Jeff Carter

LA Kings’ Jeff Carter has surgery on core muscle injury

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter has undergone surgery to repair a core muscle injury.

The Kings announced Tuesday that Carter had surgery last week. The veteran Stanley Cup winner is expected to be fully healthy for next season.

Carter was injured in a game at Winnipeg on Feb. 18, and he missed the final 10 games of the Kings’ season. Los Angeles is among the seven teams that won’t be returning to action when the NHL resumes competition this summer amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The 35-year-old Carter had 17 goals and 10 assists with a minus-21 rating in 60 games this season for the Kings.

He will have two years left on the 11-year, $58 million contract extension he signed with Philadelphia in November 2010.

Reports: NHL may skip rest of regular season, jump to 24-team playoff format

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Could the NHL go with a plan to skip the regular season and jump to a 24-team playoff format if play resumes? That idea is at least gathering steam among many other options, according to a wide array of reporters (including TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, and the New York Post’s Larry Brooks).

How a 24-team playoff format might work for the NHL

Brooks and Friedman note that even narrowing things down to 24 teams could be a bit tricky. Brooks quickly summarizes a couple 24-team scenarios:

The format of a 24-team tournament has not yet been established. But if the league goes with the top 12 teams in each conference, that would include every club at NHL .500 or better when play stopped on March 11. That structure would include the Rangers and Chicago.

If the league were for some reason to go with the six top teams in each division — the NHL hasn’t had a division-based playoff system since 1992-93 — that would mean that the Sabres (.493) would replace the Rangers (.564) and the Ducks (.472) would replace the Blackhawks (.514).

During TSN’s Insider Trading, LeBrun noted that “nothing is decided,” and that a 24-team playoff format is “not for everyone.”

As Dreger notes, the “play-in” portion could help narrow down what would feel like a bloated 24-team field. If the Rangers/Sabres/Blackhawks/etc. needed to play into such a spot, it would make their berths feel more “earned.”

In late March, I espoused some of the virtues of at least certain play-in elements. But, frankly, the best part of this proposal would be that the NHL’s lottery-fodder teams wouldn’t need to go through the motions.

It’s bad enough to play meaningless games in a dangerous sport like hockey. Imagine the stress and risk of playing out the string during this pandemic? We could see shades of that in the Kings shutting down Jeff Carter for the season.

Cutting off the regular season would also make it more feasible to hold a lottery and thus a June draft. That … is a debate for another time, or for angry people on social media.

As that Insider Trading segment notes, the NHL’s also considering 16-team and 20-team formats, not just 24.

Dizzying logistical concerns for a possible NHL return

For those of us who are sports and hockey-starved, we might feel like an anonymous exec telling Friedman that they’d be willing to play “on Jupiter.” But if you dig into the day-to-day details, the situation gets fuzzier.

Consider just some of the factors the NHL must mull over:

  • As an international league, the NHL wouldn’t just need to worry about state-by-state restrictions. Traveling to Canada and the U.S. could present obstacles, even with “hub” formats.
  • The NHL hopes to play things right in case there’s a “Phase 2” of outbreaks, with a December start for 2020-21 as one option. Threading that needle would be easier said than done, though, especially if a 24-team playoff format required many NHL postseason games.
  • The sheer scale of keeping things clean and safe is pretty mind-boggling. During that TSN Insider Trading segment, Frank Seravalli provided fascinating insight on the league’s “cost-benefit analysis.” If daily testing would be necessary, Seravalli said some wonder if it would cost teams “millions, or even tens of millions.” One estimate indicated that sanitizing locker rooms would cost about $1,500 per day.
  • Getting into the safety issue once again, what about older staffers, including coaches? Their risks would be heightened.
  • Local TV commitments are another brow-furrowing element.
  • Speaking of TV, Friedman went over many of the intriguing elements of potentially broadcasting games with empty arenas. Could a lack of crowd open the door for creative camera angles? Should a DJ add to the mood? Might teams pipe in crowd noise as if “Goldberg” was in the building?

Overall, it’s pretty staggering to ponder the many logistical challenges.

On the other hand, not playing means massive financial losses, and bountiful boredom. These are challenging times, and pulling off a 24-team playoff format (or any format) wouldn’t be easy. What do you think about the general concept, though?

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.

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.

What is the Kings’ long-term outlook?

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Los Angeles Kings.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

The Los Angeles Kings currently revolve around two cornerstone pieces, captain Anze Kopitar and defenseman Drew Doughty.

They were central figures during two Stanley Cup seasons in 2012 and 2014 and remain vital to the organization. The Ilya Kovalchuk experiment ended when they placed the veteran winger on unconditional waivers for the purposes of terminating his contract in mid-December.

But now the focus has shifted, and general manager Rob Blake is tasked with finding new pieces to help usher in a different era of Kings hockey.
Blake and his staff aim to build through the draft and own 11 picks in the upcoming draft, including three in the second round, two in the third round and two in the fourth round. The Kings currently sit in the bottom five of the NHL standings and will have a premium first-round pick depending on the results of the lottery at the conclusion of the NHL season.

The Kings also made two selections in the first round of the 2019 draft and have a top-five NHL farm system, according to The Athletic’s prospect rankings this past summer.

Los Angeles won’t return to glory overnight, but they have the ammunition to rebuild their foundation and become a contender in the Western Conference once again.

Long-Term Needs

The Kings need to hit on their upcoming draft picks, simply put. The decisions made by the front office in the upcoming offseason could define the success of the franchise. It will be the difference between a three-year rebuilding process or 10-year absence from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Los Angeles also has to manage the salary cap over the next few seasons. Its patience will be tested, but the organization needs to wait until Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter’s lucrative contracts expire after the 2021-22 season. Goaltender Jonathan Quick’s deal expires the year after.

With new talent on the horizon, the Kings are in a position to clear out bad contracts but should avoid long-term commitments until a new core is established at the NHL level.

Long-Term Strengths

The good news is Kopitar and Doughty are still performing at a high level. The captain led the team in scoring with 62 points, surpassing his total from last season in 11 fewer games. Doughty leads the team in ice time, averaging a shade under 26 minutes per game and was close to eclipsing the 40-point mark for the sixth straight season.

In addition, Sean Walker secured a spot on the blueline with strong play in the first 70 games of his career. The undrafted defenseman also showed ability on the offensive side of the ice with 24 points, most of which came at even strength.

Most importantly, Todd McLellan looked to be making strides in his first year as head coach. The Kings finished (maybe) the season with an impressive seven-game winning streak and went 10-2-1 in the final 13 games.

The team has a lot of flexibility going forward and now it’s up to Blake to make the correct decisions, and McLellan to execute that plan on the ice.

MORE ON THE KINGS:


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Canucks say Boeser could miss rest of regular season, view Toffoli as replacement

Boeser out eight weeks, injury helps explain Toffoli trade
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The Canucks provided a troubling Brock Boeser update, and in doing so, explained the steep fee they paid for Tyler Toffoli.

It turns out that the Boeser injury news is worse than thought. GM Jim Benning said that they view it as an eight-week injury. If that holds true, Boeser would miss the rest of the regular season and playoff time if Vancouver makes it.

(The Canucks also ruled out Josh Leivo for at least the rest of the regular season.)

Boeser injury and how it relates to Toffoli trade

Benning explained that, yes, Boeser’s injury partially prompted the Toffoli trade. The Canucks GM believes that Toffoli does a lot of the same things as Boeser.

On one hand, Boeser may seem like a bigger name. Boeser also produced bigger point totals than Toffoli recently.

Despite playing in 69 or fewer games during the previous two seasons, Boeser generated 26 and 29 goals, along with 55 and 56 points. Toffoli’s recent numbers are far more modest, although he managed 31 goals and 58 points in 2015-16.

Those numbers stem from the days of “That ’70s Line.” Fittingly, Benning asked current Canuck Tanner Pearson about Toffoli before the trade.

Could Toffoli catch fire after leaving the Kings much like Ilya Kovalchuk with Montreal? It’s fair to ask when you compare Toffoli to Boeser with certain metrics. Take, for instance, Toffoli’s strong showings in Evolving Hockey’s RAPM charts:

Was Toffoli trade smart by Canucks?

I’ve personally argued that Toffoli was a player worth targeting because he’s better than the simplest stats might imply. If you’re looking purely at replacing Boeser, Benning indeed seems to have a point.

Of course, the other side of the argument is that the Canucks might have been risking things by adding Toffoli to a mix that included Boeser.

After all, to get Toffoli the Canucks gave up a second-round pick, conditional pick, and Tyler Madden (whom The Athletic’s Corey Pronman ranks [sub required] as Pronman’s 40th best prospect). Benning told reporters that, while he spoke to Toffoli’s agent, the team is going to see how he fits before making any sort of extension decision. This seems like a hefty price for a Canucks team with an unclear outlook.

Clearly, Vancouver remains resolute in going for it in 2019-20.

To Benning’s credit, it’s not outrageous to look at the standings (particularly in the Pacific) and conclude that it’s a decent time to roll the dice:

You can get dizzy pondering the range of possibilities, from winning the division to outright missing the playoffs.

By placing Boeser and Leivo on LTIR, the Canucks also hold significant cap space, even after adding Toffoli at his full $4.6M AAV. In other words, the Canucks could throw even more caution to the wind.

(I don’t think they’ll trade for Jeff Carter to fully reunite him with Pearson or Toffoli, though. Aw, shucks.)

MORE: PHT’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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.