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 …

Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

avalanche injuries
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

“Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

“He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

“I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

“I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

“I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

“It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

“Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

“I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.