frustrated fanbase is to get the best deal, regardless of where it comes from.

Dreger opines that Columbus is looking for a top prospect and a first round pick– essentially recouping their losses.  With the Jackets’ offense reasonably stable going forward– Nash, Brassard, Johansen, Calvert, Kubalik, among others), the organizational weakness is defense and goaltending.  Well, it just so happens the Predators have both in spades!  The deal that seems to be floating around in proposals, met by reasonable positivity from Columbus fans:

Anders Lindback

Jonathan Blum

1st round pick

If Nashville could land Carter for such a package, it’s an absolute homerun. While it would mean having to acquire a backup tender (or expanding the deal to include Curtis Sanford), it doesn’t take anything of substance from the current roster, while adding a huge boost of offense.  With the bonus factor of constituting the kind of blockbuster move that Suter and Weber fairly or unfairly seem to require, it’s the kind of deal that can’t be passed up if it’s on the table.

A fan can dream, can’t he?