Kings say Jeff Carter won’t be back if season resumes

The Los Angeles Kings announced that Jeff Carter won’t be able to play if the 2019-20 season resumes.

Carter, 35, missed the last 10 games before the pandemic pause due to a core injury. The Kings explained that, since travel is restricted, Carter hasn’t been able to see a specialist regarding his injury.

“Part of the issue is he needs to travel to see a certain specialist to get a further diagnosis and nothing can be taking place right now,” Kings GM Rob Blake said via the team website on Wednesday. “He’s continuing a rehab program from home. He hasn’t been around the practice rink in that aspect, but I wouldn’t expect him to be able to play if our season were to start in the next couple of months.”

Honestly, it would be pretty silly to push Carter to play at anything but obvious full-strength.

Yes, the Kings entered the pause on a league-leading seven-game winning streak, but they did so with Carter on the mend. And even with that red-hot run, the Kings would just be playing out the schedule. They only have pride to play for as the second lowest-ranked West team.

Expect other Carter-type veteran players being “shut down” for 2019-20, at least among cellar dwellers. (Joe Thornton and other graybeards may need to keep themselves occupied by tragically shaving said beards.)

The Kings are better off not risking further injury to Carter. Also, Carter’s playing time could go to someone who could better use those reps.

Actually, that brings up a larger discussion surrounding Carter. What happens next, and in the longer run?

Will we see much of Carter suiting up for the Kings in the future?

Carter isn’t totally useless even in a more modest form, but it might sting his pride to be limited to 17 goals and 27 points this season. Carter’s headed for three straight seasons under 20 goals after being one of the league’s most dynamic snipers for quite some time.

All of the losing in Los Angeles probably wears on Carter almost as much as the literal wear-and-tear.

So, is there room for a “soft retirement” onto LTIR? Consider the structure of Carter’s contract starting in 2020-21:

2020-21: $5.273M cap hit, $2M salary
2021-22: $5.273M cap hit, $2M salary

Trading Carter’s cap hit to a budget team seemed like a logical direction, although there were possible stumbling blocks discussed in December 2018. But with the Kings in a rebuilding phase, and Carter struggling at times physically, maybe an extended LTIR trip might make sense? Could we even see Carter’s contract move around during the time of the Seattle expansion draft?

Let’s face it. Draft lottery machinations are likely to be the most exciting thing for Kings fans to consider over the next few months. There may be parallels for Carter, as off-ice shuffling might be more intriguing to watch than how the former All-Star fares on the ice. You know, if he eventually returns.

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.

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