Kings acquire Jeff Carter for Jack Johnson, first-rounder

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As anticipated, the Los Angeles Kings are one step closer to becoming the Philadelphia Flyers (with a tan) as they did indeed acquire Jeff Carter. Aaron Portzline reports that the Columbus Blue Jackets landed offensive defenseman Jack Johnson and a first-round pick in the exchange.

(Click here for reactions from all sides.)

Contract impact

Carter carries a $5.27 million cap hit through the 2021-22 season while Johnson’s $4.36 million cap hit goes until 2017-18.

The Kings’ roster is increasingly heavy with long-term deals as GM Dean Lombardi’s hopeful transition from cellar-dweller to contender continues. Here’s a quick look at the lengthier deals in Los Angeles:

Drew Doughty ($7 million): 2018-19
Anze Kopitar ($6.8M): 2015-16
Mike Richards: ($5.75M): 2019-20
Carter: ($5.27M): 2021-22

Dustin Brown, Matt Greene and Justin Williams also have contracts that will keep them around for a few more years. Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier’s cheap contracts run out after 2012-13, so Lombardi still has some big decisions to make.

Meanwhile, after trading away Antoine Vermette and Carter along with the strong possibility for Rick Nash’s departure, the Blue Jackets are opening the door for another rebuild. (Although their defense is strangely heavy on lengthy, expensive deals.)

source: Getty ImagesOn-ice impact

As you probably know, the Kings need offense. Carter provides goal-scoring zip and perhaps some depth down the middle, although he might make more sense on the wing. Los Angeles is heavy on defensive talent – one can imagine that Johnson’s absence will be a boon for Slava Voynov and/or Alec Martinez – so losing the attacking blueliner shouldn’t be too difficult.

(They’ll miss him on the power play, although Carter could make them better in that area anyway.)

Columbus washes its hands of one of two shaky big off-season moves by moving Carter. James Wisniewski likely gets more of an “incomplete” grade instead of an “F” this season because of injuries and suspension issues, but Johnson brings a lot of the same qualities to the ice.

That’s part of the interesting thing in this equation: both players bring serious offensive skills but glaring defensive warts to the table. Forgive me for possibly stating the obvious here, but I’d say it’s easier to accept gambling tendencies from a forward instead of a blueliner …

Off-ice matters

The natural question of the negative aspects of the Richards-Carter friendship will come up. If you ask me, the “Dry Island” stuff is more of a funny punchline than a real concern, but others might wring their hands about it quite a bit more.

One cannot wonder if Johnson feels a lot like Carter did about going to Columbus. After all, he probably wasn’t wildly popular in Ohio during his NCAA days in Michigan …

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Overall, this is a solid deal for both sides. The Kings add offense without wrecking their salary cap situation, although they’re now more or less married to what they have. The Blue Jackets made the most of a declining situation with Carter by getting a talented blueliner and a first-round pick for their troubles.

It’s a conditional first-rounder. If the Kings miss the playoffs, Columbus will receive Los Angeles’ 2013 pick. If they make it, the Blue Jackets can choose between the Kings’ 2012 or 2013 choice.

Anyway, there’s my breakdown of the trade. Feel free to quibble with some points – I’m guessing most of you aren’t as fond of Carter – and share your thoughts on which team won the deal in general.

Or, considering the sour views on the players involved, perhaps which team lost the least …

PHT Morning Skate: Ovechkin will be rocking incredible custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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–With only a few weeks remaining in the regular season, we’re starting to get a better idea of who will be in and out of the playoffs. With that being said, The Hockey News put together a list of five players that could benefit from playing on another team. Devils goalie Cory Schneider is at the top of the list. Schneider’s been solid since joining New Jersey, but the team hasn’t had much success. (The Hockey News)

Erik Karlsson has always been known as an offensive defenseman, but this year, he’s made several defensive improvements to his game. The changes have made him so effective that his head coach, Guy Boucher, believes he should be in the running for a Hart Trophy. (Canadian Press)

–The Washington Capitals will be hosting a Russian Heritage Night tonight. During the pre-game warmup, Alex Ovechkin will be rocking these custom skates honoring his home land and his American home. He’ll be auctioning off the skates too. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

–The New York Islanders trailed the Rangers 2-1 heading into the third period, but thanks to goals by Nikolay Kulemin and Andrew Ladd, they were able to come out on top. You can watch the highlights from last night’s “Battle of New York” by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Vegas GM George McPhee chatted with Sportsnet’s Gene Principe about being able to build a team from scratch. McPhee called the experience “fantastic” and “really neat”. He also discussed his vision for the team and how he’s approaching the expansion draft. (Sportsnet)

–The Detroit Red Wings have been a model franchise for quite some time, but they’ve on the verge of going through some pretty big changes. First, Joe Louis Arena will be closing its doors and secondly, their long playoff streak will be coming to an end this season. Sports Illustrated takes a deeper look at the old barn and the third-longest playoff streak in pro sports. (Sports Illustrated)

–Many people feel like the Calder Trophy race will come down to Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, but Bob McKenzie says there’s more than two worthy candidates because Zach Werenski has been equally good this season. But who is McKenzie leaning toward?

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.