Report: Blue Jackets hope to pry Jeff Carter from Flyers; Would the rumored deal make sense?

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When people think of the Philadelphia Flyers, the one common missing ingredient has been a top-flight goalie. The Columbus Blue Jackets think they have that base covered with Steve Mason,* but they have a major shortage of something the Flyers hold in abundance: scoring centers.

Ever since Rick Nash emerged as the elite winger the Blue Jackets were hoping for, it seems like the team has been looking for a suitable center – or at least another dangerous winger – to ease some of the scoring burden. When they tried to fill that gap with expensive veterans (see: Fedorov, Sergei), those guys proved to be over the hill. Their two attempts to draft top-flight Russian wingers with Nick-like names (Nikolay Zherdev and Nikita Filatov) seemed to fail miserably as well, although Filatov probably deserves a few more years before he’s a dead-on bust.

They’ve had a bit more success when they swing for singles rather than home runs, though. Derick Brassard seems like a solid talent, but injuries and inconsistency will probably reduce him to a second line ceiling. R.J. Umberger scored 74 goals in his three seasons in Columbus, proving to be a serviceable center at a reasonable price.

Yet even with some solid options in support roles, the Blue Jackets still lack the “Robin” to Nash’s “Batman.” The Blue Jackets are hoping to make some big changes this off-season and the Flyers will need to make some space for Ilya Bryzgalov or another dependable goalie, so perhaps the latest Carter trade rumor could have some credence. Aaron Portzline reports that the Blue Jackets might try to pry Carter away from the Flyers for a fairly handsome package.

Multiple NHL sources have told The Dispatch that the Blue Jackets and Philadelphia Flyers have discussed a trade that would send Flyers center Jeff Carter, an All-Star in 2009, to Columbus for a top-six forward and the No. 8 overall pick in this year’s draft. That top-six forward, presumably, is 21-year-old Blue Jackets winger Jake Voracek, a restricted free agent.

Though it could occur sooner, it’s likely such a trade wouldn’t be completed until the first round of the entry draft is held on June 24 in St. Paul, Minn.

But the likelihood of the deal took a sizable step forward on Tuesday, when the Flyers acquired the rights to goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov from Phoenix.

The Flyers perspective

The Flyers would save some money and could also hope that Voracek would fill some of the void left by the probable departure of Ville Leino. Voracek could be the next Leino in many ways, too; he’s a talented specimen who hasn’t progressed as much as Blue Jackets brass would like but could conceivably generate more offense in Philly’s attacking system. He is a free agent just like Leino, but Voracek’s restricted status, younger age (he’s six years from the unrestricted mark of 27) and unproven results will make him easier to retain.

The draft pick works for both teams

The eight overall pick is a nice dangling carrot, as well, especially since it’s unlikely that the Flyers will receive a high draft choice anytime soon. The Blue Jackets can live with losing that pick because it’s a weaker draft and they haven’t had the greatest track record of making the right choices with their high-end picks anyway.

Carter isn’t perfect, but he makes sense for Columbus in many ways

Carter might not be the perfect fit for Nash since they’re both better at scoring goals than setting them up, but talented players typically learn how to make great music together. If they fail to co-exist, he could still be useful on a different line, forcing the opposition to pick their poison.

While Carter isn’t the most versatile player, he’s a proven goal scorer (115 goals in the last three seasons) and his cap hit is a very manageable $5.27 million. Sure, the 11-year term is risky, but he’s just 26 years old so Columbus would benefit from a nice amount of prime years from the sniper.

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It’s important to take every Carter trade rumor with a grain of salt, but the deal actually makes a lot of sense for both teams. The Flyers dump salary, gain an intriguing player and a high-end draft pick while the Blue Jackets would finally receive a top-line center with a semi-reasonable contract. Now that you’ve learned the PHT perspective, how would you feel about this theoretical trade? Let us know in the comments.

* – I have some serious doubts about that, but maybe he’s the victim of a talent-poor roster.

WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Blues

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This week’s edition of NBCSN’s Rivalry Night will feature a central division clash between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

It’s still early days, but the two sides are battling atop the Central, with the Blackhawks powered by great starts from a number of players including Brandon Saad and Ryan Hartman. The Blues, meanwhile, are looking to halt a two-game skid after winning their first four games of the season. The game also features the return of NHL on NBC analyst Ed Olczyk to the booth.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Blues get Alexander Steen back against Blackhawks

Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk’s ‘best medicine’

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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Former NHL agent Stacey McAlpine charged in fraud case

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Former NHL agent Stacey McAlpine has been charged with fraud in a case involving former Ottawa Senators players Dany Heatley and Chris Phillips.

Winnipeg police said Wednesday that the 54-year-old McAlpine bilked Heatley and Phillips out of $12 million between January 2004 and June 2011. McAlpine is charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000, two counts of theft over $5,000 and laundering proceeds of crime.

Heatley and Phillips sued McAlpine and McAlpine’s parents, claiming money was being invested in unapproved real estate deals, including an Ottawa condominium. CTV Calgary has reported that Heatley was awarded more than $6 million by an Alberta court.

Rask hurt in Bruins practice; Spooner out 4-6 weeks

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Well, the good news regarding injuries and the Boston Bruins didn’t last very long.

Earlier this week, PHT noted that forwards Patrice Bergeron and David Backes are expected to return in the near future, possibly as soon as Thursday. That’s great, but Wednesday turned out to be lousy thanks to one injury scare and one sure-thing that’s a negative.

The biggest concern is that of Tuukka Rask, and it’s something that might not clear up for a while. Rask was helped off the ice during practice today after being “bowled over” by young forward Anders Bjork.

The Bruins might dodge a bullet there, which would be huge if their backup work in anyway resembles the woes of 2016-17.

While we don’t know the severity of Rask’s issues just yet, there’s flat-out bad news for Ryan Spooner.

The Bruins estimate Spooner’s window of recovery at four-to-six weeks for a (cringe) “right groin adductor tear,” which he suffered on Oct. 15. Adam McQuaid suffered an injury in that same contest, so that could go down as a costly date for a Bruins team that has been fairly described as top-heavy.

Spooner, 25, was off to a slow start so far this season. He didn’t score a goal and managed one assist in five games, averaging 13:17 TOI per game. Even during that time, he was deployed in a very protected way, so the B’s can’t really claim that this is more than a body blow.

Even so, the Bruins might sport a patchwork lineup if Bergeron and/or Backes can’t play on Thursday. They’ll likely chalk it up as a win if Rask avoids anything significant, though.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Grim times for Canadiens: Price struggles, surgery for Schlemko

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Forgive the Montreal Canadiens if they feel beleaguered heading into Wednesday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings (which is part of NBCSN’s doubleheader).

After another captivating-but-polarizing summer of changes thanks to GM Marc Bergevin, the spotlight shone a little brighter on the Habs to start. Such magnification made it tough to hide the blemishes of what’s now a 1-4-1 start, even if abysmal luck takes the ugliness to an unrealistic extreme.

If getting beaten down in the local papers and in conventional wisdom didn’t leave them staggering, the Habs are also closing off a back-to-back set after dropping a fifth game in a row via last night’s loss to San Jose.

The hits keep on coming, too, with news that an already-shaky defense corps will lack savvy free agent addition David Schlemko for an estimated three-to-four weeks following hand surgery.

You know things are dreary when one of the more positive bits revolves around starting Al Montoya instead of Carey Price.

It’s true, though, that Montoya’s the right choice here. Most obviously, Price played last night, and you don’t want to lean too hard on any goalie, even one who will begin to cost $10M per season in 2018-19.

Price check

Price’s struggles feel like a microcosm of what this team is going through, as a whole, right now.

In the short term, it’s difficult to imagine things remaining this abhorrent both for the star goalie and his struggling team.

Price’s save percentage stands at .885 so far this season; he’s never been below .905 for a campaign. A 3.56 GAA won’t persist for a netminder who’s never averaged anything above 2.83 (and that was almost a decade ago).

The Canadiens are still easily the worst team in the NHL in both shooting percentage and save percentage perspectives at even-strength. They’re doing so despite grading well by Natural Stat Trick’s various metrics, including getting a friendly percentage of high-danger scoring chances (their fellow dour would-be contenders, the Oilers, feel their pain).

So, a lot of those patterns will just sort of work themselves out naturally.

Still, there are some nagging concerns.

Price already turned 30, and his new, massive cap hit hasn’t even kicked in yet. While goalies have a decent track record of aging more gracefully than, say, snipers, Price’s history of knee issues provides some worry.

Even if he continues to be Carey Price in italics, there really isn’t a great comparable for his contract (Henrik Lundqvist‘s is the closest, according to Cap Friendly). Montreal could serve as a guinea pig for other NHL teams pondering building around an expensive goalie.

Growing pains or signs of a fall?

There are also unsettling questions about Bergevin’s vision, and the way Julien uses players.

Bergevin’s win-now mentality is the source of plenty of debate, but it’s objectively clear that many of his moves have made the Habs older. Shea Weber‘s considerably older than P.K. Subban, and even very young Jonathan Drouin is a grizzled veteran compared to Mikhail Sergachev.

Re-signing Alex Galchenyuk hasn’t ended that saga, and the Habs can’t just blame the media, either.

At the moment, Galchenyuk ranks ninth in even-strength ice time average among Canadiens forwards. He’s currently slated for fourth-line duty alongside Torrey Mitchell and Ales Hemsky.

If the goal is to eventually trade him, this is a backwards way of doing so. If the goal is to “send him a message,” there seems to be a better time than when your team isn’t exactly setting nets on fire like “NBA Jam.”

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When you break things down issue by issue, it’s reasonable to expect better times. Still, it’s tough to shake the worrying signs overall, whether you’re just looking at 2017-18 or beyond.

Things could at least look a little sunnier if Montreal can dig deep and come out of this California trip with a win or two.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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