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.

***

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.

The Buzzer: Ovechkin is clutch

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Two games on Thursday

Bruins 3, Maple Leafs 1 (Bruins lead series 3-1)

The Boston Bruins continue to show that they can survive – if not thrive – with key players out of the lineup. They don’t get much more “key” than Patrice Bergeron, who was unable to suit up for Game 4. Even so, Tuukka Rask made some crucial saves and the Bruins connected on two 2-on-1 rushes to snag a 3-1 series lead. The Maple Leafs must grapple with a lot of uncomfortable questions as they see their season slip to the brink of elimination.

Capitals 4, Blue Jackets 1 (Series tied 2-2)

This game was all about patterns continuing, or breaking.

Continuing: The road team winning. The away team has won all four contests during this series, so this one returns to Washington with the two teams now tied up 2-2. It’s also another instance of Alex Ovechkin being sneaky-clutch, although many people will disagree because of team results. Washington’s starting to pull away in terms of puck possession during the series, and that continued on Thursday, too.

Breaking: For the first time in the series, the game ended in regulation. It wasn’t all that close, either, as the Caps won 4-1 and were safe even considering one empty-netter.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Three Stars

1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins – There will be talk of Bergeron, Auston Matthews not being able to score, Mike Babcock’s decisions, and other factors from Game 4. Rask helped to push those discussions to the forefront – rather than talk about which team has the edge if they ended up tied – as he was sharp on Thursday. Rask stopped 31 out of 32 shots, factoring heavily in Boston building a 3-1 series lead against Toronto.

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals – After scoring two goals in Game 1, Kuznetsov had been held silent by the Bruins in Games 2 and 3. The Russian center made up for lost time in Game 4, scoring an empty-netter and two assists in that 4-1 win. Both of his assists were primary helpers, while he checked many other boxes by winning more than half of his draws (10 of 18), generating a +3 rating, and firing four shots on goal.

3. Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – Ovechkin fired a shot on Sergei Bobrovsky, which created a rebound opportunity for T.J. Oshie during a Washington power play, a goal that ended up being the game-winner. Ovechkin also scored from the right face-off circle for an important insurance goal. Ovechkin fired five SOG and was a +1 in Game 4.

Factoids

There’s plenty of focus on Bergeron being out and Marchand scoring/agitating, but don’t forget about David Pastrnak‘s brilliance.

Again, Alex Ovechkin is more clutch than people realize. By scoring the 49th playoff goal of his career, Ovechkin tied Henri Richard for 60th in NHL history. You may remember Henri as a) Maurice Richard’s brother and b) the guy who won the Stanley Cup 11 times.

Friday’s games

Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Minnesota Wild at Winnipeg Jets, 7:30 p.m. ET, USA Network
Colorado Avalanche at Nashville Predators, 9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN

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.

Capitals tie series with Blue Jackets

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In Game 4, the Washington Capitals showed their heart by not working overtime.

The Capitals dropped both of their home games to start their first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, opening the floodgates for people to dust off their favorite, cruel jokes about this team. They’ll return home with those one-liners drying up, though.

After falling behind 2-0 in the series, the Capitals flipped the script to tie it up 2-2 after beating the Blue Jackets both times in Columbus. The symmetry wasn’t complete, however; while Washington continued the series trend of overtime nail-biters by winning beyond regulation in Game 3, they made no mistake about winning Game 4 by a score of 4-1.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

This wasn’t a case where the Bruins got the bounces and the finishes to win. The Capitals have shown signs of dominance even in defeats during this series, but they really smothered the Blue Jackets in Game 4.

The Capitals generated a 33-24 shots on goal edge, won about two-thirds of the faceoffs, and generally carried the play by every metric.

Tom Wilson making it 1-0 was valuable, and jokes about blown 2-0 leads aside, T.J. Oshie‘s eventual game-winner was important during the second period. Alex Ovechkin‘s goal from his opposite office widened the gap too much for an overmatched Blue Jackets team, even with Boone Jenner scoring and giving Columbus a brief boost.

With a goal and an assist in Game 4, this is yet another reminder that Ovechkin is a playoff performer, even if his team isn’t always there with him. After Washington went down 2-0 against Columbus, Ovechkin said “it’s going to be fun when we bounce back and tie the series,” and that’s exactly the situation Washington is in after … whatever the opposite of “holding serve” is.

Of course, people will quickly forget this triumph-within-the-series if the Capitals ultimately bow out of the first round, anyway.

The Caps must feel really good about their collective play as they aim to become the first team to win at home in this series in Game 5. Their power play has been productive, playing tight defense, getting scoring from Ovechkin/others, and Braden Holtby looks poised in regaining his usual spot in net. It’s the sort of stretch that changes the Capitals’ narrative from “here we go again” to “could this be the year we finally make a run?”

With this series now essentially becoming a best two-out-of-three clash, the disposition could easily go from sunny back to gloomy, but give this beleaguered group credit for keeping cool heads and making this anyone’s game once again.

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.

Bruins push Leafs to brink

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The Boston Bruins found themselves on the wrong end of plenty of stats in Game 4, but even with Patrice Bergeron on the shelf, they won 3-1 to push the Toronto Maple Leafs to the brink of elimination.

Boston took a 3-1 series lead with tonight’s win despite Toronto generating a 32-21 shots on goal advantage, hogging the puck, and holding home-ice advantage.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Goaltending was one big area of advantage for the Bruins. Tuukka Rask was forced to make some tough saves as Mitch Marner and other Leafs players created plenty of chances. One cannot help but wonder if fatigue is a bit of a factor for workhorse Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen, meanwhile, as he’d likely love to have this Torey Krug goal back:

That early 1-0 lead provided a cushion for the Bruins to adjust to life without Bergeron (again), although Tomas Plekanec did tie things up. Ultimately, the Bruins were able to cash in on two 2-on-1 rushes, with Brad Marchand burying a tremendous setup by David Pastrnak for the game-winner and Jake DeBrusk finding the net after a great feed by David Krejci (who has absorbed some criticism for his play lately).

The two goals were remarkably similar in exhibiting the Bruins’ smarts and finish, along with the Maple Leafs lacking in a few areas on defense, as Nikita Zaitsev and Roman Polak were exposed (among others). Here’s that Marchang GWG:

Game 5 shifts back to Boston on Saturday. You can watch that game on CNBC, with puck drop slated for 8 p.m. ET.

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.

Bruins without Bergeron vs. Leafs in Game 4

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The Boston Bruins rolled through much of the regular season despite injuries, even to key players like Patrice Bergeron. The fact that they’re unfortunately experienced playing without Bergeron is probably the only silver lining regarding his late scratch heading into Game 4.

The Bruins announced that Bergeron is day-to-day with what they’re deeming an upper-body injury, so Riley Nash slips into Bergeron’s spot between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

This stands as an obvious opportunity for Auston Matthews to roam more freely against the Bruins and a chance for the Maple Leafs to tie this series in front of their home fans.

NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty makes a good point that Bergeron missing Game 4 is especially troubling since the Bruins played Game 3 on Monday, gaining an extra off day between contests.

Bergeron generated five assists through the first three games of this series, including four helpers in Game 2. He was limited to 64 regular-season games in 2017-18, falling just short of a point-per-game with 63. Naturally, his all-around game goes beyond goals and assists, so this hurts badly for the Bruins, whether they had some experience playing without him or not.

As of this writing, the two teams are tied up 1-1. Click here for the livestream link.

This news comes not that long after news surfaced that Bergeron’s once again been named a finalist for the Selke.

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.