As the Los Angeles Kings raise their Stanley Cup Championship banner today, every player will get one last chance to reminisce about their journey to the Cup before beginning a new one. While each of them dealt with ups and downs on their way to the Stanley Cup, perhaps no one had as many twists and turns in the past two and a half years as Jeff Carter.
The Philadelphia Years
Back in 2003, the Philadelphia Flyers chose Jeff Carter with the 11th overall pick in the draft. He was taken as a big center who could score on a wide variety of shots. He began his career in Philadelphia after the ’04-’05 lockout, recording 42 points in 81 games. Fast forward through five mostly successful years and it appeared Carter and the Flyers were on the verge of a championship.
The Flyers had made it to the Cup Final in the spring of 2010 against enormous odds. The team, then captained by Mike Richards, had fallen to a 3-0 series deficit against Boston in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and won three straight games to force a Game 7. Then, after giving way to a 3-0 deficit in Game 7, the Flyers rallied back to win the game 4-3 and advance thanks to a powerplay goal by Simon Gagne. Despite making history, they would eventually lose in the Stanley Cup Final to the Chicago Blackhawks in 6 games.
Following the strong postseason run, the Flyers signed Carter to an 11 year extension worth $58 million in the fall of 2010 before he became a restricted free agent. Flyers’ GM Paul Holmgren was quoted as saying, “He’s an integral part of the core of our hockey team.”
An Unexpected Trip Across the Country
Though Carter recorded 66 points in 80 games during the ’10-’11 season, a first round exit in the playoffs led to rumors of locker room turmoil and an increasing need for Philadelphia to find a goalie. The Flyers proceeded to stun the hockey world by trading captain Mike Richards to Los Angeles and trading
Carter to Columbus on the same day. According to his agent, Rick Curran, Carter was stunned to hear the news after being told he was not on the trade block just a week earlier.
As the ’11-’12 season opened up, Carter’s tenure in Columbus began with a rocky start amid injury issues and fans claiming he didn’t want to be with the Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets struggled to get out of last place in the NHL and Carter did not provide the excitement or offense expected with 25 points in 39 games and a -11 rating. As Los Angeles looked for offense to boost them in a playoff race, Columbus ran with the opportunity to wash their hands of the Carter trade and sent him to the Kings.
The Kings desperately needed Carter to be a goal scorer, but they hoped to avoid the locker room issues that seemed to follow him over the past two years. In Los Angeles, he was reunited with Mike Richards and Simon Gagne to ease his transition, along with former Flyers scouts and coaches in GM Dean Lombardi, Assistant GM Ron Hextall, and Assistant Coach John Stevens.
Success and the Future
Though Carter started slow for the Kings, his offensive diversity helped them into the playoffs and well…the rest is history. He amassed 13 points in 20 games through the playoffs and will be the official owner of a Stanley Cup ring after today’s ceremonies.
What lies ahead for Jeff Carter? He will begin today’s game as the top center with Anze Kopitar out with a knee injury. With 9 years left on his contract after this season, carrying a cap hit of $5.27 million per year, this will be a very important year if he wants to stay in Los Angeles. A disappointing season may put him back on the trade block, or potentially on amnesty buyout watch over the next two years, but Los Angeles is certainly giving him every chance in the world to succeed right now.
Once the Kings raise their banner today, Jeff Carter will begin a new journey. Hopefully for Kings fans, it will be one filled with maturity, consistency, and more Stanley Cup rings.