Descending from the rolling hills of…Ontario, we got a special little nugget from the Bob Father overnight in the form of Jeff Carter to the Penguins.
LAK players saying their goodbyes to Jeff Carter, who is off to PIT.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) April 12, 2021
The Penguins would go on to make it official just after midnight, including two conditional picks in future years for half of Carter’s salary and all of Carter himself.
Carter, 36, is signed through the 2021.22 season and his contract carries an average annual value of $5,272,727. Los Angeles will retain 50% of Carter’s salary.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 12, 2021
First and foremost, this gives the Penguins a ton of flexibility with their middle 6. Carter has, by and large, played left wing all season long, but has played center the bulk of his career.
That flexibility will go a long way come playoff time, giving Mike Sullivan any one of these three options with his forward group once everyone is healthy.
It also lets the Blueger line, which no doubt is a good third line, be a great 4th line. They’re going to be trouble for any team come May.
Make no mistake, Carter, at 36, has seen his offensive production tail off towards the end of his career as has his isolated impact, but if there’s a guy out there with his pedigree, 2 Cups, and ability to score the way he has in his career and you can spend virtually nothing on him to get, at a cut salary, you do it.
He’s still a shooter, taking 7% more of his team’s shots than that of the league average when he’s on the ice, via Hockey Viz, (as are the two graphics above)
This tracks, via Evolving Hockey, with his Goals Above Replacement per 60 minutes movement over his career. Two rough years preceding this one, but trending in a positive direction again.
His shooting talent has dipped and his overall isolated impact this season, both offensively and defensive, can be categorized as “league average,” but his 16.19 shot attempts per hour of 5v5 play puts him squarely at 21st in the league among all skaters that have played a minimum of 200 minutes. Among that same pool, his 8.77 scoring chances per hour of 5v5 play is 61st in the league.
No Penguin has attempted more individual shots and only Bryan Rust has generated more individual scoring chances than Carter this season.
Mix all that together and you get Carter producing 0.91 individual expected goals per hour of play, the 19th best rate in the league and what would also be a team-high in Pittsburgh (data here via Natural Stat Trick).
Per Evolving-Hockey, his Even Strength Offense of 1.6 and Total Offense of 2.5 puts him in the same bucket as Bryan Rust (EVO – 1.3) and appears largely driven by his expected goal creation and shot location.
Given all of this and the way that the Penguins have been playing of late, they really didn’t need to go out and make a big splash. The guys on this team currently have worked in a way that they’ve earned spots in the lineup.
That said, Jeff Carter is an upgrade over the likes of Mark Jankowski, Freddy Gaudreau, and Colton Sceviour. Those guys will continue to push and aren’t going anywhere quite yet (Malkin is skating, but Kapanen and Tanev are not), but Jeff Carter does make the Penguins a bit better today than they were yesterday.
One would have to assume when the bodies start coming back that he’ll probably get the first crack on Malkin’s left just by virtue of Carter’s propensity for being the trigger man on whatever line he plays (as well as having played on the wing most of the year), but also because of how great the Zucker-McCann-Rodrigues line has been.
All in all, big fan of this move.
Quick update: his legs are still there. Giving him linemates that will get him the puck should provide him with more goal scoring opportunites.
Cover Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images