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.

Capitals vs. Penguins on NBCSN: Kuznetsov’s overtime series clincher

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Hockey Week in America continues Saturday with memorable playoff performances in the Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin rivalry.

In 2018, the Capitals and Penguins met in Round 2 for the third straight postseason. Pittsburgh won the previous two series en route to back-to-back Stanley Cup titles. But this time Washington would have its revenge. Evgeny Kuznetsov would score in overtime of Game 6 to help the Capitals advance as they went on to win their first championship in franchise history.

You can catch Game 6 of the 2018 Penguins vs. Capitals playoff game Saturday night on NBCSN beginning at 12:30 a.m. ET or watch the stream here.

SATURDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
• Capitals vs. Penguins (Game 6, Round 2, 2018 playoffs) – 12:30 a.m. on NBCSN

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

Capitals vs. Penguins on NBCSN: Bonino Bonino Bonino!

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Hockey Week in America continues Saturday with memorable playoff performances in the Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin rivalry.

The Capitals needed a win to force Game 7 in Round 2 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Facing the Penguins yet again, the clawed back from a 3-1 third period deficit to force overtime. It was there, however, that Pittsburgh once again topped their Metro Division rivals. This time it was Nick Bonino breaking their hearts to put the Penguins on a path to the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup title.

You can catch Game 6 of the 2016 Penguins vs. Capitals playoff game Saturday on NBCSN beginning at 10 p.m. ET or watch the stream here.

SATURDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
• Capitals vs. Penguins (Game 6, Round 2, 2016 playoffs) – 10 p.m. on NBCSN
• Capitals vs. Penguins (Game 6, Round 2, 2018 playoffs) – 12:30 a.m. on NBCSN

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

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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.

Crosby vs. Ovechkin on NBCSN: The dueling hat trick game

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Hockey Week in America continues Saturday with memorable playoff performances in the Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin rivalry.

After edging the Penguins in Game 1 of their Round 2 series in 2009, the Capitals were eager to take a 2-0 series lead. Little did we all know it would be the Crosby and Ovechkin show as the two superstars exchanged hat tricks. Ovechkin’s Capitals came out on top after he scored his second and third goals of the game in a span of 3:29 late in the third period for a 4-3 victory.

You can catch the dueling hat trick game Saturday on NBCSN beginning at 8 p.m. ET or watch the stream here.

SATURDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
Penguins vs. Capitals (Game 2, Round 2, 2009 playoffs) – 8 p.m. on NBCSN
• Capitals vs. Penguins (Game 6, Round 2, 2016 playoffs) – 10 p.m. on NBCSN
• Capitals vs. Penguins (Game 6, Round 2, 2018 playoffs) – 12:30 a.m. on NBCSN

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

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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.

Which NHL players might be considering retirement?

NHL players considering retirement Marleau Thornton
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When the coronavirus outbreak started to ratchet up in mid-March, hockey fans received at least one bit of soothing news. It turns out Joe Thornton doesn’t rank among the NHL players who might be considering retirement as the season hangs in the balance.

TSN/The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported that Thornton responded to a question about playing next season by texting back, “I have years to go!” If you’re like me, triumphant music might as well have been playing while you read that. (My choice: the “victory song” from Final Fantasy games.)

Check out LeBrun’s tweet. It’s been a while, so maybe you already saw it anyway, and could use a reason to smile?

Sweet, right?

A couple days later, The Athletic’s James Mirtle put together a thorough list of players who might have played in their final NHL games (sub required). I thought it might be useful to take a look at this group of aging veterans and wonder: should they have played their last NHL games? As we know, plenty of athletes don’t get to make the final call on retiring, instead being forced to fade from the glory because they couldn’t find any takers.

Forwards

Other aging forwards give Joe Thornton company when it comes to wanting to be back in 2020-21, and possibly beyond.

How many of them bring something to the table, though? Using Charting Hockey’s handy tableaus (which utilize Evolving Hockey’s data), here’s how some prominent aging forwards stack up in Goals Against Replacement:

NHL players considering retirement forwards GAR

 

Frankly, quite a few of these players should be of interest to someone, and I’d figure the biggest stumbling block might be fit. Would these players only suit up for a contender?

If there’s some flexibility, then many would make a lot of sense. There were some rumblings that the Sharks found a taker for Patrick Marleau because he’s still a pretty good skater, while a more plodding Joe Thornton made for a tougher fit. Similarly, some coaches will be more willing to overlook Ilya Kovalchuk’s defensive lapses than others. The Maple Leafs made an analytics-savvy move in adding Jason Spezza, and he remains an underrated option. Especially since he’s probably not going to break the bank. Justin Williams is likely poised to call his shot again, and justifiably so.

Someone like Mikko Koivu figures to be trickier. Koivu seemed to indicate that he wasn’t OK with being traded from the Wild, so if he remains Wild-or-nothing, that could get awkward.

The Stars made a reasonably low-risk gamble on Corey Perry, but that didn’t really seem to work out. Perry and (possibly AHL-bound) Justin Abdelkader might not have the choice.

Defensemen

Let’s apply the same Charting Hockey/Evolving Hockey GAR experiment to some defensemen who might be teetering:

NHL players considering retirement defensemen GAR

You can break down forwards into “surprisingly useful,” “some warts but probably worth a roster spot,” and then “broken down guys who’d live off of name recognition.”

An uncomfortable number of the defensemen above (Brent Seabrook, Roman Polak, Jonathan Ericsson, and Trevor Daley) could fall close to that broken down category. At least if you’re like me, and you hope Jay Bouwmeester bows out gracefully rather than risking his health after that scare.

Zdeno Chara stands tall as a “play as long as you want” option. Dan Hamhuis and Ron Hainsey mix the good with the bad, and could probably be decent options for coaches who simply demand veteran presences.

But the forward group is far richer, it seems.

Goalies

This post largely focuses on to-the-point analysis. Is this player good enough? Would they be willing to make some compromises to sign with a team?

But what about the human factor? This coronavirus pause is allowing players to spend more time with their families. For some, that might mean too much of a good thing/fodder for making a chicken coop. Yet, goalies like Ryan Miller might get another nudge out the door.

Back in June 2019, Ryan Miller explained why he came back to the Ducks. In doing so, Miller relayed this precious and heartbreaking detail about his then-4-year-old son Bodhi Miller pleading with him to retire.

“It’s not like he’s a little bit older and understands the full weight of his words,” Miller said to The Athletic’s Josh Cooper (sub required). “He was like, ‘If you aren’t doing that, you could be playing superheroes with me every single day.’”

(Personally, I wonder if Ryan Miller will eventually start playing “Nightcrawlers” with his son. It’s an imagination-based game, you see.)

Miller updated to Mirtle around March 19 that it’s “too soon — can’t even process what’s happening.”

Veteran goalies present their own brand of tough calls. How many of these goalies would be willing to play as backups, or as the “1B” in platoons.

  • Miller adjusted to life as such, but could Henrik Lundqvist accept a lesser role with a different team if the Rangers buy him out?
  • Craig Anderson suffered through multiple rough seasons after once developing a strange knack for rotating elite and “eh” seasons.
  • Jimmy Howard is no spring chicken at 36. After a sneaky-strong 2018-19 season, his play dropped significantly. He’d likely need to take significant role and pay decreases to stay in the NHL.
  • Mike Smith warrants consideration, too. He’s struggled for two seasons now, and is 38.

Closing thoughts on NHL players considering retirement

While family time might nudge some toward retirement, added rest — particularly if play doesn’t resume this season and playoffs – could also revitalize certain veterans.

Overall, it’s a lot to think about regarding NHL players who might be considering retirement. Which players should lean toward hanging their skates up, and who should NHL teams convince to stick around? This list isn’t comprehensive, so bring up names of your own.

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.