Coming as a big shocker to no one, Jeff Carter is already requesting a trade out of Columbus. The Blue Jackets are the worst team in the NHL by a VERY wide margin. Now they're a team with just $1.4 million in cap space but only 4 wins to show for it. Hmmm...a team spending up to the cap with less than mediocre results...sounds like HWSRN may be pulling some strings behind the Columbus curtain.
I digress. Would the Wild be smart in making a move to acquire Carter? Make the jump with me as we investigate the issue.Currently, the Wild have $8.6 million in cap space. Fletcher has done a very good job of losing overpriced contracts and free up space while building for the future. Even more surprising than how quickly he's put his stamp on the franchise is the early success the team is having. Yet despite the wins and #1 ranking in the NHL, the Wild still seem to have troubles putting the puck in the net. Like some of the level-headed fans, I know that the offense is going to get better. The Wild have only played 20 games; however, the Wild will need offense to win 5-4 games.
As good as the goaltending and defense is, there are going to be games where the Wild won't be able to hold a team under 2 goals and will need more offense. To date, the Wild have score 3 or more goals in a game this season only 6 times, and two of those were against the aforementioned Blue Jackets, and one of those games was a loss to the Senators.
Add into this equation is the fact that, despite adding Heatley and Setoguchi, the PP is absolutely rancid. 6th worst in the NHL isn't going to get it done, especially if this team believes it can make a run to the playoffs and beyond. 10 PP goals on 74 attempts is something you would expect out of a Midget Squirt team, not a professional NHL team with the new weapons the Wild have.
So would Jeff Carter help this squad fix the one problem area? He definitely could. Carter is a natural center, but has the versatility to also play wing. He has size, speed, and incredible skill, along with a shoot-first mentality. How nasty would a Carter-Koivu-Heatley line be? Yeo wouldn't even have to stack his lines. Seto-Koivu-Heatley have started to show some chemistry, and, correct me if I'm wrong, but 8 of 14 goals scored by the trio have either been game-tying or game-winning goals. Carter-Cullen-PMB still has some wicked amount of skill to be displayed while forcing teams to shift some defensive priorities away from the Koivu line. PMB would get a top-tier finisher to compliment his vision and playmaking ability. The top PP unit would get another makeover while still leaving talent to spare on the 2nd unit.
The downside? Columbus would be asking for a lot in return. They have holes all over their roster. Starting in goal, Steve Mason has appeared to lose the starting job and the confidence of his coaches. To call the Blue Jackets defense porous would be a massive understatement. They have given up 69!!!! goals in 19 games. At forward, there's still no depth within their organization. Vinny Prospal is their best forward at the young, strapping age of 36. Only 3 players have more than 10 points.
So let's be realistic...what would Minnesota have to give up to bring Carter back?
Josh Harding would definitely be in play for this deal to work. It would be a blow to Minnesota fans, but Harding is on a one-year deal, and someone will give him an opportunity to start next year. Shouldn't the Wild, at the very least, take a look at the trade market? Harding is playing very well (understatement) and his value won't get much higher, unless he rattles off 4 straight shutout victories. Plus, Dennis Endras is no slouch himself and could play 2nd fiddle to Backstrom. He has professional experience in two leagues, so it's not like the Wild would be asking a rookie goalie to step in.
Columbus would also want back a defensman. The Wild are stocked with solid, young talent on the blueline, but with the recent string of injuries, would they deal some of those parts? The Jackets would, more than likely, want a top-tier shutdown defensman. The Wiz Kid is supposed to supply the offense from the blueline, but losing Commodore 64 hurt the Jackets more than they want to admit. He ate big minutes and provided some defense on a sieve blueline. The question becomes: Would the Wild want to deal someone like Justin Falk? He's big, he's young, he's already smart positionally, and he does make a pretty decent first pass. What about a guy like Nate Prosser? He's a good, smart, two-way defensman that plays responsibly, yet can chip in on the scoresheet.
Third, Columbus would need a draft pick back. They can spend all they want, but they need to rebuild. Johanson looks like a very good prospect, and the Jackets need to add more young talent like him to be competitive. Fletcher has turned draft picks into gold, and trading away a pick always hurts; however, the Wild have done a very good job of re-stocking the farm system, and losing a pick next year may not signal the end of the world.
So there it is. Carter and possibly a late pick in exchange for Harding, Prosser, and a 1st-round pick. It's a lot like the Burns deal, only going the other way. An elite player at his position and a pick for a very good player, a pick, and a prospect. Would you make this deal, and if you would, are these the pieces you could comfortably give up in exchange for a guy like Carter?