Would the Jackets trade Jeff Carter?

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TSN’s Darren Dreger dropped a discussion-worthy bit of speculation in his mailbag column today. When asked by a reader which teams could be on the verge of a rebuild, he wrote the following:

The Columbus Blue Jackets may come close as this organization’s annual quest for an identity and winning combination has yet again fallen short. Jeff Carter, Antoine Vermette and Derick Brassard will likely be among those dangled and despite the constant denials from the player, agent and management, I’m sure Rick Nash’s name will surface in discussions leading up to the deadline.

Vermette and Brassard are obvious trade candidates, and Nash’s name has been bandied about plenty already – but Carter? Would general manager Scott Howson really deal away the guy he landed in a blockbuster trade less than a year ago?

The Carter deal cost the Jackets Jakub Voracek, a 2011 first-round pick (Sean Couturier, taken eighth overall) and a 2011 third-round pick. Would he garner such a high return today? And if he didn’t, how would that make Howson look?

Carter, 27, is signed until 2022 with a cap hit of $5.3 million. He’s been one of the top goal-scorers in the NHL the past few seasons, so there’d be no shortage of interested teams.

If I had to guess, if Carter’s going to be traded, it’s likeliest to go down over the summer. Possibly when a new GM is in place and the mistakes of the previous regime won’t reflect poorly on the current one.

Of course, there’s always the chance the Jackets get an offer they can’t refuse. We hear the Leafs have been looking for a first-line center. And the Rangers could use some goal-scoring.  Ditto for the Kings. Carter and Mike Richards, together again?

Feel free to rampantly speculate in the comments section.